When vocalist Jack Novak joined guitarist Colin Finch and drummer John Bertke three years ago, he brought change with him — a change in philosophy and musical direction away from the straight Hip Hop/ Funk that defined their initial group, Raze.
“Me and Colin started way back,” Bertke says. “We were the first people we ever played with that ever did anything. It finally settled into what we wanted to do.”
Novak suggested rechristening the band as Losanti, the original Losanti Native American designation for the Cincinnati area. Given the band’s unique hybridization of everything from 311 and Red Hot Chili Peppers to Sublime and Barenaked Ladies and the quartet’s deep local roots, christening the reconfigured band with the name of the original territory makes perfect sense. So what kind of message was Novak trying to send?
“Spiciness,” he says over a pitcher of beer on the Mad Frog’s outdoor patio to his bandmates’ collective glee. “I love Cincinnati history, and we’re proud to be doing this here. The name just came from the eclectic-ness of our beginnings. So it was like, ‘Let’s kick it back with the original.’ We are Cincinnati.”
Losanti most assuredly achieves both spiciness and originality with its long-awaited debut album, 4 Left Turns. The band has been working on the album for more than two years, enduring numerous delays including the loss of a guitarist and the installation of new bassist Justin Segbers, replacing original bassist Mike Jones, who departed for college.
“We didn’t lose our bass player for any bad reasons,” Segbers says. “He moved on and he’s in for four years of hell.” “Bands have lots of drama and emotion but we’ve stuck tight,” Novak says.
“We’ve lost these people but it’s like, ‘Let’s keep the ball rolling, we’ve got this momentum.’ ”
Losanti’s head-twisting diversity is cranked up to 10 on 4 Left Turns, essentially a seven-song EP clocking in at just under 30 minutes. Novak says the disc represents the band’s frame of mind over the long span of time it took to complete the album.
“We cut a lot of music,” Novak says. “We decided to keep it simple to show people what we could do. The whole album itself is a clusterfuck of ideas and visions. It’s short — these are our best songs, and it’s all different. The album encompasses Cincinnati and deep thought — if you think of four left turns, you get to a stop, you head around the corner, you make four turns and you’re right back where you were, which is heading forward. Which is the direction we’re going.”
“I always thought you had a NASCAR theme going on,” Finch says, jokingly.
Losanti has already enjoyed some plum opening slots around town (including Flobots and Nappy Roots) and they’re looking forward to a summer of festival bookings and perhaps playing out of town before heading back into the studio in August to begi n work on their sophomore album. And although Losanti is having a blast and sharing that good feeling with a rapidly growing fan base, they also understand that business is music’s last name.
“It’s our hard work and determination,” Novak says. “We’re showing up on time, we’re good people and we’re rockin’ out. It’s karma. We like to have a good time and we all invest a lot of energy and effort. It’s the real deal. We’re not doing it because it’s a hobby; we’re doing it because we love it. And we’re never going to sell out. You’re never going to see Bertke wearing eyeliner.”
Last Wednesday’s quick set at the Mad Frog was a tune-up for Losanti’s CD release party this Friday at the Mad Hatter and was an astonishing example of their power and diversity, from the full-throttle power of their brand new songs to their Funk/Hip Pop spin on Jimi Hendrix’s “Wait ’Til Tomorrow.”
The quartet’s marvelously paced hour-long set is proof of Novak’s declaration just minutes before they take the stage.
“We’re trying to get out there and expand our music,” he says. “We get to celebrate tonight because this is our kick-off. We got to make this album and put everything we like into it. We’re uber-excited about it. I say uber for all the Germans in Cincinnati.”
LOSANTI (losanti.com) celebrates its new album Friday at The Mad Hatter. Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.