I’ve lived in the South Bay for nearly 30 years. I’ve skateboarded, bicycled, and ding-dong-ditched more no-name streets than most residents know exist; and I don’t use PCH to get everywhere I need to go. I remember walking past Mrs. Gooch’s and the pet store to get a scoop of black cherry at Thrifty for a quarter. I remember burritos at Diana’s on the Hermosa strand, $1 rice from Thai Top, and punk rock shows at the Kiwanis Club hall. I remember the Bijou. And even while I always also remember how important it is to get out beyond these protected borders, I never forget how damn fortunate I am to live here in the southern end of Santa Monica Bay – a little sliver of paradise called the South Bay…
There’s a group of talented local musicians who have also benefited from the great fortune of deriving from the Bay. They’ve even gone ahead and called themselves Fortunate Youth. (And while the name might echo with reverie of black cherry ice cream, there’s a little more to it.)
Jered Draskovich of Fortunate Youth explains, “We were discussing band names and felt that youth has had, and will always have, a strong connection to music in many ways…. We have been very fortunate to be able to do what we love, and to connect with people of all ages… Music can give all of us a youthful state of mind throughout our lives.”
Fortunate Youth is one of the South Bay’s premiere reggae bands, and arguably the most in demand and successful reggae outfit in the area today. They’re comprised of all but one Mira Costa graduates, and are likewise managed by a fellow Mustang.
They are Jered Draskovich (keyboards, bass), Corey Draskovich (bass, guitar, keyboards), Greg Gelb (guitar, bass), Travis Walpole (percussion, bass, guitar), Ryan Gonzales (guitar, vocals), and Brandon High grad (Mississippi) Dan Kelly (vocals); managed by Jared Segawa.
With the 2010 release of their well received debut EP Up-Lifted, fans have anxiously awaited the completion of a full-length album. Fortunately, the wait is over. Irie State of Mind has been released this summer and the band has been touring hard to promote it.
“The vibe and message of the album is to promote a positive way of thinking and the freedom for everyone to choose the life they enjoy,” says Draskovich.
“We want people to be able to throw the album in and just escape from their everyday stresses and find some peace of mind through our music,” adds Kelly. “Good vibes.”
Gelb continues, “We aim to unite people through our music, and in some way alleviate some of the stresses in their lives. Peace, love, and unity.”
“We’ve been touring the nation for 5 weeks and have 2 weeks to go,” said Walpole. “We are currently in New Jersey and will be back on August 29th for a show at the Roxy in Hollywood.”
The boys have worked their fortunate butts off to get where they are today. Before embarking on their own summer journey, they preoccupied the first half of this year touring with San Diego’s Tribal Seeds, and then Hawaii’s The Green. In the spring they also hit the Cali Roots Fest in Monterey, where they shared stage with such bands as Ooklah the Moc, Rebelution, Iration, and Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds. (In the past, they’ve also performed alongside such notables as Toots and The Maytals, Groundation, The Wailers, Katchafire, Abyssinians, Natural Vibrations, Alborosie, and Sashamon.)
Kelly also recognized the importance of the internet and social networking in regards to their success.
“Online radios like Pandora, and fan’s videos on YouTube, help spread our music all around the world and has helped us make great progress,” he says. “It is a nice surprise to see fans from Germany, London, Brazil, and many other countries enjoying the music. It’s online freedom of music that will put Fortunate Youth on new soil.”
They’ve certainly gotten the word out, and the irie state of mind seems to be infectious. Fortunate Youth’s debut LP has only been out since July, and yet they’ve reached #13 on the Billboard reggae charts, and the album itself hit #2 on the iTunes reggae charts.
The 12 track album was recored at 17th Street Studios in Costa Mesa, and Sky Blue studios in Los Alamitos. It sounds like the band was able to get more involved in the recording process this time around, to perfect their sound and interpret their message.
“We had more time to work on it,” said Draskovich. “More time to focus on specific things that we wanted in the mixing part of the process… More dubs and delays.”
Irie State of Mind is out for the benefit of all of Reggaedom, and the boys look eagerly forward to making more music, playing more shows, and up-lifting human souls wherever they can in years to come.
“We plan on making more music and bringing our live performance to more cities across the nation, and hopefully the world,” says Kelly. “We have had a great opportunity to meet great artists and fans from other places where reggae music is on mainstream radio stations – like in Hawaii and Guam. We hope to make it to Hawaii in the near future and tour the nation again in 2012.”
…Still, after 3 decades, every time I breach the backside of Beryl or 190th and behold that sweet, delicious ocean view, I fall into that irie state of mind and remember just how fortunate this place is.
Fortunate Youth returns from summer tour to play a show at the Roxy in Hollywood, Aug 29, and will be performing the day before Thanksgiving at Saint Rocke, November 23. Irie State of Mind is available on CD and digital download through iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, Fortunatemusic.com, or at any live show. You can also listen to Fortunate Youth on DirtyHippieRadio.com, where I also recommend Groundation, Rockamovya, Majek Fashek, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Sudakaya, International Farmers, Sand Section, A Bear With A Car On Top, Fish Out Of Water, Stone Senses, Jerel Dutton, Wooster, ZuhG, and Tomorrows Bad Seeds.