Flow Tribe previews ‘Painkiller’ at Chelsea’s

Flow Tribe
Flow Tribe

Shruti Chowdhary

Special to The Advocate

Many high school kids dream of graduating and spending their lives hanging out, making music with friends and traveling the world. Flow Tribe is living that dream. The six friends, born and raised in New Orleans, are classmates from Brother Martin High School who see themselves as cultural ambassadors for the Big Easy.

Flow Tribe’s lead vocalist, K.C. O’Rorke, said the band is infused with the myriad sounds of the New Orleans music scene.

“Our earliest musical memory was second line at a parade, hearing the bass drum boom,” O’Rorke said. “You’re raised in an environment where music is such a part of the culture that it permeates everything you do. That’s the big thing for us. We try to be cultural ambassadors for New Orleans. We should be getting some tourism kickbacks.”

The lineup of Flow Tribe is O’Rorke (lead vocals/trumpet), Mario Palmisano (guitar), Chad Penot (bass/vocals), Russel Olschner (drums), Bryan Santos (guitar, percussion) and John-Michael Early (harmonica/washboard/vocals).

After graduating from Brother Martin, the future members of Flow Tribe scattered, with band members going to different colleges and the drummer going to Iraq with the National Guard. Then, as with many living in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina changed their lives.

“When Katrina hit, I moved back to New Orleans and realized how fragile and short life is,” O’Rorke said. “The venues around New Orleans had a lot of openings, because so many musicians were displaced. It helped the younger guys fill spots. The older guys that were here were so helpful. They just wanted to build it back up.”

The sextet officially settled on the name Flow Tribe in 2006. For seven years they have been a relentlessly touring band, blasting fans away with bluesy rock with a flare of funk and the occasional breeze of Havana air. They call it “backbone-cracking music.”

With three full-length albums in the bag, Flow Tribe is embarking upon a new journey with their latest EP, “Painkiller.” The official album release will be at the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans May 18.

“Santos is second-generation Cuban. Over the past year we’ve started to incorporate percussion elements like timbales, those Cuban-sounding drums. It’s been great. There’s no rhyme or reason, it’s just whatever makes you feel good. Trying to stay true to ourselves as musicians,” O’Rorke said.

Fans got a taste of Flow Tribe’s evolved sound on their 2011 self-titled album. The song “Run With You” takes off with a spellbinding percussion beat, followed by soft guitar harmonies that sets a romantic mood. “Gossando,” on Flow Tribe’s new EP, has a similar effects. The bilingual English/Spanish lyrics add a deeper twist to the band’s fresh take on funk.

Flow Tribe just played their second New Orleans Jazz Fest, followed by a wild week of Jazz Fest after-parties. Both fans and the media gave them rave reviews. The band’s next stop is Baton Rouge, Friday, May 17, followed by a festival-filled summer that includes New Orleans Food & Wine Experience, Riverfest in Arkansas, Bay Bridge Fest in Mississippi and Wakarusa in Arkansas.

“We’ve got to show Baton Rouge some love, because they’ve always supported us,” O’Rorke said, so Flow Tribe is doing a sneak peek of the album at the Chelsea’s show. They will also have copies of the album to sell.

Flow Tribe plays Chelsea’s Friday, May 17. Doors open at 9 p.m. For more information on the band, go to http://www.flowtribe.com/