Wassabi Collective
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Wassabi Collective

Nelson, British Columbia, Canada

Nelson, British Columbia, Canada
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"Urban Mainstream"

Their music is definitely hot and shows a blend of their musical synergy from all its members. Wassabi represents a call from when bands were bands. A time when fans could remember the energy and not the glitsy glamor of a bands persona. You'll love the funk, attitude and music of the Wassabi Collective... - Urban Mainstream Magazine-Shinobi


"Wassabi Collective 'Cato'"

Wassabi Collective’s third self-produced EP Cato plays with tribal beats, electronica, trip-hop, reggae, house and funk to create the ultimate feel-good elixir. The Nelson, BC- based band are becoming a fixture in the underground festival circuit for good reason. Wassabi’s joyous sound takes you on a cosmic carpet ride from satisfaction to pure bliss. The 40-minute disc features vocalist and drummer Melissa Meretsky to fine form. She melds her voice with the drums in a way that makes it all sound connected, while bass, keyboards, guitars and a bit of sampling provides extra texture. Wassabi sings about environmental and social activism, but you might be too busy dancing to pick up on it. Cato is pure groove from start to finish. And while they could spike the punch with something a little heavier at times, you won’t mind too much. - Lorena Dexter, Exclaim!


"The Olympic Experience"

When I got there, the place was already full to the brim. Knowing that there was no way that several hundred people would show up in hopes of a reverse encore, I figured that something was up. Lo and behold, Wassabi Collective was on stage playing to their latest crowd of converts. Never before has a bongo solo caused me to have an emotional reaction. Never before have I screamed "Whaaaaat!" without first having misheard someone. This thing was sick. Unable to contain my excitement any longer, I busted out into what must have looked like my impression of a wacky, waving, inflatable arm-flailing tube man. I call it dancing.
Wassabi Collective is a seven- or eight-piece band masquerading as a five-piece. Singer Melissa Meretsky sings, raps, and plays the aforementioned bongos. Fellow frontman Brent Hongisto sings, raps, and plays guitar. The group is rounded out by Jimmy Lewis (vocals & drums), Rahj Levinson (keyboards), and Andrew McCormick (bass). Their genre-busting fusion of pop, rock, hip-hop, reggae, jazz and funk was the perfect expression of what the Olympics are all about. "We take a lot of different elements that don't usually belong together, and we make it work," Meretsky said. "It's one of the themes of the Olympics, really."
Hailing from Nelson, British Columbia, the group had an idea about what to expect from its Olympic experience, but "It's been so much more than what we thought it would be. The crowds have been amazing, and we've had just the best time. There's really nothing to compare it to, for us." Best of all, the band actually handed out free copies of a limited edition CD during their performance. When I say handed out, I mean completely free! - RICK MACDONNELL, SnowSeekers Inc


"5 out of 5 stars LOVE IT!!, IT HAS BEEN ON HIGH ROTATION SINCE IT ARRIVED!!"

CATO is awsome! It has been on high rotation since it arrived..this C.D is refreshing, possitive lyrics united beautifully with uplifting instrumentals,everything is perfectly executed. I just have to move my body and sing out loud whenever I listen to WASSABI.Only critique, IT'S NOT LONG ENOUGH! LOVE IT:).....PLEASE COME BACK TO Saint John N.B!!! Namaste. - Jen Correia


"Wassabi Jam"

In true jamband fashion, Vancouver’s The Wassabi Collective has two main goals when it comes to performing: make you dance and make you think. By combining socially conscious lyrics and forward political activism with world-beat-infused trance, reggae, funk and soul, the quintet has become one of Canada’s best live acts. Led by sultry vocalist and percussionist Melissa Meretsky, the collective mixes Particle’s groove with Toubab Krewe’s global consciousness, dusted off with a Deep Banana Blackout-themed sensuality. “We aim to keep people moving for hours while spreading good intentions to create music that inspires positive people, in order to engender positive change,� explains Meretsky. This spring saw the release of Stories Not Forgotten, the band’s most accomplished sonic feast to date, successfully transcribing its live ferocity in the studio, ensuring that the Wassabi Collective will, inMeretsky’s words, “continue to spread a message of environmental, social and spiritual activism through music.� www.wassabi.net - Shain Shapiro-Relix Magazine


"Sure Things"

While it has been home to more than 35 musicians and performers over its five-year history, Nelson, British Columbia, arts collective/jam band The Wassabi Collective is anything but the west coast’s answer to Broken Social Scene.

