Transcending the Sound Barrier

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Boostive combines guitar, keyboard, drums and brass instruments to create its unique dubhop sound. The band’s movement on stage integrates with its sound to create magnetic energy. Photo by Jasper Lyons.
Boostive combines guitar, keyboard, drums and brass instruments to create its unique dubhop sound. The band’s movement on stage integrates with its sound to create magnetic energy. Photo by Jasper Lyons.

Synesthesia –– a rare condition that jumbles the senses — exists in those who can taste auditory stimulation or see colors while hearing particular pitches.

While this condition is rare, it’s easy to appreciate the beauty of feeling the music, as local band Boostive mixes different flavors of sound to satiate the senses.

UC Santa Cruz alumnus Nathan Elias Kocivar, who plays the saxophone and keyboard in Boostive, dives into Boostive’s music with a refined focus. Following the band’s show at the Catalyst Atrium on April 23, Kocivar talked about what it takes to blend different styles of music. Kocivar explained Boostive’s sound by using an analogy about food and flavors that dance on taste buds.

“The way you cook something always has different layers,” Kocivar said. “Everyone’s palette is different. A lot of people might agree on certain ingredients.”

Through all of the particular layers of the group’s sound, each band member has an individual style that encourages listeners to submerge themselves in the wavelengths of the melody.

Boostive’s ingredients come from a mixture of influences. While getting boosted by the powerful sounds of the horns, the psychedelic flavor segues to rooted reggae, and then back up with a pumping swing beat. After experiencing the band’s vibes, listeners end up with an enigma that exists on stage every time the musicians perform.

Producer, bassist and guitarist Seiji Komo is soft-spoken, but he lays down heavy bass riffs that give the melodies weight. Immersed in the flavors is a tight-knit bond that few people understand. It’s clear that music is the end goal, but the band members have strong connections to each other too.

“They all are my best friends, and we share a musical goal,” Komo said. “We all come together and connect on one musical idea. It’s bigger than any one of us.”

However, the band never chases an exclusive sound. The playful nature of Boostive comes from the easygoing, uplifting spirits present in the characters of each band member. Drummer Andrew Hawes describes the essence of the process — not that there is a concrete process.

“It’s more each person practicing their instrument on their own, listening to music on their own and then developing some new thing in what they like,” Hawes said. “We share with each other the music that we are getting into. Whatever the whole band is feeling, that’s what’s going to be incorporated.”

Boostive was a fresh drop of rain that echoed vibrations into the ears of the audience at a May 3 house show. The band has a knack for ending up in the bustle of any Santa Cruz music hub during the week, as it also performed on May 8 at the Blue Lagoon. Listeners are often surprised by the upbeat tempo that takes over during live sets, which differs from the band’s recorded sound.

“The structure feels fluid because we know the way everybody plays,” Hawes said. “Everybody knows how I play drums or how [Komo] plays bass, and it deviates but we know what is going to happen.”

Although it was a Thursday night, audience members attended Boostive’s recent appearance at the Catalyst Atrium to relieve stress and taste the band’s sound. Trumpet, trombone, saxophone, guitar, drums, keyboard, a soulful singer and a large drum called a djembe moved the audience to sway with the grooves.

The four founding members have been friends since middle school. They grew up in Ocean Beach, San Diego, a quirky beach town much like Santa Cruz. While Seiji Komo and Dylan Webber began Boostive in Santa Cruz, Andrew Hawes and Nathan Kocivar joined in 2010.

Singer Lindsay Olsen describes the band’s sound as “silky-crunchy.” Her voice, tinged with nostalgia, can be traced to the 1920s, as it contains a raspiness similar to Billie Holiday. Her voice hypnotizes the listener with a soothing flow that contains hints of bittersweet pain.

Olsen, who is also a UCSC alumna, doesn’t play every gig with the band but often joins in when she can, bringing a beautiful voice to accompany the existing layers.

“Everytime I see them, their music is a little bit different,” Olsen said. “They always have something new to bring to the table.”

Many students and locals have followed Boostive since the beginning. The band is the ever-changing favorite recipe for good vibes and positive minds.

“It’s always exciting to play with Boostive,” Olsen said. “I love what they do. It’s so clear and you can feel it whenever they play, it’s inspiring to be around. They invite me to improvise and that makes me so happy, being in that element of the moment.”

Boostive will perform at Zelda’s on May 29.