Kristafari, Tony Lee & Jahson
Based out of Los Angeles, California are Urban Dread, a group comprising of core members Jason Bourne a.k.a. Jahson, Kris Carpenter a.k.a. Kristafari and Tony Lee. Jahson is a founder member of the band and his role involves main/lead vocals, keyboards and the saxophone. Kristafari is the web designer of the group and as such maintains their site which can be found at www.urbandread.com. He also plays the drums, percussion and performs backing vocals. Tony Lee plays the lead guitar and performs vocals.
The band's nicknames stem from their belief in "the overall Jamaican philosophy," but they do not officially follow the Rastafari faith. Jahson got his name from a former percussionist who dubbed him Jah Son and this same percussionist gave Kristafari his name "after seeing his love of Jamaican culture." All the band members are in their 30s.
Jahson was born and raised in Hollywood, California, whilst Kristafari was born and raised in Los Angeles. Tony Lee was born in Washington DC and raised in Hollywood. He joined the band in 1994.
The group was started in 1988 and the band's name, Urban Dread, was created by Jahson to represent "the fact that we play Reggae, but aren't Jamaican." The word 'Dread' appears quite a bit on their website and they give a Californian definition of it's meaning as 'feeling irie'. These descriptions come from the group's own perspective and are not derived from any other source, but the word 'Dread' to the Dainty Crew is seen as an abbreviation of 'Dreadlocks' which defines a hairstyle associated with the Rastafari culture.
Prior to being in Urban Dread, Jahson and Kristafari played in a Los Angeles Roots/Reggae band called Kindread during the mid-80s whilst Tony played with another LA Reggae band called Beat Around The Bush.
The group members have other musical pursuits outside of the band. Tony produces several acts in his home studio and plays sessions around California whilst Jahson writes music for various movie trailers and freelances "as a gigging saxophonist". Kristafari has an alternative Rock band that he plays with called Louie Aqua Verde (www.lav3.com).
Urban Dread class themselves as a crossover band bridging Rock, R&B, Hip-Hop and Pop, but they state that "Reggae is the core of all our collective influences." However, they try not to be pigeon-holed as just as Reggae act, hence the crossover influences. However, the crossover appeal of the group has given them a diverse fan base in LA.
The Dainty Crew surfed the group's website and entered a section called 'Xtras' in which we found a game (loosely using that term here) that dealt with a lighter and a chalice. There was also a 'Virtual Acid Trip' under a section called 'Zion' which was a screen filled with colourful images reminiscent of a kaleidoscope. We were starting to worry that the group had a preoccupation with drugs and had to ask them why they felt the need to have such things on their site. The acid trip and the chalice game were described as "a link to another site outside of Urban Dread. Just something cool to play around with." On their preoccupation with drugs, the group are adamant "not a preoccupation with drugs. A tribute to the almighty ganja smoke and some cool links."
The group perform a mix of original songs as well as cover versions as they know "hundreds of covers and about three dozen or so originals", but they are not unique on the LA Reggae scene as a band due to there being around 12 or more doing the same thing. The demand for Reggae must be high in LA though as they say there are "quite a few clubs that you can see live Reggae at."
The group's inclination towards Reggae music was discovered in the early 80s when they listened to such greats as Bob Marley and the group, The Police. The group also enjoyed Ska, but they state that their favourite artist is Bob Marley and for songs it has to be "Bob Marley's entire catalogue."
Although there is a big scene in LA, the group also attend Reggae events world-wide such as Reggae on the River, Sunsplash and Spirit of Unity. They have not yet had the opportunity to play in Jamaica, but have opened for The Wailers, Pato Banton, Eek-A-Mouse and the Untouchables to name a few. Their musical influences stem from their parents who were all musicians and in terms of inspiration, they have a varied set of sources including Jimi Hendrix, UB40 and Peter Tosh.
Being in a group has it's plusses and minuses and the thing they enjoy the most is "the satisfaction of making people happy" whilst the least is "being our own roadies most of the time."
So far the group have released albums on their own label, Herban Dread Records (One People). This label was founded in 1995 by Jahson and Kristafari because they "wanted to release our own material." It is an independent label and so far the group have released a cassette entitled 'Life We Love' and a CD called 'One People'. The cassette is currently being remastered onto CD and the band have a 3rd release in the pipeline which will be a best of compilation spanning the 1st 5 years of the band's existence from 1988 to 1993. They plan to call this release 'Old School 15'. Not ones to stand still, Urban Dread are also working on a 4th CD to be released which is as yet untitled and from this album, there will be a single release.
Having been in the music industry for so long, Urban Dread have their dislikes of it, namely "the way record companies choose who is going to be the big star for a given year by force-feeding the public." As for the Reggae industry, they feel "the industry as a whole is still thriving even though it needs to have more platinum acts and hit songs on the radio."
The band have performed in a number of places including the House of Blues, Ventura Terrace Theatre and Club Caprice getting their best response at the former 2 venues. They have a regular spot at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Bay every Tuesday, Tsunami's in Beverly Hills every Thursday and The Malibu Inn every Sunday. Their ultimate goal is to perform in Jamaica at Sunsplash and to tour Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and South America.
Having a studio would give any band an advantage and Urban Dread believe "convenience is the key factor" for them each having a home studio. They also believe in staying in touch with what's happening in "pop culture, fashion and style" to help maintain their image and keep their fans' continuing interest.
As a band they have achieved a lot over the last 10 years by building up a good name for themselves as a band in Southern California and maintaining a "250 plus performance schedule annually". They have also managed to support themselves within the industry "without selling out." Future plans include releasing a CD every year for the next 5 to 10 years, "tour abroad" and get frequent radio play.
They advise up and coming groups to "stay consistent with your work ethics and perform as much as possible to develop a signature sound. Write your own material and do as much as you can for yourselves" and their motto for their fans is "unity through diversity."
What would they be doing if they weren't in Urban Dread? "Surfing in Costa Rica and writing songs on the beach." However, judging from their success thus far, Costa Rica seems a long way away.
To book Urban Dread contact: DMH Enterprises - Dave Hewitt on (818) 879-1452 or Urban Dread Productions - Jason Bourne on (310) 827-5885.