By Adam Lovinus
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One Tribe Nation are the band guitarist Michael Sanders has been waiting for.
The Afro-Latin funk rockers—who represent an array of ethnicities and musical influences—mirror their Los Angeles home base in sound and spirit. An earlier incarnation of the group came about via Sanders' solo project, which was propelled by session musicians in 2006 after he moved to the sprawling metropolis from Canada with material in tow. Now, with an established core of bassist Dave Flice, vocalist Quetzal Guerrero and David "Young Professor" Cowen on drums, rounding out a more collaborative vision finally became possible.
"My biggest achievement was to manage to get such great musicians to play some of my music, write with me and share their music as well," Sanders says.
The effort culminated in last month's incentive-laden early release of We Are the One on the band's website. The diverse sounds of Latin, funk, reggae and rock are seamlessly interwoven on the new album's 11 songs.
"I'm part Indian, part African-American, Irish, Scottish, Canadian," Sanders says. "For guys like us who grow up with these multicultural backgrounds, I think it's pretty natural to just want to mix everything."
The oneness of One Tribe Nation's identity is not solely relegated to their sonic expression, either. "It's a euphemism for human rights," Sanders says of the band name. "People get way too hung up on their own little clique to the point where they exclude other people."
In seeking to rock the masses from dissension into unity, the group look to musicians who flourished during the mid-'60s and '70s, tapping into the wealth of their example to create a new-century sound. The imprint of WAR's funk, Santana's spirit and Curtis Mayfield's soul is evident on We Are the One. "I started getting away from the heavier music and more into Afro-Cuban and Latin music," Sanders says of his own evolution as a metal guitarist. "Trying to combine that with my rock roots is how a lot of this came up."
While One Tribe Nation were preparing their new music for release, they had a chance to perform for a receptive audience. Politicized encampments collectively known as "Occupy" spread across the country last fall and City Hall was the epicenter in the band's hometown.
"We went there because we wanted to play for the people that were really on the frontlines of what we saw as a pretty defining battle between corporations and just regular folks," Sanders says of their October performance atop the steps of Occupy LA. "The energy of the day was really, really special."
He had also invited friend and filmmaker Leonardo Bondani to document the moment, which transformed into a notable music video for the aptly titled single "It's Time."
Soon, it will be time for We Are the One to be released nationwide on the politically charged date of May 1, otherwise known globally as May Day. With that, One Tribe Nation aspire to take their musical message wherever an open ear feels compelled to listen.
"We're hoping to reach and communicate with as many people as we possibly can," Sanders says. "We just want to build a movement, make more records, and bring more people along for the ride."
This article appeared in print as "One Love: One Tribe Nation get together to feel all right, and to mobilize."