Food & Culture
Band of the Week: Kore Ionz
By Gwendolyn Elliott February 15, 2017
With so much happening in Seattle’s bustling music scene these days, how do you even know where to start? Allow the highly trained culture curators of Seattlemag.com to help with Band of the Week. This week, tap into the relaxed rythyms and positive vibes of Kore Ionz, the city’s supremely sunny reggae ensemble led by Daniel Pak. The band has an inspiring new single and video, “Superhero,” and plays the Crocodile this Saturday.
In three sentences or more, tell us the story of your band: After turning down a six-figure nuclear engineer job offer, I started bussing tables downtown for six dollars plus tips and gigging with a post-UW band we called Kore Ionz. Though I was writing songs about making the world a better place, it wasn’t until a best friend questioned my contradictory late-night lifestyle that I decided to teach music to youth in the community with organizations like the Service Board, Rock School, Arts Corps, and now Totem Star, the youth record label I co-founded. I’ve connected with all of the past and current members of Kore Ionz through this amazing work, and to date we’ve released two full length albums (World War Free, Half-Hour Revolution), two EPs (Feels Good, Love You Better), the brand new “Superhero” single, and shared the stage with The Wailers, Toots and the Maytals, Steel Pulse and many more of reggae’s founding fathers.
What have you been working on these days? The “Superhero” single and music video just dropped on Valentine’s Day! You can find it on YouTube. The song was written during many late night sessions with the band (Teo Shantz, Masa Kobayashi, Max Levin, Owuor Arunga, Darian Asplund and Greg Kramer) at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center over the last couple of years and was recorded at my home studio in Leschi. The song was mixed by Geoff Stanfield and mastered by Ed Brooks. When filmmaker Terrence Jeffrey Santos and I met up to do our fifth music video together, we thought about everything our children are bombarded with on a daily basis through mass and social media. The crazy thing, we realized, is stuff like police brutality, rape culture and domestic violence are becoming more and more normalized, with our kids becoming more and more desensitized, to the point that these themes have become an extension of pop culture. Our kids can sadly swipe their fingers and see whatever they want to see. And we thought, we need to flip pop culture on its head and show a different perspective to the kids. And that’s what our goal was with the video—to stir up people’s emotions so that conversations would be born. I’ve seen family and friends break from comfort after seeing the video, even breaking down and crying, and that’s important because it’s in the vulnerability of those moments that real conversations with real questions and the search for real answers can happen. When we’re all comfortable, fed and distracted, well, “they” keep winning.
What does being a musician in Seattle mean to you? I am continuously humbled by all of the support we get here in Seattle. Coming from Hawai`i, which is an entirely different culture, I sometimes feel like an outsider here in Seattle, even after being here for eighteen years. One thing I’ve definitely learned is my role in the universe, as an ambassador of aloha and a teacher of love, with music as my tool. I do feel like there is a desire among folks for a connection with Hawai`i culture, the aloha spirit if you will, and that is very encouraging, as it is what we need more of to really change things for the better. Aloha is not just hello and goodbye, it’s a way of life. It’s how you treat people, how you take care of people unconditionally. And so, as an artist in Seattle, I pledge that with every bit of my life energy, I will continue to give more music to the world for the purpose of spreading more aloha and, as I sing in the song “First Avenue,” “reteaching the world to love.”
What BIG question should we ask, and what’s the answer? What do you want? I want to see more love and less hate. We were all born with love, and a little bit of fear as well. But nobody was ever born with hate. That toxic stuff is passed down through generations of greedy, selfish people who forgot what it is to be human. They saw opportunity, capitalized on it, and stepped on others to make themselves wealthier, in whatever alternative definition of it that they want to fancy. Is greed and selfishness the culture we teach our children in preschool? Is that what they’d want their own children to be taught in preschool? The purpose of the new “Superhero” music video is to start conversations, which may be uncomfortable at first. We’re only going to move forward if we can talk about the things that really matter. And these uncomfortable things should matter, right? ‘Cause we’re human, right?
What’s next? The exciting news is that Kore Ionz will be releasing a succession of new singles throughout the year. I recorded a song called “Fly Away” after we lost a very special friend; that one is next. I also did a dystopian dance song called “Come Back.” I’ll be performing both of these for the first time at The Crocodile this Saturday, February 18. We’re just about finished with our first rock song, which we recorded with Stone Gossard from Pearl Jam. It’s been really cool experimenting with new styles and it definitely keeps the creative process fresh. We’re about to start working on the music videos for these soon, which is also super exciting! Kore Ionz is back! Love and aloha!
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