High-energy reggae group SYNRGY spent more than three years in Arcata, Calif., perfecting its sound and growing a following, but members say since moving to Ashland in January of 2011 they have received even more of a warm welcome here, just north of their former home.
"I felt like the first week we were here, Ashland showed us so much more love than Arcata did for three-and-a-half years. Just, straight-up, it was so concentrated," said Brian Zach, lead singer and guitar player for SYNRGY.
The love continued to abound when the group found out it was going to open for Steel Pulse and The Wailers at the Britt Festivals in July.
"We were here like two or three months when we found out we got the gig to play at Britt for Steel Pulse and The Wailers," said T.J. Eilers, bass player for the band. "There is lots of other good reggae and other well-deserving acts around that could have easily gotten it."
SYNRGY originally was formed in Arizona by Clay Baker from Yuma, and Zach and Eilers from Phoenix.
The group then spent a few years in Arcata before moving up to the Rogue Valley and being joined by Ashland musicians Aaron Reed and Thomas Mackay.
"Our first show together, we had a week of practice for a two-hour set and we were just fresh off the page," said Mackay.
Reed's popular local band Monk recently disbanded, freeing up Reed and Mackay to join SYNRGY, which will take the time slot usually occupied by Monk at this year's Barter Faire on Friday, June 24, at 5:30 p.m. in Takelma.
"It's awesome. It's on a really gorgeous piece of land out in Takelma. It's pretty neat because it's low-cost and regionally based. They don't have any huge musical acts at it," said Reed of the Barter Faire. "And it truly is a barter fair. You can trade for a lot of stuff there. A lot of people give a lot of stuff away. The things you can buy are really cheap. It's a lot of artist-to-artist stuff there."
After SYNRGY's set at the Barter Faire, on Friday night the guys head south as they kick off a West Coast tour that will take them all the way through California and back home through parts of Arizona. In the spirit of the bohemian give-and-take barter environment of their Friday night show, when SYNRGY hits the road, members rely on fans to let them couch surf or else they end up snoozing in their van.
"That's part of SYNRGY. We live really humbly on the road, we don't buy hotels, we're on EBT (Oregon food stamp program)," said Zach. "We're pretty restricted, we make no money on tours. It's rough, but the people we find — it's never a mistake, they're perfect."
On the group's last tour in April, it escaped the wet spring in Southern Oregon and went south. Not knowing where they would play one night, the guys ended up booking a last-minute gig on a yacht near Oceanside.
"We were bummed out, but sure enough we got a show," said Eilers. "We floated around on a boat and jammed."
Zach explains that during the second half of their show they usually put it out to the crowd that they could use a place to stay, sometimes someone volunteers their home and sometimes the announcement is met with silence.
"Sometimes someone will speak up and say 'I got you guys,' " said Zach. "And sometimes it's just really quiet, which is really funny. People like the humor of it, but by the end usually someone steps up and says they can let us stay."
Worst-case scenario, the five guys cram into the van for a few hours of shut-eye before hitting the road again.
"The tour kind of avails itself as a new adventure every day. We go from not knowing anyone in the city and not knowing where we're going to stay to staying in a beach house," said Baker. "Now that we've toured up and down the coast a few times we're building up a network of friends."
Each member of the band has different influences that round out SYNRGY's reggae sound. From James Brown to punk rock, many styles of music converge to form the SYNRGY, which seems fitting considering the band name.
For the Tidings Café, SYNRGY played an original song, "Big Wheel," in the band's garage/practice space, sound-proofed with old mattresses.
The group has been creating new songs and learning old ones for when members back reggae legend Norma Fraser. They hope to back Rocker T later this summer.
Visit www.hopemountainbarterfaire.org for directions or more information about the Barter Faire in Takelma.