By Lisa Morgan
The minute that you try and put Michael Reyes and Bryanna Evaro’s Desert Rhythm Project in a genre box, they will bust right out of it. I have attempted to myself, and failed. They consistently and delightfully blow past expectations and teach listeners the difference between noise and sound. Their neo-roots, Marley inspired, So Cal Reggae flavor will penetrate your neuro system with whatever delivery system they choose, be it a sprinkling of funk, hip-hop, rock or pure roots rhythm, Desert Rhythm Project creates a full-flavored new world music platter that is uniquely theirs and theirs alone. It is a gift to those who have been fortunate enough to bear witness to it as will testify anyone in the audience of their most recent performance at Joshua Tree Music Festival. Michael Reyes and his soul mate, Bryanna Evaro, have enough music in themselves individually to flood the low and high deserts. Together, there is a beautiful kind of magic.
Evaro comes from a family that has become legend here in the desert. With a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Fame, I’ve often wondered what was in their drinking water that could permeate three generations of indelible music and beauty. There is a quiet, earthy grace about Bryanna. On stage, however, strapped into her bass, she is the goddess of all that is cool, fierce and funky. Her voice, like butter, adds melty harmonies but on its own, can also pack a wonderfully powerful punch. “I love that I am able to play and write music alongside Michael,” shared Evaro. “He never ceases to amaze me. Our styles are so different but that’s what makes it so much fun. It’s nice to step out of my comfort zone, learn new techniques, and write music that maybe I would have never written.” Reyes would be the first to tell you how deeply vital Evaro is to his music and his life.
Reyes came onto the local music scene with the band Soul Opus in 2008, and went on to share the stage with legendary reggae artists such as the original Wailers, Eek-A-Mouse, the lead singers and founders of Big Mountain, Quino and James McWhinney, The Sunset Temple, Afro Man, and Fortunate Youth. Reyes has always been an observer and deep thinker. You don’t have to know him for very long without understanding that he truly believes and tries to live authentically the messages inside the lyrics that he writes. This songwriter is as much on a spiritual journey as he is a musical one.
When I first met Reyes for an interview in 2013, he told me, “I believe we all need to be in a more loving state, cherishing the time that we have together. For me, that means being present in my performing and with the people who love me for what I’m doing. You get so blinded by society, that you won’t practice what you preach. It’s kind of like, ‘Wait dude your writing these songs, what are YOU doing.’ That’s what a lot of us are lacking right now, musician wise and society wise – being in the now, existing amongst each other in the now, happily, with understanding.” As the years have gone by, I have watched this artist grow. Reyes and Evaro exude the peace, love and kindness their music preaches. But don’t mistake my words; their music is also tenacious, robust and commanding, as are their hearts that have learned to stay open in an industry that can easily break, or worse, harden them.
Like every artist, Reyes has had his struggle between wanting to make money at this business of music without turning his music into a business. In that early interview, over four years ago, Reyes shared, “When I was young growing up, it seemed I didn’t really have a say or a voice in things. When I picked up a guitar and sang, suddenly people were listening to me. So now, when I play, I really want to be heard. So I struggle sometimes. I played this solo gig and it seemed nobody was listening. I played my first song, and there was no response. I played my second song… no response. Then I started getting kind of negative in my head until I told myself, ‘Man, these negative thoughts aren’t going to help you!’” he laughed. “It’s a struggle. I need the money, but I don’t want the music to be about the money. And I want people to hear what I have to say, but I don’t want it to all just be about me.”
Today, Reyes and Evaro sit on the verge of releasing a new album as well as joining one of their favorite artists, reggae’s rising star, Mike Love (not the Beach Boy), on tour. I have long been told, “Do what you love and money will follow,” and I have seen it happen. If love ever deserved a big paycheck, Reyes and Evaro are long overdue.
Do yourself a solid, and make the trip to see Desert Rhythm Project at their rare local performance Friday, March 31, while you can still enjoy them in the intimate atmosphere of Pappy and Harriet’s. Joined by talented and intuitive drummer, Tyler Saraca, and award winning artist in his own right, David Macias on guitar and vocals, DRP begin their tour the very next day:
4/1 Sierra Nevada Resort, Mammoth, CA
4/19 Soho/Santa Barbara, CA
4/20 Sol/Carson, CA
4/25 Metro Music Hall/SLC
4/26 Animas Theatre/Durango, CO
4/27 Aggies/Ft. Collins, CO
4/29 Brue Alehouse/Pueblo, CO
4/30 Salida Steamplant Ballroom/Salida, CO