phuz
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phuz

Houston, Texas, United States | SELF

Houston, Texas, United States | SELF
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"PHUZ"


by Mei-Ling

Who is Phuz? What does Phuz mean? For those of you who haven't already heard this music group perform, you've definitely been missing out. I for one, have never really been into the live music scene, but after talking to the group and actually seeing them perform live, I have been converted!! My purpose here isn't to make you like live music, (its not religion, at least its not for most people), but to introduce you to a group called Phuz, and to let their music speak for themselves.



I met Edwin, Edward, Kenny, and Dea at their studio. These 4 Filipinos-Americans (all in their late twenties, for the most part), make up the group Phuz. What struck me the most was their comradery, their forthrightness, their complete love in their music and all that it entails, and how absolutely down to earth they were. The band Phuz has been around the Houston area for 11 years, although within those 11 years they have changed both the membership of the group as well as the genre of music that they play. With Edwin on the electric and upright bass, Edward on the acoustic and electric drums, Kenny on the guitar and keyboard, and the dynamic Dea as lead vocal, the current members of Phuz have been together for the last three years.



Phuz started off with a fusion of funk and world beat in the early 90's. But through the years, they have found an extended love in jazz/R&B and electronica music. Their music isn't something that can be easily labeled or put into a category, and although that makes it somewhat difficult to get gigs, as musicians they want to open your mind, not put a label on themselves. Phuz has often been compared to Sade, and though they have toured with Sade, their sound is their own. They have a rock edge, a younger, more energetic beat. They have ambiance, using big sounds with cymbals and the keyboard. They have groove influences with rock sensibility, a jazzy, sexy, and sultry feel to their music. There is no true definition to their music. And that's how they want it. Instead of trying to listen to their music and trying to label it, their music is meant to be listened to and felt...



You may have already seen Phuz perform at places such as Industry Café, Seven, Dean's Bar, and Red Cat Jazz Café. If you have, you'll have already seen Dea, who is lead vocalist and the only female of the group. Originally from Manilla, she moved to Houston when she was 14. Her music career started at the age of 10, in front of her family's karaoke machine. Influenced by her father, who was also in a band, Dea grew up around music. She has been professionally trained by a former opera singer, and on and off the stage Dea has a presence nobody would forget or even want to forget. She has that rare quality of performers who naturally draw attention to themselves not by want, but by the power of their personalities. She writes the lyrics and the melody that goes with it, and her lyrics reflect her feelings and resolution. She sees a song as having its own life; songs as a totality, with lyrics and music, make it more colorful as a whole.



Kenny is the laid back member of the group. During Phuz's performances, he switches from the keyboard to the electric guitar and back to the keyboard, all in the same song. When he's not practicing with the rest of the group or doing shows, he's subbing at a Pasadena elementary school or giving guitar lessons. His students all look up to him, and are Phuz's youngest and most avid fans.



Edward on the drums, helps his brother Edwin promote for the band in his spare time. As seemingly quiet and shy as Kenny, they both come to life when they talk of their music and their love of their band.



Edwin, as the bassist, is often the spokesperson of the group. He has his own studio production and recording studio, and besides his work with Phuz, he also works with other bands, artists, and sound projects. His confidence in himself and his fellow musicians have helped to elevate Phuz to the status to which it is currently at. His total dedication, as well as that of Dea, Kenny, and Edward, will be responsible for taking Phuz to yet another level.



Having given up their day jobs so that they could devote all their time to their dream, the members of Phuz are true musicians in every sense of the word. So what does it mean to be a true musician? It means you dedicate your life to music. As a musician, you want to give something to your audience. That something, which is intangible to those who truly love music, can only be described as a soulful connection, causing the people that hear it to contemplate and ponder their own life's experiences. Hence the name Phuz - Phuz as a metaphor for that which is unique, interesting and exciting...a direct reflection of their music.

- Asia Blue Magazine


"Forgiveness Album Review"

It's been more than five years since Phuz last dropped their mellow electronica on Houston listeners and much has happened in music since that time. Interestingly, the majority of bands that Phuz emulates (Portishead, for instance) also haven't released anything of substance in many years. Whether the slow, melodic trip-hop genre is dead is for fans to decide but Phuz seem intent on bringing it back to the general public's attention. With their new four-track EP, the band -- singer Dea, Edwin Casapao, Ken Sarmiento, and Edward Casapao -- return with songs of sonic precision and moody atmospherics. "Say To You" is a catchy track that pulses with a funked-up bassline and a danceable groove. Dea's sultry vocals attract the listener's attention, but it's the band's music -- the low-key beats and competent fills, laid-back keyboards, and fuzzy guitars (especially in the excellent "Ceiling") -- that keep it. -- David A. Cobb - David Cobb


"PHUZ TONES"

Three members of Phuz are drinking café sua da in the Hong Kong City Mall food court when a twentysomething Chinese-American couple tentatively approaches. Although bass player Edwin Casapao and keyboardist Jamie Ruggiero are at the table, the couple addresses Dea, Phuz's slender, statuesque vocalist.

