By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
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The local buzz for Miami Beach-based band Elastic Bond has been nonstop. This past May, 944 magazine named the group "One of Five Local Bands You Need to Hear." The same month, Miami New Times bestowed the seven-piece with the title "Best Funky Fusion Band Even Yo Mama Would Like." Not bad for a group that came about as a fluke.
"I never thought that Elastic Bond would be this performing artist project," says Andres Ponce, the group's 26-year-old, Venezuela-born founder. "I wanted to establish myself as a producer, so I needed a demo, but I didn't want to call it Andres Ponce — I don't have that big of an ego!"
Ponce, with a winning smile and gentle personality, is that all-too-willing musician ecstatic to play just about anywhere with just about anyone. Then there's his musical muse, Sophy EnCanto, the bubbly, petite, 28-year-old Honduran songstress whose vocal talents have pinned her as one to watch on the local scene.
In the beginning, Elastic Bond was just these two, Ponce as producer and EnCanto as singer. Moving to Miami in 2001, Ponce was eager to work not only as a producer, but also as an audio engineer. Three years later a mutual musician friend introduced him to EnCanto. "I got a CD of her solo stuff," he recalls over a Starbucks chai tea, "and, man, I just loved her voice. It was on another level than most of the singers that I've heard down here." He laughs. "It sounded so professional!"
EnCanto began to make a name for herself in 1998, when she won an amateur singing competition hosted by FM radio station 99 Jamz. Writing her own songs, she continued to play odd gigs around the city. When they met, she and Ponce instantly clicked.
"I remember sitting in Andres's house just thinking of different names to call ourselves," recalls EnCanto. "At first we called ourselves Leit Motif, which was a musical term we found in the dictionary. We later found out that another band had that name. Then the words elastic and bond came together; it just symbolizes how we're this collective of talented musicians who all came together and share the same vibe."
This vibe is a mishmash of Latin funk, acid jazz, reggae, and soulful house, spiked with a dose of hip-hop and retro guitar rock. "I love music," Ponce says, shrugging. "My first job was even to produce hip-hop music for Granny Rapper."
EnCanto quickly interjects, "She's very popular. She's like 76, 77 ... overcame cancer ... she has this great energy about her that is very admirable!"
Aside from the odd side gigs, Ponce produced in 2006 a full-length album titled Madrugada. The disc was a more chilled-out, dub-fusion electronic work, similar to Thievery Corporation — almost the complete opposite of what Elastic Bond plays today.
"Our new album is totally different from the first album," Ponce declares. "It's going to introduce the band that is now and portray what people have seen in our live gigs. And it's more of a collaborative effort, with every member contributing equally now that there's some consistency to the band. Before it was just a rotation of musicians, and I knew that couldn't continue."
Besides Ponce and EnCanto, the lineup is rounded out by Buffalo Brown on guitar, Claudio Cruz on flute and sax, Bryson Barnes on trumpet, and Manuel "Papayo" Corao on percussion. Then there's 25-year-old MC Orion, rapping in both English and Spanish. Onstage they create an aural journey through various styles, various cultural traditions infused with modern-day pop. Soft at times, heart-pounding at others, a 30-minute set is akin to a musical marathon.
Orion, for one, finds the group's open attitude a welcome change from the hip-hop world. "There's more unification in the jam band scene," he explains. "Bands like Suenalo Sound System, Spam Allstars, ArtOfficial — there's more support for each other.... We had Tomás of Spam Allstars come by and play with us at this one show, and that's tight. You don't see that a lot in the rap scene."
Brown, meanwhile, is another member who has pledged a new-found musical allegiance. The 33-year-old Dominican-born guitarist has been a staple of countless local music projects over the past decade, but has now declared himself monogamous to Elastic Bond. "It's because of these guys," he says, gesturing to the other members, "that made me committed to this band. I see great things with this band, and it's not just me saying that 'cause I'm in it!"
"No one here is a rookie," adds Orion. "Everybody came with a prior history already; they came with a track record." A positive track record at that. And further, Brown has an answer for all the would-be doubters.
"Keep in mind the word sincerity as we watch the music industry in the next five, 10 years, because the change is already happening," he says. "When Andres plays a note on the keyboard, it's a note that anybody can play, yet ultimately it boils down to sincerity. That's what makes us who we are, is the aftereffect, of how you feel when you leave after hearing us play. When you recognize that sincerity in our music, our job here is done."