By Lisa Morgan
“What’s going down family. It’s your boy Mikey and I’m here with the beautiful Bryanna Evaro…” For 9 months worth of Wednesdays (sometimes Thursday mornings but dependable all the same), Mikey Reyes’ voice has been heard on social media, introducing his contribution for the week. Often, his heart’s desire, Bryanna Evaro, will join him as they present a new song week after week. Reyes dubbed it “Wordplay Wednesday 760,” and the combination of roots, soul, funk and hip hop is uplifting AF. As always, Reyes and Evaro bring messages of truth, sometimes gentle, sometimes sharply poignant, but always encompassed in shining a light in the darkness and living in the spirit of love. It is their personal challenge to create and present weekly along with a challenge to others to do the same. Witnessing the depth of these prolific artists is awe inspiring. I think it must be maddening to those who, after months, find themselves with a handful of songs, to witness not only the volume, but the quality of the compositions these artists put out, and are viewed by thousands each week. It’s not enough to say that they are talented. The founders of Desert Rhythm Project who pack rooms and festivals regularly deserve better than that. They are on track to bring another necessary dimension and afflatus to World Music, commercial success be dammed (or not). Mikey Reyes, Bryanna Evaro and Desert Rhythm Project will move everyone within their range, and that is a dead certainty.
My first article about Michael Reyes in 2013 was titled, “Mikey Reyes – Soul Open,” based on my impression of this young artist after meeting him for the first time. His band name at the time, Soul Opus, lent itself to the title easily, but so did Reyes’ demeanor. He was in search mode. There was an unspoken intuitive sense that while he appreciated where he was and what he was doing, Mikey Reyes was ready to grow. He was standing at the precipice of finding more of his true voice and who he was to become, his soul open yet anxious for the next part of his journey. Bryanna Evaro was to become a very big part of that. He may never truly stop searching, but the difference between that young artist and the man he has become in the last 5 years tells me he is well on his way, and with true love by his side, even the sky is no limit.
The amount of talent with which the Evaro family has drenched the Southern California desert, is mystifying, and Bryanna Evaro is no exception. She brings her own unique effervescence to the table with a presence on and off the stage projects an ethereal grace. The lady can rock an audience with her smooth, but soulfully funky bass lines. But when this beauty opens her mouth to sing, it’s the sonic version of the glittery part of a firecracker, and the crowd basks and celebrates in the glow. Like salt on caramel, the Reyes and Evaro combo is undeniably delicious.
CV Weekly caught up with the two very busy founders of Desert Rhythm Project as they look forward to once again drawing the masses at the Joshua Tree Music Festival, Oct 5th:
CVW: Explain where the inspiration for Wordplay Wednesday 760 came from, and how long do you plan on doing it?
REYES: “It’s not necessarily a group challenge although the people who I surround myself with musically have joined in on the fun. What I’m doing is releasing a song, new or old, every Wednesday and have been doing so since December 20th of 2017, nine months strong. I’m allowing myself to be creative weekly and then putting that creativity out for myself and everyone else to hear without any doubts, without any hesitations or reservations – raw, one take, the truest as can possibly be for the ears to hear and the eyes to see. I’m recording all live instruments here in my home studio and I’m playing all the instruments from guitar to drums to keys to bass, although an occasional bass line from the lovely Bryanna Evaro does make its way to the final cut as well as amazing collaborations with my beautiful brothers Tyler Saraca and Christian Colin. I’ve also managed to write songs with two of my best friends that I’ve been making music with since we were kids, Daniel Sullivan aka Provoked and William Randal aka WillDaBeast. We’ve spear headed the music community in all genres, Hip Hop, Funk, Soul, Reggae and we’re continuing to get creative with our expression. Wordplay Wednesday 760 has allowed us to get in touch with that creativity and risen us to the incredible altitude we strive for as musicians.”