"We saw you perform at the Sade concert," says the male by way of introduction. "You guys were great," he adds, not taking his eyes off Dea. There's a long pause. "I really connect with your music," he finally says.

Like Sade, Dea dazzles people. She is a combination of the exotic, the assertive, the intelligent and the reserved. It's easy to focus on Dea, with her model's body and delicate, jazzy vocal chops. But Phuz is a group, not Dea's backup band, and what's more, it exemplifies a new postmodern rock aesthetic. Most obviously, the band is nonwhite. Four of the five band members are Filipino.

Musically, Phuz performs a cool-school jazz/European-style ambient funk music that wouldn't sound out of place in a Paris bistro or a Berlin cafe. When you hear Phuz, the images of the Far East that you might expect simply do not come to mind. Nevertheless, Asian-American bands -- no matter what they play -- are viewed as oddities. Houston clubs are often reluctant to book minorities other than Latins and African-Americans. So Phuz sets out to create venues and niches for itself. The group spent the month of August touring the South and Midwest, opening for Sade.

"You look at us, and we're Asians," says bassist Casapao. "And we play European-type music in Houston. The fact that an Asian band plays this type of music breaks all the stereotypes."

Casapao's early inspiration was the Eraserheads, a popular Filipino alt-rock band described as the "Filipino Beatles" that performs in both Tagalog and English. Given the fact that the Philippines is a crazy-quilt archipelago of many cultures, it makes sense that the islands support myriad musics. The fact that the Philippines has a burgeoning live music scene is news to many, though.

"A friend of mine is a Filipino DJ," says Casapao. "He claims that you can walk from club to club in the entertainment districts, and it's all live music. It's a culture that strongly supports live music."

"Being Asian," he continues, "I'm drawn to the CD racks whenever I see an Asian face. I want to hear what they are doing. Certainly, being Asian makes me aware of being part of something bigger."

It's not surprising that young Asian-Americans are drawn to Phuz. When the band played the Hard Rock Cafe at this year's Houston Press Music Awards showcase, a significant portion of the audience was Asian. But the bottom line is that Phuz's appeal is potentially as broad as the Nigerian-born Sade's.

In one form or another Phuz has been around since 1991. The group's current lineup of Dea, Casapao and his brother Edward (drums, percussion and samples), Ken Sarmiento (guitars) and "honorary Filipino" (and brother of Press contributor Bob) Jamie Ruggiero (keyboards) has been together for 18 months.

They started out as a longhaired rock group. With each passing year, the band's hair got shorter, and the music got lighter. Six years ago the members decided to add a female vocalist, and Dea jumped on board, initially as a backup singer for the group's male lead singer. But as her role grew, it became apparent Phuz was traveling down two different roads simultaneously.

When Ruggiero joined, he gave Phuz more of an ambient sound. Dea stepped up and injected a highly theatrical quality to the band's shows. She also became the primary lyricist, giving Phuz a new legacy of songs.

Tensions increased as it became obvious the band needed to make a change. Edwin Casapao recalls how his head actually throbbed like a migraine. He decided to leave the band to build his own studio; the bass player announced he was taking a road trip, using the getaway excuse to formulate a plan to break the news of his departure. But every time he'd spin out a new scenario for leaving, he'd think of an argument to stay. Finally, in the desert on I-10, Casapao realized he didn't need to go anywhere.

"Life is as great as you want it to be," he says. "If you're there and don't want to be there, then shift and modify. In general, I don't buy into the fact that you have to be confined.

"We wanted to make a change in our musical perspective, spread out more. We'd already made changes in our membership in order to project ourselves into a different kind of audience. Now it was simply time to make the shift."

The big change, of course, was to put Dea out front. She was trained by a former opera singer. From her, Dea learned not just how to sing but also how to put forth the whole theatrical spectacle -- the drama, the comedy, the tragedy -- of the opera tradition.

These qualities easily translate to Phuz's music. Take the band's signature song, "Ocean," for example. The tune starte - Houston Press


"PHUZ TONES"

Three members of Phuz are drinking café sua da in the Hong Kong City Mall food court when a twentysomething Chinese-American couple tentatively approaches. Although bass player Edwin Casapao and keyboardist Jamie Ruggiero are at the table, the couple addresses Dea, Phuz's slender, statuesque vocalist.

"We saw you perform at the Sade concert," says the male by way of introduction. "You guys were great," he adds, not taking his eyes off Dea. There's a long pause. "I really connect with your music," he finally says.

Like Sade, Dea dazzles people. She is a combination of the exotic, the assertive, the intelligent and the reserved. It's easy to focus on Dea, with her model's body and delicate, jazzy vocal chops. But Phuz is a group, not Dea's backup band, and what's more, it exemplifies a new postmodern rock aesthetic. Most obviously, the band is nonwhite. Four of the five band members are Filipino.

Musically, Phuz performs a cool-school jazz/European-style ambient funk music that wouldn't sound out of place in a Paris bistro or a Berlin cafe. When you hear Phuz, the images of the Far East that you might expect simply do not come to mind. Nevertheless, Asian-American bands -- no matter what they play -- are viewed as oddities. Houston clubs are often reluctant to book minorities other than Latins and African-Americans. So Phuz sets out to create venues and niches for itself. The group spent the month of August touring the South and Midwest, opening for Sade.

