Chico loves jam bands. That’s no secret. Yet despite a built-in audience, there have been very few new bands creating the groovy/funky tunes (most of the current jammers have been in the local scene since its 1990s heyday) and taking advantage of the party-ready crowds.
It comes as a refreshing surprise, then, to see a new fully engaged jam band, especially one whose members range in age from 18 to 20. Blü Egyptian was born at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and its members have put the shelter-in-place time to good use by sharpening a high-energy multifaceted representation of the genre, recording and releasing an impressive EP (Lotus) along the way.
The four core members—guitarist/vocalist Don Jules, drummer Zach Graham, bassist Cam Fuller and violinist Neo Spectrum—met while taking recording arts and pop band classes at Inspire School of Arts & Sciences (Graham and Spectrum have since graduated). Despite the dearth of live-music options, the band has managed to build up some performing experience with sets at restaurants and various socially distant community events (with backup singer Lydia Cooley joining them for many gigs), but it’s fair to say that the real Chico live-music experience is still to come. When the dance venues and festivals open up, Blü Egyptian seems poised to keep the crowds moving.
The CN&R caught up with the band for an interview in Bidwell Park on a sunny spring day.
Where are you practicing during the pandemic?
Jules: We practice at my house. We have jam space that we call “The Sound Lounge” where we do all our recording and we practice there like three times a week.
Your EP is all about South American rhythms. Where does that influence come from?
Jules: I was really intrigued with South American culture for a long time—just like their religions and their gods and outlooks on life and stuff—and so I wanted to write an album about that. I had a theme that I was writing, and it was all that upbeat, danceable world music style. The EP was just a good representation of our writing at the time—and that was just some of the songs that are that style.
As a drummer had you played these kind of rhythms before?
Graham: Actually no, [Don] introduced me to more Latin and Cuban beats, but then I was able to learn on my own and branch out. I like more sleazy funk. He helped me make it more diverse and different, which I appreciate a lot.
Has the structure of Inspire aided in the band’s rapid development?
Jules: Inspire definitely helps us learn about the whole field of music, instead of just the instrument, but as far as musically we kind of all got there by practice on our own time.
How about downtime due to the pandemic; did that help things come together?
Jules: Yeah, definitely. If the pandemic hadn’t been happening then, we probably wouldn’t have gotten our grounding as a band. That really just gave us focus to grind as much as we can.
There are a lot of classic rock influences in your sound. How did you come to that music? Do your parents have great record collections, or have you just mined the Internet?
Jules: We all kind have just been researching music our whole lives, and if there’s a song we want to play, we just play it. We don’t have any bounds; any style we’ll just play if we want, but a lot of it’s like Grateful Dead and funk. The Grateful Dead influence and, like, Bob Dylan and stuff like that, I got that from my dad always playing records.
Do you really write songs in all the styles listed in your bio?
Jules: Yeah, we try to have a song for at least [each] different genre, like we have bluegrass songs, funk, blues, EDM, reggae. On our recording coming up—we’re doing a 10-song album featuring the four songs we already recorded—that’s going to show more of our influences. We record it at our house with [longtime Chico engineer] Dale Price—he brings all his microphones and preamps—and then we go do all overdubs at his [studio].
What are your plans for the band once things open up?
Graham: Get our names out there and grind as much as possible—while we’re young. We have so much potential; why waste it?
Jules: We have eight shows coming up into April, some really exciting electric shows. We’re playing Blaze ’n J’s 420 festival. We have a tour coming up this summer. We’re going to be hitting Reno and Sacramento, San Francisco, Nevada City and anywhere else that will take us. At the beginning of fall, we’re going to start playing shows like crazy, hopefully, start trying to branch out to more states—just really brand the name Blü Egyptian.
Where’s the band name come from?
Jules: I originally heard it [at] a festival. This dude was preaching to me all of its medicinal properties. It’s an ancient flower that’s from the Nile River—it’s called the Blue Egyptian lotus, and it’s a big fuscia beautiful flower. When he told me that, I was like, “That would be an awesome band name.”