Following a main stage performance at BeachLife Festival, Los Angeles stalwarts Ozomatli are set to debut a new album and kick off a residency in support of the new music.
“There’s a lot of exciting songs on this record. It really feels strong and it gives you that level of entertainment that we give live,” said lead vocalist Asdru Sierra.
Sierra and bassist Willy “Wil-Dog” Abers were sitting inside a Toluca Lake music studio that’s next door to Verse, a restaurant and music venue where Ozomatli will hold a residency every Wednesday night in July.
“We’re going to play a 45-minute show of amazingness. We’re going to do the best songs we got and just kill it for 45 minutes,” Sierra said of the upcoming gigs, which will begin just ahead the July 15 release of the new album, “Marching On.”
The residency is part of a busy tour in support of the new album. The Grammy-winning band also comes to Fullerton June 23 for a free show as part of the OC Parks Summer Concert series.
“It’s awesome to be back just playing again,” Abers said.
Formed in Los Angeles in 1995, Ozomatli reflects the rich sounds of the city with a blend of music and genres that combine hip-hop, jazz, funk, salsa, reggae, rock, R&B and other styles.
The band, which is made up of Sierra (vocals, trumpet, keyboards), Raul Pacheco (vocals, guitar), Abers (bass, vocals), Justin Poree (rap, vocals, percussion), Ulises Bella (saxophone, melodica, clarinet, guitar, requinto, keyboards, vocals) and Jiro Yamaguchi (drums, percussion), was set to mark their 25-year anniversary with the recording of the new album in 2020.
However, they started recording it about two weeks before the pandemic struck. So they had to pause halfway through the process, but the 11-song album, which is their first new record in five years, was eventually finished remotely.
“We did end up finishing the record, but we’ve been sitting on it for a while because we didn’t want to put it out and not be able to tour behind it. So we’ve been kind of waiting for things to open up,” Abers said.
The new music is filled with songs that touch on the musical genres that define the city, and they also got a little help from well-known guest musicians too.
“The record is a more mature version of us, I guess, a more refined version of us. There’s stuff that’s classic Ozomatli and at the same time we took some risks as well,” Abers said.
Tracks include the reggae-tinged single “Sunsets,” which is about traveling through L.A. from the east side to the beach, and crowds will likely be dancing nonstop to the band’s other single, “Fellas,” which features singer Lisa Lisa of the Cult Jam.
Another recently released single is “Mi Destino,” a groovy soulful song that includes guest vocals from singer Gaby Moreno and B-Real of hip-hop legends Cypress Hill.
“That kind of song, that kind of beat excites me because it reminds me of the fire we’ve had on our records,” Sierra said of “Mi Destino.”
And for the residency at Verse, the band will not only be playing music from their nearly three-decade-long career and the new album, but they will also be enjoying a menu curated just for the shows.
“We don’t know what the final menu is going to be, but it’s going to be inspired by everyone in the band,” Sierra said.
If You Go:
OC Parks’ free Summer Concert Series show starts at 6 p.m. June 23 at Craig Regional Park, 3300 N. State College Blvd., Fullerton. ocparks.com.
The residency shows are July 6, 13, 20 and 27 at Verse, 4212 Lankershim Blvd., Toluca Lake. 818-747-2135, ozomatli.com or verse.la