"You look at us, and we're Asians," says bassist Casapao. "And we play European-type music in Houston. The fact that an Asian band plays this type of music breaks all the stereotypes."

Casapao's early inspiration was the Eraserheads, a popular Filipino alt-rock band described as the "Filipino Beatles" that performs in both Tagalog and English. Given the fact that the Philippines is a crazy-quilt archipelago of many cultures, it makes sense that the islands support myriad musics. The fact that the Philippines has a burgeoning live music scene is news to many, though.

"A friend of mine is a Filipino DJ," says Casapao. "He claims that you can walk from club to club in the entertainment districts, and it's all live music. It's a culture that strongly supports live music."

"Being Asian," he continues, "I'm drawn to the CD racks whenever I see an Asian face. I want to hear what they are doing. Certainly, being Asian makes me aware of being part of something bigger."

It's not surprising that young Asian-Americans are drawn to Phuz. When the band played the Hard Rock Cafe at this year's Houston Press Music Awards showcase, a significant portion of the audience was Asian. But the bottom line is that Phuz's appeal is potentially as broad as the Nigerian-born Sade's.

In one form or another Phuz has been around since 1991. The group's current lineup of Dea, Casapao and his brother Edward (drums, percussion and samples), Ken Sarmiento (guitars) and "honorary Filipino" (and brother of Press contributor Bob) Jamie Ruggiero (keyboards) has been together for 18 months.

They started out as a longhaired rock group. With each passing year, the band's hair got shorter, and the music got lighter. Six years ago the members decided to add a female vocalist, and Dea jumped on board, initially as a backup singer for the group's male lead singer. But as her role grew, it became apparent Phuz was traveling down two different roads simultaneously.

When Ruggiero joined, he gave Phuz more of an ambient sound. Dea stepped up and injected a highly theatrical quality to the band's shows. She also became the primary lyricist, giving Phuz a new legacy of songs.

Tensions increased as it became obvious the band needed to make a change. Edwin Casapao recalls how his head actually throbbed like a migraine. He decided to leave the band to build his own studio; the bass player announced he was taking a road trip, using the getaway excuse to formulate a plan to break the news of his departure. But every time he'd spin out a new scenario for leaving, he'd think of an argument to stay. Finally, in the desert on I-10, Casapao realized he didn't need to go anywhere.

"Life is as great as you want it to be," he says. "If you're there and don't want to be there, then shift and modify. In general, I don't buy into the fact that you have to be confined.

"We wanted to make a change in our musical perspective, spread out more. We'd already made changes in our membership in order to project ourselves into a different kind of audience. Now it was simply time to make the shift."

The big change, of course, was to put Dea out front. She was trained by a former opera singer. From her, Dea learned not just how to sing but also how to put forth the whole theatrical spectacle -- the drama, the comedy, the tragedy -- of the opera tradition.

These qualities easily translate to Phuz's music. Take the band's signature song, "Ocean," for example. The tune starte - Houston Press


Discography

WATER (2001); Forgiveness EP (2007), Lumpialooza DVD (2004); Love That Lumpia Movie (Movie Soundtrack-2004)

Photos

Bio

After a decade-long musical journey that's seen them through various lineup changes and musical styles, the Houston-based band Phuz has quite literally found its groove in a plush, ambient sound laced with influences of Rock, R&B, and pop that coalesce into a powerful organic sound. The band's hybrid sound is deceptively simple, yet unfolds like the long hallway of some castle, each doorway opening to a new sound, a new experience. A loose collective of musicians, Phuz was founded by brothers Casapaos and Sarmiento. Players came and went, but the band's sound became anchored by a funk/R&B dance groove, with some jam-band affectations. Dea joined in 1995 as a backup vocalist, then Ruggiero in 1999. The following year, Phuz overhauled its lineup and musical direction, appropriately beginning a new era with the new millennium. In addition to frequent Houston shows, Phuz toured nationally, playing shows with Sade, India.Arie, Tony Bennett and K.D. Lang. Having also shared evenings with Sting, Blue Man Group, Alanis Morissette, Natalie Merchant, and Alicia Keys, Phuz continues to prove their wide demographic appeal. They've been guests on KPFT 90.1 FM radio's nationally known eclectic "Soular Grooves" show. Phuz was also featured in The Houston Press and garnered two nominations in the newspaper's 2001 Music Awards, including Best New Act and Best Funk/R&B. They eventually won the "Critic's Pick" nod in the latter category. Phuz attracted critics and fans at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion earning "Best Songwriting, Best Appearance, and Best Overall Performance" in 2003. Nonetheless, Phuz captivated viewers in their national debut on Stir TV PEPSI Challenge on the International Channel, Houston's PBS Show "The Connection" and a performance on the"Texas Live Show." Their debut CD Water, was released in early 2002. Phuz's latest 2007 EP album, Forgiveness, is currently available. Check out one of the most accomplished locals bands from Houston, TX.