It was one of those nights that had an inexplicable momentum. There was a strange excitement in the air that went beyond that of a standard Saturday evening. It was one of those nights that required a different sonic component; something extra, something groovy and mischievous.
Fortunately we were in the right place: Mulligan’s on the Blue, where new Maui band Fish Tank was among those slated to take the stage in celebration of the birthdays of Dogtowne Design owner and music scene maven Scott Johnson and veteran Maui guitarist Pete Sebastian.
It was Fish Tank’s first performance since the four Maui musicians got together at the beginning of the year, and it seemed to go over well.
The band’s lineup includes Sebastion, formerly of the now-defunct Lawa, Kit Okazaki on sax, Kaipo Haleakala (who is also part of the lineup of both Nuffsed and the Kryptones) on bass, a guy named “Doobie” (also of the Kryptones) on keys and Pete Grand (who was in the original lineups of the Afrodesiacs and the Crunch Pups).
Sebastian assembled the lineup after sketching out some song outlines. He was hoping to find a group of musicians to flesh the tunes out. Sebastian says Fish Tank’s configuration couldn’t have been better. “Though I’m the band leader, I’m in a lot of ways their biggest fan,” he says.
This project also showcases Sebastian doing something he has never before done: singing. Sebastian says he hadn’t thought about being a lead vocalist until a trusted source suggested that, instead of auditioning potential lead singers Sebastian himself should pick up the mic.
Why not? He thought. He even studied with vocal trainer Joy Fields, who has worked with Ulalena singers, among others. “This is part of my musical growth and I feel really good about it,” he says, though he admits to being a bit shy at center stage. He says that in other projects he’s always been the “quiet guitar player off to the side.”
His vocals fit well with the band’s solid-rock sound. Often verging on raspy, he seems to draw on a number of influences while at the same time not really sounding like anyone in particular.
You can detect a few of the major influences on Sebastian’s songwriting style—Pink Floyd and the Doors are obvious examples—but the band doesn’t draw heavily enough from anyone to warrant direct comparisons. Among his other major influences, Sebastian says, are the Tragically Hip (their earlier stuff) and Dave Matthews Band (I couldn’t tell at all from watching them live).
“We kind of have an identity crisis,” Sebastian jokes, pointing out that most of the band members are reggae musicians who are influenced by a sweeping gamut of styles. “I’m not looking to write in any vein or genre,” he says.
The most striking yet understated element of Fish Tank’s sound is the keys, which provide a psychedelic edge (though they weren’t loud enough in my opinion). The sax has a similar effect, though Sebastian says he added the two instruments primarily to create an element of maturity.
Sebastian says Fish Tank is going to be gigging sporadically (they’re wary of potentially flooding the market). They have a tentative gig in South Maui in early May as well as one in June (we’ll have more specifics, of course, as the dates approach).
If these shows are anything like the last one, those who attend are in for a time. MTW