“No, no, we’re not like that,� says vocalist and percussionist Melissa Meretsky. “We have a core group, for sure, but over the five years, the members have changed due to their life experiences. One of them might decide that he’s not really into the travelling part of the band and wants to do his own projects, and that’s OK. We’re open to follow our path — it doesn’t end with us changing members.�

On this, their fifth national tour, which starts in Saint John and works its way back west, the band has retired its old school bus in favour of a 1974 Executive RV, which comes complete with a barbecue.

“I’m stoked on that,� says Meretsky. “I’m all about making shish kebabs�

The members of Wassabi are accustomed to living in close quarters. While touring across the country is one thing, most of its members have lived together for the past 12 months. And while bassist Scott Milne was part of a group that recently purchased some property in BC’s Slocan Valley, Meretsky says that the band won’t be forming a commune — yet.

“We’ll all be living in random places, but the land will be where we jam,� she says. “In the future, there’s a spot for all of us to be on that property, but half the band just lived together for a year — which was great, we got a lot accomplished, musically — but I’m definitely going to get my own place.� - Jon Bruhm, The Coast Magazine


"Wassabi"

There is a history of bands forming in western Canada that are
comprised of members originally from eastern or central Canada.
Rivalries aside, the left coast often seems desirable for
Torontonians and those of surrounding areas, but traversing the
country and setting up shop on the left coast just to form a band
seems a bit over the top.
Yet, countless bands have emerged that way. Montreal acts
similarly, as most of the musicians that have turned the town into
musical acclaim city are not from Montreal. So, what makes one
move house and home to form a band? Surely the music is
secondary, as student jobs are generally easier to come by in the
Rockies, and in Montreal’s case, the cost of living is low.
Regardless, it is an interesting discussion, one that has sprouted
countless examples, including one coming to Hamilton next
week. Not an entirely transplanted band, but for Victoria’s
Wassabi Collective, Montreal and Hamilton have supplied the
roots. For the Hamilton show of their cross–Canada tour, the
bassist, Scott Milne, is coming home. “Our environment and our
travels are ultimately our biggest influences,� responds vocalist
and percussionist Melissa Meretsky, an easterner. “Being from
the East but living and working in the West brings out new ideas
based on established themes. It is good to be a part of both
worlds.�
This collective, which has been around since 1999, has
established a strong contingent of fans on both sides of the
country. Almost every summer sees them headline the Evolve
Festival in Nova Scotia and at home, their shows albeit sporadic as
of late, are celebrations of community; almost festivals within
themselves with just one act. While The Wassabi Collective has
two studio efforts to date, 2003’s The Masquerade Sessions which
for all intents and purposes is a live album and 2005’s EP Cato, it
is the live show that has engendered the quintet’s ferocious
popularity, lead by Meretsky’s fiery conga and vocal tandem and
tight, pulsating rhythm lines.
A true hybrid of east and west, the Wassabi Collective mixes
major-tonal African melodies, especially those found just below
the horn of Africa, with modern trance, funk and electro. Throw
in a dash of salsa and Cuban permeations and explicating why
their live show is legendary becomes crystal clear, like a sunrise
over Vancouver Island. “Our past works reflected the live show
with extended jam, in whatever style moved us.� explains
Meretsky.
Such styles are evident on their new album, the
independently released Stories Not Forgotten, due out this spring.
To compete in an increasingly tight, must–be–radio–friendly
market, Meretsky and company took the core melodies inherent
in the explosive live show and cropped them, creating an
impressively mature, yet stylistically diverse collection of tunes. A
drastic improvement from the older recordings, Stories Not
Forgotten is The Wassabi Collective’s welcome note to the
mainstream, a decisive statement that should prove difficult to
overlook, unlike the more restrictively released older efforts. “We
felt it was time to show a different side to our recording,� affirms
Meretsky. “We tightened arrangements and shortened some
songs to appeal to the music industry in a radio–friendly way. In
a live setting these same songs are extended, however.� From
first listen, this is an intensely personal album. For example, the
title comes from a song written almost a decade ago, when
Meretsky was busking out east, in Montreal. Consonant and
contagious, Stories Not Forgotten merges the vast spread of the
live show; trance, electro, African melodies, Cuban rhythms and
jam, and condenses it without losing the voracity embedded
within the extended improvisations. It is tough trying to
evaporate lengthy songs into tightly wound studio numbers; The
Wassabi Collective accomplished just that this time around.
“Stories Not Forgotten is the name of the third song on the
album and has a great meaning to me personally,� expands
Meretsky. “I wrote the lyrics seven years ago while living in
Montreal, mostly busking. The words were essentially a poem at
first. I then put it to a guitar line and shared it with the band.
They composed it with a different feel, allowing me to express
myself in a new way. We chose that name as the title because we
want to remember where we came from and what we have done,
on both coasts as The Wassabi Collective.� Overall, Meretsky
affirms that Stories Not Forgotten is “more energy and excitement
with new textures and sounds,� and the live show will emanate
that statement, with the addition of “some great new songs.�
Hamilton is always a party, and as previously mentioned, the
bassist grew up here, so make sure not to miss it. Oh, and buy
the new album too. It is a great listen when traveling from coast
to coast. - Shain Shapiro, View Magazine


