Taking cues from all of their influences – including funk, jazz, reggae and rock – Banooba is the latest
hybrid to successfully incorporate all of these elements into their own signature sound. Having been
compared to a range of bands, including Sublime, The Allman Brothers, Blind Melon, Umphrey's Mcgee,
Incubus, Steely Dan and Average White Band, people's description of their music varies depending on
who you ask. Guitarist Kevin Torres contemplates Banooba's crossover appeal, stating: "We just write
the tunes and let them go whatever direction they want to go in. They're all rock tunes with hints of
these genres in them."
Over the years, Banooba has developed and become known for their high-energy live performance
which is guaranteed to keep you moving all night long. No matter what type of music you are into, you
are going to have a good time at a Banooba show. "These guys groove like it's their last day on earth,
with irresistible songs and wicked musicianship" says Dan Brown – Good Times Magazine.
Banooba's debut album, Banooba's Travels, represents both the apex and beginning of a greater
adventure than the guys in Banooba could have ever predicted. At the time of its release, it was the
culmination of a long road led by their founding member and departed soul Kevin Kershko, Banooba's
original lead guitarist. Produced by Mike Watts – and bolstered by horns from Rob Somerville of the
uber-funky Deep Banana Blackout – Banooba's Travels is an energetic collection that showcases
Banooba's finest assets. However as it turned out this was just the first chapter of Banooba's travels.
In 2005, the band came to a screeching halt due to the untimely passing of guitarist Kevin Kershko. His
death was a shock to his band mates and they initially figured that it was also the end of Banooba. "I
was personally about to hang up my guitar, quit music, and move to Hawaii," says Torres. But the band
agreed to play a Kershko memorial performance with long-time friend Dave Mackie sitting in on guitar.
They immediately recognized that even without their musical brother and founder, Banooba's heart
lived on. Eight months later, the band re-emerged with new guitarist Vinny Raniolo before settling on
their current guitarist Sean Larkin.
Banooba came back strong and quickly began to gain popularity. Soon after their return, "Sinora" (which
was featured on the compilation cd included in the November, 2006 issue of Relix) found itself in
rotation on numerous college and commercial radio stations as well as Sirius Satellite's Jam On station
where it quickly reached #1. Banooba was also featured as Jamband.com's "New Groove of the Month"
for the month of March, 2007.
Banooba continued to tour clubs and colleges around the Northeast as well as the US Virgin Islands,
where they have been adopted by the locals and paved the way for the development of a USVI Music
scene. In the late winter of 2007, Banooba traveled to Costa Rica for a national tour in support of Costa
Rica's most popular band, Gandhi. In addition to picking up a number of new fans, Banooba received
national press, appearing in various newspapers several times throughout the tour. They also gave radio
and television interviews and soon their music found itself into rotation on a number of commercial
radio stations in Costa Rica.
Next, Banooba embarked on their first Midwest tour, after which they headed across the pond to the UK
for a 20-date tour of England, Scotland and Wales. Upon their return, Banooba immediately reentered
the studio to record their follow up to Banooba's Travels.
In their sophomore effort, the members of Banooba have pushed themselves to explore the many forms
their music can take, and have made significant strides; Nomads and Bellowing Rooms depicts a more
mature Banooba that has strengthened its signature sound and expanded its musical range.
The album opens with "Cobblestone," a powerhouse of complex layered guitar riffs that immediately
dispels any doubts about whether the band survived reincarnation. New guitarist Sean Larkin stepped in
and the others stepped up, proving this band still has more to say. Cobblestone, UFB, and Just Like
Houdini are only a few tracks on which the band's technical prowess is on display, each containing
complex compositional guitar interplay performed by Torres and Larkin with spectacular precision and
fluidity rarely found between new band-mates. Make the Grade and The Process clearly allow for
instrumental expansion, assuring us that the band has not left behind its proclivities toward
improvisational exploration. Banooba's funk also reemerges with a dark edge in songs like Ping-Pong
and Make Me Believe, both of which contain guitar solos that sound almost evil, leading Ryan O'Connor
to beg for "just a little faith" in the latter while Kevin Sloan and Pete Cunningham hold down the
powerful groove. The album even pays homage to its dedicated USVI fan-base with The Beach, an
anthemic proclamation that "home is where the beach is." But the biggest surprise on Nomads is how
much emotion has found its way onto the album. "Days I Remember" discusses a relationship grown
stale, acknowledging that the couple is passively dancing along until the day they will agree to finally
end it . And "Begging For Forgiveness" is nothing short of a raw, emotional rock ballad, a far cry from
waking up "next to what's her name" on The Beach after partying in the USVI all night, but a welcomed
change of pace that shows this band has survived some rough seas, too. Overall, Nomads and Bellowing
Rooms proved that the spirit of Banooba was one that could overcome severe loss and reemerge with
Despite the potential of the new lineup, Banooba suffered another setback shortly after completing
Nomads with the departure of lead singer Ryan O'Connor. After trying out a few replacements, the band
found itself on an extended hiatus, with members performing in various other projects. However,
Banooba's spirit remained intact, and the key members continued to rehearse and write music together,
at times testing out material with instrumental sets at local clubs.
In October of 2010, Banooba hooked up with singer Jason Murden and decided to schedule some
rehearsal time to see if they had finally found their new frontman. Just as with Larkin, there was an
instant connection and the band quickly began cranking out new music. After a test run with Murden
quickly won over the Banooba faithful in the Virgin Islands, the band knew it was time for the hiatus to
come to an end.
Now armed with their new singer, this never-say-die band is back with new material and ready to take
the music scene by storm. With plans to return to the studio sometime this winter, Banooba is once
again bringing their high-energy live performances to clubs, colleges and festivals around the Northeast.
Though its travels haven't always been smooth, Banooba's spirit is stronger than ever and on the rise
again… don't miss it.