“Before coming home from a northern California trip Bry and I took in late 2017, we agreed to release our album Mojave Roots that had been on the back burner since 2015. A part of coming to that conclusion was the release of our insecurities. As a musician you battle with feeling like what your doing isn’t good enough, or that it can be better. I’ve felt that a lot as I got older and was allowing that feeling to cripple my creative process and even hold me back from releasing music that me and my people loved. NO MORE! We both agreed that we would stop feeling that way and be our truest selves. No doubts! No angst towards the journey that chose us! We are good enough! It IS good enough! We all are perfect in our own way, and to dampen that beauty, to suppress your perfectness is detrimental to your soul. ‘Whatever comes up, comes out’ (don’t quote me on that, but I love that saying). And through that mantra, WPW760 was created.”
“In all honesty. Willdabeast entered a contest where the sickest emcee to spit the dopest 16 bar verse won a gram of WAX. I was hanging at his house and he told me about it, and we peeped some of the other contestants. All were dope, but Will asked if I wanted to see his entry. I said, ‘Of course!’ Will showed me an actual video, with Will in the middle of the shot, looking like he’s about to murder his track, which he did. But the audio and video looked great. The only thing that set Will apart from all the other emcees was that his video looked amazing. Everyone else was using iPhone vids, super low quality. But Will’s was on point. I went home and had been writing a lot some months prior and was pushing myself to be more creative musically. The contest was over, Will lost, but I was left with a spark that would later turn into a friggin’ BARN FIRE!”
“I started making beats and wrote two 16 bar verses to one that I really liked. It originally was just to get off my chest what I’d been feeling at the moment, and that was the first song “If It”. It’s a song about where I grew up and the life style of a kid just south of the train tracks in Indio. And that’s my roots. Not a lot of people know that I started making Hip Hop before I ever started writing songs on the guitar. I’m very rooted in Hip Hop and felt another spark after that song was released. It felt good. REALLY GOOD. And I told myself and Bry that I would be making more Hip Hop in the beginning of the year, and there it was – one and done, and it’s December.”
“I kept writing and the next week came. Then it hit me, I wanted to create something for the community of musicians as an outlet – a safe space to put out song, old or new, good or bad. A place to put out the music that you’re currently working on and show it to our community of people. Not for any reason other than to show what you’re feeling and to let your community in on your musical journey.”
“There has been a lot of participation as the year has gone by. William Randal aka WillDaBeast is my DAWG. We’ve been at it since day one. I wrote my first rap with that guy back in 2002 and we’re still making music to this day. He’s been a huge advocate for the WPW760 movement. Peep his stuff out. My brother Dan Sullivan aka Provoked has been featured in a lot of mine and on Will’s stuff as well. I love that kid. And along with Nolan, Versa Style, Chase 1, Alpine, Cancun, Raymon Serano, Josh Fimbres, RobaDoc, Ronny Jones, KJewls and my beautiful brother James Velasquez, they have all recognized the movement and have put there truest self forward and used this outlet to express themselves.”
“This is a lifelong project. I won’t stop doing it; it’s more of an expression then a project. It has turned into that. I can’t stop expressing myself, and I’ve created an outlet to do so. With that said, I don’t think I’ll ever stop.”
CVW: Your band, Desert Rhythm Project, has had personnel changes… can you talk about the current lineup and what you have learned from the hardships and the longevity of keep things going in the light of disappointment and changes?
EVARO: “Yes, our band has undergone some significant changes over the past years. It is very difficult keeping four or five individuals inspired and/or committed; it’s much like a relationship, but we’ve realized that at the end of the day, everyone is on his/her own journey. We try our best to honor people’s journey, time and space, while doing our best to keep money in their pockets and keep this project a float.”
“It is hard though. It almost feels like we are starting all over. But thankfully, we have each other. We believe in what we are doing 100%, and over the years, Mikey and I have gotten really good at dusting ourselves off and moving forward. We have no intention on slowing down, losing our momentum or putting our passions on the back burner when we are faced with hardships or disappointment. It’s hard in the moment, yes, but we do our best to make peace with whatever we are facing and use it as fuel to keep this engine running.”