"The Wassabi Collective Jam To The Beat Of Their Own Drum"

The West Coast-bred collective stay true to their roots on their debut LP Stories Not Forgotten and make it a point to never forget where they come from.
Normally when a band describes what they�re about, they tend to embellish the facts. Information gets skewed, something gets lost in the translation and you�re left covering a band that�s so confusing you don�t know where the story begins. Thankfully The Wassabi Collective are clear about who they are and appreciate the path they�ve taken to get where they are that confusion seems like the last thing to cross one�s mind.
The Nelson, British Columbia quintet are an eclectic live band who dive into different musical genres to create their own unique sound. Imagine Bob Marley jamming with Sergio Mendes and Laurent Garnier manning the 1s and 2s. Sounds impossible but the Wassabi Collective manage to pull it together � not just live but enough to put together an album as well. Stories Not Forgotten is their debut LP and even though the CD isn�t slated for an official release until the fall, Wassabi haven�t wasted any time pressing some copies for Canadian Music Week.
Having released their Cato and Blue EPs in the past, guitarist and vocalist Brent �Gisto� Hongisto feels Stories is a tighter collection of the band�s sound and lyrics.
�This one�s more refined and to the point,� he said. �A lot of the songs on the album are shorter, they�ve got verses and choruses where as in the past we�ve had longer, more jammed types of pieces that go through more places and end up being a lot longer.�
Gisto explained that the group � comprised of Melissa Meretsky, Jimmy Lewis, Scott Milne and Rahj Levinson � was intent on staying focused with this album to create a more intricate and cultivated sound.
�It�s the kind of music that climaxes,� he said. �It�ll build you up to a peak and then hold you there.�
Produced in their hometown of Nelson, it appears the laid back attitude usually associated with the west coast played a role in the band�s music. Much like the loose wild side of nature, Wassabi absorbed the atmosphere around them and released their energy into Stories.
�Our music has a free moving sound to it. The textures and the rhythms meld together in unique ways kind of like nature,� Gisto explained. �There are a lot of forests and mountains that surround us in Nelson and having all that around us all the time helps us think outside the box.�
Although Wassabi have been together for a number of years, their career has primarily been built on touring and live shows. In fact their touring was the inspiration for the album�s title.
�We�ve got lots of stories to tell and there�s lots of that in our music,� Gisto said. �One note or one beat of the drum in our music is kind of like the whole essence of everything we�ve experienced.�
To express music as something that takes you places and moves you through time is pretty ambitious. Gisto mentioned that their shows are like an experience with a lot of grooves to dance to. After seeing Wassabi perform at the Annex Wreck Room in Toronto during CMW, the crowd�s dance-fuelled and excited response to their set tells me Gisto wasn�t exaggerating.
�Through out all our lyrics and the vibe of our music, the theme is always positivity, self-motivation and trying to make a positive change for the world around you,� he went on to say.
Rest assured that Wassabi�s new album is an extension of their live shows � a still recording of their chance to get people moving, grooving and thinking all at the same time.
�It captures a moment in history,� Gisto said. �The stories and things we�ve been through we won�t forget them. We just keep taking them with us and keep going.�
www.myspace.com/wassabicollective
www.wassabi.net
- Spill Magazine/March 2007/Antoinette Mercurio


"Wassabi Collective "Stories Not Forgotten""

Fresh from a morning high, a cool breeze in the air helped put my feet back on the ground. Listening to Wassabi Collective’s new album, Stories Not Forgotten, a mix of dub, reggae and tranquil soft-rock, only eased the mood.

