Interview with Mosaic Foundation’s John Paul Nawn and Ekwem Bogmis upon release of new album “Do Right”

Mosaic Foundation is part of what made me really start to feel like Rochester, NY was home when I transferred to RIT from SUNY Oswego. I’d grown up here my whole life, but it wasn’t until I moved to the city and started going to see Mosaic and some of the other great bands here, that I really started to feel connected to the city. I first saw the group at Funk N’ Waffles when Laura was the lead singer and they had a horn section. I’ve really enjoyed seeing them grow over the years, and the sound is different now, but it’s really incredible the different places they’ve taken the band. The vibes are consistently so good at their live shows, they really know how to make you feel a part of what they’re creating. As soon as I heard they were releasing their new album, “Do Right”, I wanted to know all about it. Because they are mainly based in Ithaca now, I hopped on Skype with Ekwem and JP and fought through some poor sound quality issues to bring you the latest news on this happening roots reggae group.

Sara Tiberio: Hey guys, thanks for taking the time to fill us in. I miss you all, it’s been a while since I’ve gotten to see you perform live. For those who may not be familiar with your music, can you give me a run down of your lineup?

Ekwem Bogmis: Mosiac Foundation is Ekwem Bogmis on keys and vocals, JP Nawn on drums, Aaron Sprague on bass, Ken Luk on guitar, melodica, vocals, Foli Yao Augustine aka ChaCha on percussion, vocals and Bryan Davis on percussion.

Sara: Has the sound or feel of the band changed at all since the switch up of some of the band members over the past year?

Ekwem: I’d say it’s more spacey but hard and groovable.

JP Nawn: Yeah, I’d say the sound from the first album has been stripped down in terms of the horn section, and we only have one guitar now, because Michael Cory left to go to New Mexico.

Ekwem: The friendships are tighter now and we’re more comfortable with each other. Speaking for myself it feels more like a family unit and that comes through in the music, and people who saw us a year ago will be able to see that difference now.

Sara: So, what should we expect from the new album?

JP: In terms of the music- the first album was more upbeat, with a majority of the songs having four-on-the-floor beats, and in this album, half the songs emulate the Roots Radics style. They are a band from Jamaica that was part of a shift in reggae during the late 70s and early 80s. Also, Angelo Peters who produced our last record also recorded this one (and played on it too) and you can see his progression too on the production end.

Ekwem: We were also able to use some cool vintage instruments to really get the sound that JP was talking about earlier with Roots Radics.

JP: And on the album there’s four songs and then two songs are versions of the other ones, like there’s a dub version of Ekwem’s song “Wickedness”.

Sara: Well, that’s cool. So what was the motivation to call it Do Right?

JP: Cha-Cha came up with that and it’s just kind of a mantra to do the right things in life I guess, make the right moves, treat people the way you want to be treated.

Sara: What would you like listener’s to take away from the new recording?

Ekwem: I feel like this project is a great step forward in regards to our understanding, skill levels and studies, and through understanding the recording process more it allowed us to make the beets that we really wanted to.

JP: I want people to be excited when they hear it, and excited to come see us in a live situation and witness a progression of the band.

Sara: Yeah, I would love to be able to do that, unfortunately I don’t think I can make it out to the CD release at V-Pub in Canandaigua, but you will be having another show soon in Rochester correct?

JP: Yes, October 26th at Dub Land, that will be our official Rochester CD release party, yeah don’t worry we’ll be bringing it home.

Sara: Oh good. So I see you’ve been having a lot of live artists painting and creating at your shows, what brought this idea about?

JP: It all started with Aaron our new bass player, just married to long time girlfriend Christin Lersch- It started with him, Christin, her sister Marnie, and friend Allie. Ever since Aaron joined the band he does all the poster art now. When we did the weekly shows at Dub Land we started bringing these artists out to the shows, and they were kind of based around doing themes every night we were there, and expressed whatever they were feeling.

Ekwem: It’s really pushed us creatively as well.

Sara: You mean as a band?

Ekwem: Yeah. Being that Aaron is a functional instrument player in the group, but also creates the elephant signs you may see or our band banner, it’s through contributions like that, that our creativity expands.

JP: He’s an amazing artist, and we are really excited he is a part of the group.

Sara: Yeah that’s great, I always feel like the audience should participate in the show in some way, whether that’s singing along or dancing, so it’s really great to have other artist’s actually creating to the music.

JP: Yeah It’d be great if we could one day have one big canvas where the audience could participate as well as the artists who regularly create at our shows.

Ekwem: Visual stimulation adds so much more to the sound.

Sara: Awesome idea. So where else are you guys headed the next couple of months? What are you looking forward to?

JP: We’re going to Vermont for the… well, for the second time, we went last weekend for a wedding, and played with founder of John Brown’s Body, Kevin Kinsella. And we’re going again next weekend to play at Nectar’s in Burlington to collaborate with him again, which we’re really excited about. There’s going to be an opening local band, Mosaic, then Kevin Kinsella will close using us as his backing band. We’re also excited to be playing in Buffalo with One World Tribe coming up in November.

Sara: Cool, what are some other groups you’ve enjoyed playing with recently?

JP: I’d say The Wonderland House Band, based out of Canandaigua. We played with them once before, and they were really exciting and have good energy. Also Aqueous, and The Prickers, from Naples- they’re a great band,

Ekwem: Yeah, also John Brown’s Body is really one of my favorite bands from the start, I’ve loved Reggae for a long time, but playing shows repeatedly with them has been a real honor. When I was coming up on the scene I went and saw their shows, and they continue to inspire. They jut released a new record.

JP: Also, we have to add Giant Panda, Thunder Body, and AudioInFlux- they will always be some of our favorites. We could go on and on about the lovely music in Upstate NY. We also got to the chance to see Yellow Dubmarine, which was really interesting.

Ekwem: Yeah, these are some instances where music puts you into a position to meet people who have been there, done that, and who are still doing it.

Sara: That all sounds awesome. Is there anything else you’d like your fans to know at this time?

Ekwem: I just want to say thank you to all the great people that keep coming out to see us, again I could list names but those people know who they are. I want to say thank you for supporting us so we can do what we love.

JP: And just keep checking mosaicfoundation.com for updates!

Sara: Alright, well thanks again guys! Ekwem, I will see you for your solo Beet Juice show at Spot Coffee in Rochester this Friday, and hopefully I will see you all soon in Rochester. Much love and take care.

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