What with Monty Adams riffing on his guitar, this sounds a lot like the blues. But then his brother, Codi Lee Adams, is smacking those bongos like he’s in a jungle somewhere while also smashing the cymbals, layering it with rock. Douglas Howey keeps the rock element going while singing with his electric guitar. But then what’s Martin Arroyo doing on the keyboard over there with those twinkling Cuban chords?
It seems there’s no such thing as a one-genre group anymore. La Mosca is no exception. You need at least three words to accurately describe their sound: tribal funk fusion. Even that doesn’t include the Latin, blues and rock influences, but it’ll have to do.
“I don’t think any of us would be happy just playing one style,” says Monty Adams.
But if there’s one central element to what La Mosca does, it’s percussion.
“A lot of percussion influence comes from just being in the drum circles. That’s how me and him met,” says Howey, gesturing toward a dreadlocked Codi Lee Adams.
Monty Adams’ main instrument is guitar, and Arroyo has been playing piano since he was a boy in Guadalajara. But even they are learning to beat on drums with percussive rhythms stemming from Africa to Cuba to Brazil.
The group was formerly known as Denali. Then one member left, and they became La Mosca on Arroyo’s suggestion. (They didn’t know the Spanish name meant “the fly” at first, they just liked how it sounded.) In the beginning, the group focused mostly on funky jam band influences, such as Galactic and Karl Denson. But Arroyo, who worked as a tile setter with Codi Lee, introduced the group to more Latin influences with his keyboard. The other members began learning cumbia and merengue rhythms. In turn, Arroyo has been learning funk and jam organ styles.
“I think my style combined with theirs makes for a good sound,” says Arroyo.
The whole group is studying CDs and videos from African and Latin American drummers.
“We’re playing off all types of rhythms,” says Howey.
The group members leave their other instruments and gather toward the center of the cramped basement they use for rehearsals. They begin to play a drum-centric song inspired by the late Babatunde Olatunji. Howey wrote a part for the djembe, and Monty added a Brazilian surdo (a type of bass drum) to the great Nigerian drummer’s rhythms.
The song builds, then stops abruptly, begins again, faster this time, more agitated, concentrated and intense. La Mosca may play reggae tunes and rock jams, but this tribal stuff is what they do best. While many of their songs are relaxed, feel-good music for warm summer days, others, like this one, get under your skin in the best possible way.
La Mosca has been together for a year-and-a half but have only recently begun playing out. And while they’re still learning what they’re about, the prospects are good. “We’re finding our place,” says Monty.