The tense moments I felt leading up to a telephone interview I conducted with Bad Religion bass player Jay Bentley were replaced, after the relaxed chat, with euphoric calm and controlled pleasure, and if ever there was the perfect album to listen to when in your own world then Wassabi Collective’s just released third album surely has to be a top contender. The yet-to-be-signed five-piece band from Nelson B.C. serve up a fresh flavour of music to chill to with their space-like guitar hooks and percussionist Melissa Meretsky’s strangely rasta-like, jazzy voice.

Perfect reggae for a perfect day is the best way to describe Wassabi Collective, but the band also incorporates tribal jazz, folk music and soul into their sound to create a positive vibe and progressive energy that make this album easy to listen to, and even more fun to groove to. The long instrumentals in between vocals keep the interest in songs going, especially with the breezy “Dune”; Meretsky’s soaring vocals coupled with Brent “Gisto” Hongisto’s Santana-influenced guitar solos bring a touch of psychedelia to the already diverse-sounding album. “Belly-Up,” one long instrumental, is the focal point of the album; a lengthy wild Western sound piece, akin to something off Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the song fits in despite the difference in genre from the rest of the album. Other tunes such as the transcendental “Forever” and the straight-up dub reggae “Counterman,” with lyrics about angels, planting seeds and the earth, cement Wassabi Collective as pioneers of organic reggae.

At the end of the album there is an added piece where Meretsky raps over the band’s combined beat-boxing efforts, an impressive ending to a magically mellow album. Like the Easy Star All Stars hit album, Radiodread, or Michael Franti’s Yell Fire, Wassabi Collective’s Stories Not Forgotten is certain to be a major influence on the new reggae sound that is taking Vancouver by storm.

- DISCORDER (Sarshar Hosseinnia)


"The Province Picks 'You Can Get It'"

A bouncy pop tune that has a kind of a Tegan and Sara vibe and a decidedly classic '90s pop feel. A far cry from the jam band tendencies this group has been known for. The straight-ahead hook bounces along to a really standard "go,go,go" style chorus, that probably kills it in a club setting. The only issue with the song is that the oft-repeated "go, you can get it" hook rolls by a few too many times. Maybe some soloing wouldn't be such a bad idea. The vocals are dead-on either way. - The Province Newspaper


Discography

'Get It' (2010)
*Won Urban/Dance Recording of the Year at the 2010 BCIMA's*

'Stories Not Forgotten' (2007)
*Voted Album of the Year at the 2008 BCIMA's.*

'Cato' (2005)

All albums available at itunes, cdbaby & killthe8*

All albums have placed on college radio charts top 10 as well as AAA radio rotation.

Photos

Bio

Wassabi Collective, a spicy five-piece from the arty, alternative-thinking small town of Nelson, B.C, Canada has been busy spreading their positive west coast vibes. The band's sound fuses everything from pop, rock, hip hop, roots reggae, funk, jazz and everything in between, wrapping it all up with their own identifiable twist that has captivated dance floors and won them legions of fans across the country. Together, Melissa Meretsky (vocals& percussion), Brent Hongisto (vocals&guitar), Jimmy Lewis(vocals&drums) Rahj Levinson (keyboards) & Andrew McCormick (bass) are hailed as one of Canada's best live independent bands and they are ready to take the world by storm. The quintet released their second full-length studio record, "Get It" in 2010, which was awarded the BCIMA for Urban/Dance Recording of the Year and follows up their last album “Stories Not Forgotten”, which won Album of the Year in 2008. (Melissa took home Best Female Performer that year as well and they have been nominated in 14 categories in the last 3 years). The band placed in the Peak Performance Project Top 20, and their music has been featured on the PBS series Roadtrip Nation, they were the #1 'On the Verge' Band in Relix Magazine, have been awarded a People's Choice Award at the Independent Music Awards and won 4 Toronto Exclusive Magazine Provincial Awards. The band have shared the stage with Bedouin Soundclash, Micheal Franti & Spearhead, K-OS, Femi Kuti, Hot Hot Heat, Randy Bachman, Bassnectar and Adham Shaikh. "Wassabi's joyous sound takes you on a cosmic carpet ride from satisfaction to pure bliss...THE ULTIMATE FEEL GOOD ELIXIR!" (Exclaim Magazine)