By: Camila Álvarez
Inez Barlatier (Vocals-Rhythm Guitar) is in her 20s, has dreads and is very energetic. She is assertive and talks fast. Her lifelong friend and bandmate, Jayan Bertrand (Vocals-Lead Guitar) is also in his 20s and also has dreads, but is more of the reserved, punk type. They were both born and raised in Miami. Then there is Gabe Norwood, a tall, charming, Basquiat-looking drummer from D.C., who recently joined Inez and Jayan. Together they form the band Kazoots.
Kazoots combines Jayan’s love for indie-rock and guitar-oriented music, Inez’s love for Caribbean rhythms, and their shared respect and admiration for their Haitian/African heritage.
They were recently asked to drive Vincent Moon—yes, the badass filmmaker, around Little Haiti. Despite their frustration at not having enough time to take him to the cool events that take place monthly in the Haitian hub, such as the Big Night, which happens every third Friday at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, or the Poetry readings with locals at Sweat Records (the filmmaker only stayed for a few days), Moon shot them performing 3 of their songs in some cool abandoned places they took him to, and will pick one to be premiered at NOLA, one of Indie Film Club Miami’s events next month.
We chatted with them about their influences, the Miami music/cultural scene and their experience with Vincent Moon…
CA: Tell me about the background of the band?
Inez: We started playing together about 5 years ago after I graduated from high school. Jayan had just started playing guitar. We grew up together. My father and Jayan’s parents were in a band when they were young.
How was your sound back then?
Inez: Very cute [laughs].It was the beginning of a folk band. It was basically me playing regular 4/4 chords. We didn’t have a lot of rhythm.
It was pretty generic. Our bassist liked reggae and I was pretty big on indie rock.
What’s the sound like today?
Inez: It definitely has some roots. I would say it’s roots-African-folk-fight-for-the-people type of music with a melodic smoothness. And then we add some rhythm and funkiness. So yeah, it’s afro-roots-melodic-funky [laughs].
Interesting. What are your major influences?
Jayan: I listen to a lot of guitar-oriented music. It could be jazz, rock, world music stuff. There’s this guy that came out recently, he is from Northern Africa and his name is Bombino. This guy can shred Jimmy Hendrix, but still has that African and Muslim influenced sound. It’s a weird blend, but it works. There’s another band I like called Fool’s Gold. They grew up in America, but they were heavily influenced by African music. Their melodies sound like genuine African music.
Inez: African and Brazilian singers, songwriters like Erykah Badu, people that have their own sound, their own vision of style and singing. That’s what I want to develop. People like Esther Phillips, Angelique Kidjo, Sarah Vaughn.
Gabe: There are days where I like extremely mellow stuff. I can listen to very corny stuff, like 80s synth, pop, kinda stuff, or I can do Isley Brothers, almost 70s. And then I have the bands that I listen to today, that I actually pull from and learn from, like Grizzly Bear, Autolux. Bands that usually wanna push the envelope a little bit.
How do you think that Miami has influenced your sound?
Inez: Living with Haitian musicians. My dad is African. He’s Haitian, but he practices a lot of Haitian/African roots. Growing up, I’d take African dance classes, go to African anything, so that influenced my style completely. That’s the reason why I play guitar so rhythmically and why I sing with my gut.
What do you think about Miami’s music scene?
Gabe: It’s a buddy-buddy thing.
Inez: Get into the click?
Gabe: I think that’s starting to break.
Inez: I think it’s starting to break cause now we’re in it [laughs]
Gabe: True. Cause in D.C. it wasn’t like that. It’s weird for me. It seems like an old 80s high school movie.
When did you move here?
Gabe: Almost a year ago. So I was talking to this guy, he’s a graffiti artist and he’s cool and he’s like: “I’m going to be honest with you, two years ago, I would never be caught talking to a musician.” And he was serious. He was so serious. “Punk kids don’t mess with skaters, bike kids don’t mess with skaters, hardcore kids don’t mess with the punk kids.” That’s dumb, that doesn’t make any sense, but lately I’ve been seeing the weirdos mess with hardcore kids, like, it’s one big melting pot. But, to get into a show, you still have to be buddy-buddy. You still have to know a lot of people, the right people, and you know, kinda milk the cow a little bit.
Inez: It’s also money based. So they want bands that have paying fans. Fans that can actually pay to get into venues, which is totally understandable, but we’re in our 20s, we don’t have friends that can spend 10 bucks here, 10 bucks there, and buy drinks all the time.
And how did you guys make it into the “scene”? I heard you’ll be playing at Bardot pretty soon…
Inez: Mostly because of our personalities and especially when Gabe came in town. He’s very charismatic. People like us as people and they support our music. But until we started going to shows and talking to people and going to their shows, not playing, just getting to know people, that’s when it all started happening.
Gabe: The Jellyfish Brothers man, if there’s anything I support in this city it’s those guys.
Jayan: I think they are one of the reasons why people are getting along more now. They book bands all over the place, like, whoever’s talented they pick, and so, it brings all those different crowds together.
Now tell me about Vincent Moon. I heard you guys spent some time with him recently.
Inez: He’s a cool guy. We did a show for Indie Film Club Miami where we made masks and we gave them out to people. The co-founder, Dilliana, she saw us, and told us that Vincent Moon was coming and that she wanted to show him something interesting that he would not be able to see anywhere else, and she thought about the Haitian culture of Miami, and because we’re Haitian and we sing Haitian songs, she asked us to find people for him to film. I called my friend, a Haitian dancer. He filmed her, filmed us, and I also took him to a drumming class. He wanted to see some spiritual stuff, cause he’s been traveling to many different places, and he’s been able to get into real spiritual rituals and film them, but here in Miami….no! that’s hard to find [laughs].
Jayan: That experience made me realize how hard it is to find cultural stuff here in Miami. I mean, we were only able to show him the tip of the iceberg. I’ve seen his videos and what he’s been able to capture, I mean, there’s people out on the street playing real African music in Russia. Here we just see the Americanized version of the cultures. I really wanted to find things to show him, but I didn’t even know where to look.
Gabe: I really wanted to show him the intricacies of Little Haiti, but I didn’t know how to go about that because everyone is home, everyone is inside. He narrowed it down to just being in Little Haiti, and I wanted to let him know that most Haitians aren’t in Little Haiti, they’re in North Miami, that’s where people are more open about their Haitian background.
Why is that?
Gabe: I think that the second generation moved up towards North Miami. But we took Vincent Moon out, we drove him around, he’s looking for places to film, very intimate, very cultured, and it was such a reality check because I was completely blank, I was like, where do I take this guy to see something interesting? And there were only like 3 places. We ended up taking him to an abandoned house, an abandoned building; we climbed all the way to the 7th floor. That was fun, but not cultural…
Inez: We didn’t really have a lot of time with him. If he had stayed more time, let’s say 3 weeks, we could’ve taken him to more events, like the poetry night, where they have local people come into Sweat Records and read poetry, or to the Big Night in Little Haiti, which happens every third Friday. Like Jayan said, we were only able to give him the tip of the iceberg. Not even the tip, just an ice cube [laughs].
Did he shoot a video of you guys?
Inez: Yes, he’s going to release it for not this one, but the next NOLA next month!
Check them out live at Bardot on Wednesday, August 20th. Here’s a preview of what you’re in for:
*This interview was originally published on Culture Designers