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Carry Me Home
Photography by: John Shore
The Archives began when Thievery Corporation’s Eric Hilton began a quest to explore the roots of reggae music. Led by producer/ keyboard ace Darryl ‘Trane’ Burke, all members have recorded and toured internationally with acts like Eek-A-Mouse, Black Uhuru, Culture, Don Carlos, and more,” Burke explains. “We weave together the best of foundation roots, rock steady, early dub, and dancehall influences with arrangements that use funky throwbacks such as jazz flute, melodica, and organ to create a classic yet fresh and conscious sound.”
The band landed a two-year residency at the DC club ‘Patty Boom Boom’. Nightlong sets that often saw them playing 60 tunes or more allowed them to hone their sound and win an audience of dedicated fans. “It takes time to create new flavors,” Burke explains.
“Playing weekly allowed us to simmer the stew and unify our sound. The main objective is to have fun with the music. We thrive on spontaneity.”
The first album entitled ‘Archives’ was released in 2012 to critical acclaim and reached number 11 on iTunes charts in Greece. The first single and video, ‘Home is Where The Hatred is’, was released April 1, 2019, Gil’s 70th birth/born day.
Rolling Stones Magazine reviewed the song, and The NY Times added it to their Spotify playlist. The sophomore album, ‘Carry Me Home’, a reggae tribute to the late great Gil-Scott Heron, featuring Brian Jackson, Raheem Devaughn, and more, dropped on May 27, 2020.
The Archives feature vocalists Puma Ptah, the charismatic singer from St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands who records and tours with Thievery Corporation; Trane (Moja Nya, Eek-A-Mouse, Culture) on keyboards and drummer; Leslie ‘Black Seed’ James Jr. (Culture, Mishka); Guitar virtuoso Henri Tanash from Cameroon (Meditations) and Kingston, Jamaica’s own on bass, Pierre Stone (The Abyssinians, Don Carlos, Black Uhuru) to round out the core lineup.
The Archives – Who’ll Pay Reparations on My Soul
IRIE. Take us back to the beginning of The Archives? How did you all come together as a band?
The Archives. The Archives began when Eric Hilton (Thievery Corporation) contacted me (Darryl ‘Trane’ Burke) about a reggae project he wanted to produce. This was in 2010. Originally he wanted to remake rocksteady reggae covers only. So I contacted players I knew that could bring a progressive vibe to the music, all touring veterans in the genre from D.C. in the surrounding area. We had some heavy jam sessions trying to catch a vibe and started making original music on the fly. I get a call from a brethren of mine about a young singer from St Thomas (US VI) that’s really wicked and looking for a new band to front. That’s how we met Puma (Ptah). He had some tough originals, and we started writing to them, and before you know it, we had a full album.
IRIE. Can you tell us the meaning behind the name The Archives?
The Archives. Our drummer Leslie ‘BlackSeed’ James Jr came up with the name. We landed a two-year residency at the D.C. club Patty Boom Boom where we performed 3 hours plus sets, often playing 50-60 tunes a night.
The idea was to run tunes as a DJ would. We’d start with ska to rocksteady – to reggae – roots on to dancehall. We were exploring deep into the archives of reggae music in its many forms. He said, “let’s call ourselves The Archives,” and from there, it just felt right.
IRIE. Who were some of the musical influences that helped inspire your original sound?
The Archives. Jackie Mittoo, The Wailers, The Abyssinians, Sly & Robbie, Soul Syndicate, Black Uhuru, Steel Pulse, and Roots Radics to name a few.
IRIE. Where do you get your inspiration for your songs?
The Archives. Inspirations come from any and everywhere. We vibe out on a groove until it feels right!
IRIE. On May 27, 2020, you released ‘Carry Me Home, a reggae tribute to Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson’. Can you share with us what Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson’s legacy meant to you guys as musicians?
The Archives. Gil & Brian’s legacy means the world to us as socially conscious musicians present in what’s happening around us today. That’s why we took extra care in remaking the tunes with the same emotion and passion as the originals. Reggae is often dubbed ‘Island Soul,’ which to me makes this a perfect setting to present the music through a different lens while simultaneously highlighting the similarities.
IRIE. What was your process in transforming Gil Scott-Heron’s poetry into a reggae-infused album?
The Archives. Actually, only one tune on the album is a poem by Gil, ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’. We chose only to add sparse lyrics as the original was written for a specific era. Not too many folks know about Spiro Agnew and Hooterville Junction in these times.
The other is an original poem written and performed by Mutabaruka called ‘Revolution Disguised As Change’ featuring Puma Ptah. We covered songs that Gil & Brian wrote during their time together as a duo.
Back to your question, We focused on tunes that fit well with the reggae pulse sonically and lyrically, the more revolutionary and pan-Africanist pieces.
IRIE. Why a reggae tribute to Gil Scott-Heron?
The Archives. Gil Scott-Heron has Jamaican roots. His father, Gilbert Heron, dubbed ‘the Black Arrow’, was a famous Jamaican footballer and the first Black player in the Celtic league in Scotland. We searched far and wide and couldn’t find any reggae covers of his music, which motivated us even more to be the first to introduce the music to the genre.
IRIE. Your latest release is a fantastic dub album, Carry Me Home Dub, featuring Tippy I (I Grade Dub). How did you connect with I Grade Dub to make this happen?
The Archives. Puma Ptah knows Tippy from back home. Both of them are from US VI. When Puma (Ptah) recorded his solo album and had an album release party in DC, Tippy performed a live dub set at the show. That’s when we all physically met him, and from there, we started working together back in 2015.
IRIE. You performed your first show post-Covid, on Friday the 13th at the Hamilton in Washington, D.C. What was the feeling like to perform the songs from the 2020 release of ‘Carry Me Home’?
The Archives. The vibes were high, and the show was packed! It was great to perform the tunes live and amongst the people.
IRIE. Is there a song in your discography that resonates most with the Archives? If so, why?
The Archives. There are quite a few, but the one I’m feeling the most right now is ‘More To Life featuring Puma Ptah’ from our first album. Lyrically it’s more relevant today than when we released it almost a decade ago, and musically, it defines our sound. “There’s much more to life than to desire your dollars and cents ‘cause if not life can’t make no sense”.
Way too often, we see people aimlessly scrolling their “smart” phones and not once look up at the beautiful sun shining in the sky. You can’t take these things for granted. Life is precious, a gift. We should give thanks all the while.
IRIE. What do you hope first-time listeners take with them from listening to The Archives?
The Archives. We are all about the conscious reggae party… peace, love, laughter, unity, equal rights, and justice.
IRIE. Now that you’ve released Carry Me Home Dub, what’s next for The Archives? More live performances, we hope?
The Archives. The last two years have been incredible! We have our last show of the summer coming up on August 28 at the National Cannabis Festival in D.C.
Afterward, we will hit the studio without a plan and see where we end up! As always, just trust the vibes!
IRIE. Is there anything you would like to share with our audience?
The Archives. The Archives consist of lead vocalist Puma Ptah from St Thomas, US VI, on drums, Leslie ‘BlackSeed’ James Jr from St Croix US VI, on bass Pierre Stone from Kingston JA, on keys Darryl ‘Trane’ Burke, on guitar Henri Tanash from Cameroon. Special shoutout to the additional musicians who play with us live; Matt ‘SwampGuinee’ Miller on percussion, Brian Falkowski on sax, Joe Herrera on Trumpet, and Desi Hyson on keys. We’re a 21st-century band with profound roots, and we want to contribute to reggae’s evolution. Same tree, new leaves.”
IRIE. Maaad Love & Respect to The Archives! Roots Reggae music is in good hands!
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