Unable to find a genre that fit them in the drop-down menus of online music networking sites, Wes Davidson and Liz Wu of Acarya decided to create their own. This power duo of acoustic guitar, percussion and vocals melds intricate harmonies and pulsating rhythms into an intense, energetic and mesmeric experience they have dubbed Tribal Rock.
“People have compared us to a cross between the Civil Wars and Robert Plant,” says Wu, “or an aggressive Dave Matthews.”
Davidson laughs, “We thought about calling it Organic Techno, because the music is so danceable, but Tribal Rock seemed a better fit.”
The name Tribal Rock suits them perfectly, from the earthy sound of Davidson’s acoustic guitar and percussive strumming patterns to the unique integration of ethnic hand drums in Liz’s custom-made kit. The music is driving, dynamic and dramatic, resulting in an amazing richness of texture. Davidson’s voice shifts from introspective crooning to explosively powerful, with a tinge of urgency, tempered by Wu’s soft and gentle backing vocals. Throughout every song there is a clear heartbeat that pulls everything together and creates forward momentum.
Acarya is currently releasing the first EP of what will be a four-part series of works called The Elemental Collection. Each grouping of songs will relate to the theme of the four archetypal elements, Earth, Wind, Water and Fire. Their upcoming release, Reperio Terra, corresponds with Earth, and contains six tracks that relate to this theme in mood and/or lyrics: Birthplace, Come Dance the Dead, Trail of the Waiting, Spiral Smiles, Don’t Run and Accidentally Beautiful.
“Our music is inspired by nature,” says Davidson. “The first music was created by a guy banging on a log to try to talk back to thunder. In our songwriting, we attempt to capture the sounds of nature: the movement of rapid waters or horses running … we draw our inspiration from the natural world.”
Both Wu and Davidson consider Cincinnati their hometown, though both have also traveled widely. Wu spent four years abroad in Europe, Mexico and Guatemala after finishing her BA in Jazz performance at the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music. She has a passion for international music and has produced a local festival called World Music Fest. She has played in various ensembles in town ranging from Latin Jazz to Salsa to ambient experimental music, but Acarya was the first project she joined when she returned to Cincinnati in 2006. “In the last seven years,” she says, “the band has seen a lot of permutations, but we are happy with the new duo format. This March, we decided that I would take the role of the drumset player, and a friend and fantastic drumbuilder, Leslie Watkins, built me these custom African dun duns, which function as toms. I have a complete kit with cymbals and kick pedal, but all the drums are some form of ethnic percussion. This creates an incredibly warm sound, and since I play standing up, it lends more visual energy to the show.”
Some of Davidson’s formative childhood experiences came during time spent on a Native American reservation, and the heartbeat of the drum is evident in every song he writes. His choice of acoustic guitar (rather than electric) lends a very organic sound, and he employs alternate tunings and unusual voicings that bring out melodies within the inner voices of the chords. This, along with the great variety of percussion, gives a layering effect that adds a delightful complexity to the music. Like a fine wine, one might notice different elements, flavors or moods on each sampling of the same song.
Another important note about The Elemental Collection is that all of these songs were co-produced by famed music engineer and producer Erwin Musper, who has worked with a long list of notables, including David Bowie, Jon Bon Jovi, Metallica, Def Leppard, The Scorpions, and, more recently, Walk the Moon. Musper says, “This band achieves the almost impossible -- a new and original take on this thing called Rock and Roll. Is it Rock? Is it Pop? It is Acarya.”
You can hear this ensemble live at their upcoming CD release concert on Fri., Nov. 29 at The Drinkery, 1150 Main St. Cincinnati, OH 45202. Doors will open at 9 pm and The Whiskey Shambles will open the show at 9:30. Acarya will take the stage at 10:30 and play until midnight. They promise a night full of surprises, including special guests and new songs never before played in public. Admission is free, ages 21+.