CVW: What successes have you inspired?
EVARO: “With all that said, we have been super blessed in our lives with some incredibly amazing supportive friends and family. Our drummer, Tyler Saraca, has been rocking it with us for 2.5 years. He’s a badass. He is a solid, amazing friend and bandmate. He is a core member of DRP.”
“The sky’s the limit for DRP. We are not putting a cap on our potential or our direction.”
CVW: What lies ahead for DRP? What do you see for yourselves in the next year – the next 5 years – the next 10 years?
EVARO: “Our goal for this next year is to land a major booking deal and get some representation. This industry, as much as I hate to admit it, is based on numbers and who you know. We realize that and are privy to the fact that views on YouTube matter and who you are represented by matters. We have gained a lot of momentum by doing it grassroots style and have landed some really great deals and gigs on our own accord, but it’s time to take it up a few notches. We are ready.”
“The next five years we hope to be touring the world! Touring and making a name for ourselves and our desert community in which we thrive. It’s our dream to connect with people on the other side of the world through music – the one thing that has saved our lives and brought so much joy and love into our hearts. And in ten years… I don’t know! I don’t like to think that far ahead… gives me a little anxiety. But who knows; we see happiness, love, creativity, and family always in our future.”
CVW: Couples don’t always work together and stay together. How has your relationship grown over the years?
REYES: “We trust each other 100%. I’ve got her back and I know she’s always got mine.”
EVARO: “We work day and night at this hustle together. Whether it be writing and recording, sending out press kits, scheduling rehearsals, figuring out tour routes, figuring out how we are going to pay for all the above (laughs). It’s a constant hustle. Don’t get it twisted – we definitely have our fair share of meltdowns and disagreements, but we believe in each other.”
REYES: “We are best friends.”
EVARO: “He makes me coffee every morning, and I make him breakfast. We talk a lot; communication is key. But honestly, we couldn’t be more in love. I wake up every day in love, and each night as we lay down for bed, I give thanks for another day spent with him. And the fact that we get to work and play together is a bonus.”
CVW: Bryanna, you were recently featured at the Desert Women’s Show performing solo and collaborating with Giselle Woo at Tacheva; will we be seeing more solo shows or collaborations?
EVARO: “Yes, I have been recently playing more of my solo music and collaborating outside of the Project. I was given the opportunity to play at the Desert Women’s Show and played at Joshua Tree Music Festival in October 2017 and May 2018, solo for their songwriter’s sessions. That was good for me. I look forward to continuously exploring myself and my sound. I also was given the opportunity to play bass with my good friend Giselle Woo for the Tacheva Finals (no pressure), and we won! It was so fun, and such a great experience. I look forward to doing more collaborations and solo project work as we move into the fall and the new year!”
CVW: In June of this year you won 4 trophies at the CV Music Awards including the top honor of Best Band, Best Duo, Best Reggae Band and Bryanna for Best Bass. Desert Rhythm Project also opened the show with a killer performance accompanied by Willdabeast. What did winning that many awards mean to you?
EVARO: “Winning those awards at the CVMA’s, we felt very humbled and grateful for the recognition. It is truly an honor to be recognized within the community in which we reside for our passion and efforts. We are so fortunate to share and be a part of the local music scene with so many talented and amazing artists.”
Do yourself a solid and make it a point to catch Desert Rhythm Project at the Joshua Tree Music Festival Friday, October 5th, at 4:30pm and a late night hip hop set Saturday Oct 6th @11:30pm.
They perform on Nov. 29 with Fortunate Youth at the Date Shed.
Follow Desert Rhythm Project at http://www.desertrhythmproject.com/ and see if you can’t peek in on Michael Reyes and Wordplay Wednesday on social media #wordplaywednesday760 #totallyworthit #buythemusic