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California Roots Festival Highlights: An Interview with Thrive

Thrive guitarist Aaron Borowitz photo by Kathryn Gleason

Thrive guitarist Aaron Borowitz. Photo by Kathryn Gleason

After several times trying to connect with Santa Cruz reggae rockers, Thrive, I had all but given up on our scheduled interview. It was Day 2 of Cali Roots and text messages aside, I figured there wasn’t much hope linking up with all the activity going on. Until that is, I ran into lead singer Aaron Borowitz hanging out backstage covered in a bunch of ladies.
Thrive has performed at every California Roots Music & Arts Festival since it’s inception. They have been representing their adopted Santa Cruz and now managed by festival co-producer Dan Sheehan, the band is touring non-stop. Thrive just dropped their new album Relentless, so I wanted to find out what its been like on the road.
Bohemian: Tell me about Cali Roots, are you enjoying yourself?
A.B.: Everyone has been really nice and everywhere I go people are smiling back at me.
How did you feel about your show?
Oh man, it was so awesome. That was one of the funnest shows I’ve ever played, personally. Not necessarily the musicality of it, but the vibe in the crowd.
Did you see a difference within the crowd? There are a lot of people up here from So Cal.
Yea, I see a difference in the people, but I see a connection in the message. It’s positive and everyone just wants to chill, no bad vibes, no fighting.
So, you have a new album out.
We have a new album called Relentless. It took the better part of two years. So now we have two albums, well technically three. The first one we recorded in someone’s garage in 2008. Then we did Gratitude Attitude that came out in 2010. For that one we didn’t really do any marketing at all. It was really minimal social media marketing. Then it came out and boom! number four on the iTunes charts, the first day. We were like, ‘whoa!, people know who we are?’ So we thought, ‘I guess we’ll keep going’. Over the past few years we switched around some band members and added Scotty [saxophone] and had a couple keyboard changes. Now Matt Masih is in – he also has his own project going.
Tell me about this last album, where did you record it?
As Gadget Box Studios in Santa Cruz is where we tracked it all out, mostly. They had all the old-school instruments over there. Anything we wanted to use – it was a cool creative environment for us to put together the music. Just toys everywhere. We didn’t rush anything through the tracking process.
The band’s next solo tour starts in August, are you doing mostly West Coast dates or will this be a national tour?
We are trying to branch out into as many new markets as possible. We just got to connect the dots. But our management and our team are working really hard so we can get out on the road and make this a real touring machine.
So you are full-time in the band? Yea
When was the last time you had to get up and go to a ‘real’ job?
Oh… a long time. Probably a couple of years. You know, my rent’s cheap.
Even in Santa Cruz? Yea
What’s your favorite venue in Santa Cruz?
The Catalyst is like home. I like going to shows at Moe’s Alley – it’s like watching a show in your house. There’s that one by the Civic too. I’ve only been in there during a band’s sound check but it was cool.
I’ve seen you play the Chrome Lotus in Santa Rosa.
We did the Michael Rose show, and we’ve opened for Rootz Underground there. For the people doing all the [reggae] shows there, we were pretty much their go-to opening band. A lot of these artists come over from Jamaica and they need gear. So that was kind of our “in”. Because we were a good band but we also had good gear, so we would backline the show and there would be no stress for anybody. That’s when we started getting a lot of exposure.
Do you have any idea when you’ll be coming back up to Santa Rosa?
I hope you make us a tour stop.
I think we definitely will. I think we’ll do Cotati again. We played Spankys. It was a small room and super intimate and everyone was just crammed in. That was another highlight of recent shows for me. I’m just stoked to go places and have people support us after so many years of trenching it. But that’s what everybody does, you gotta start somewhere.



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