Locals: Mojoflo strips back, but still refuses to stick to a script

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From the January 30, 2014 edition

Mojoflo, like a master improviser, has always had difficulty sticking to the script.

The collective flits between funk, soul, rock, R&B, jazz, blues and hip-hop in its live shows, never alighting on one genre for too long before up and moving to the next. In the past, its recordings have been similarly diverse, reflecting the eclectic backgrounds of the numerous musicians who have recorded and performed with the band. More recently, however, Mojoflo has pared back, stripping things down to a tight core of four musicians: Amber Knicole (vocals), 26, George Barrie (guitar), 26, Jake Levy (drums), 26, and Walter K (saxophone), 26.

“It was that whole thing where life hit for everybody after college [and] people had to decide if they were doing this full-force or were tapping out. And we had people tap out,” Levy said. “When there were eight cooks in the kitchen, everyone was trying to throw their own spices in, and it eventually it just became this hodgepodge, like, ‘What am I eating?’ With just the four of us now it’s easier to be on the same page. The music is much more refined.”

Even so, the musicians describe their latest EP, the vintage soul-heavy Right On (Back Around), as a “transition album,” one that finds the players reestablishing some footing at the tail end of a year defined by upheaval, and they’re even more excited about the new material that started taking root during a 2013 writing retreat in Hocking Hills.

“We took a week at a cabin to work on new songs, which is stuff people haven’t heard yet, and I think that’s really where we started coming of age,” Levy said. “It’s us really becoming us.”

This doesn’t mean the band has settled on a single, defining sound — Mojoflo considers itself Silly Putty, not concrete — and the new material taking shape sports a modern, hip-hop edge decades removed from the throwback soul of Right On.

“The idea was never to stay in one [genre],” Levy said. “We just like a lot of different stuff, and I don’t see why we have to pigeonhole ourselves when at any time we could be listening to Miles Davis or crazy dubstep or Bruno Mars. We’re influenced by a lot of music, so it makes sense for us to incorporate all of it.”

Photo by Meghan Ralston