The band name Eph Bee Cee is a phonetic spelling of FBC, which stands for “many different things,” according to the band members, including “Fam Bam Crew.” The group plays a Pacific Ocean-inspired strain of reggae that incorporates a variety of other genres and styles into the mix.
Guitarist Anthony Cooper describes it as “Zapp and Roger meets Bob Marley meets Metallica,” though that description discounts some of his own contributions to the sound. His lead guitar lines have the clean melodicism of jazz great Wes Montgomery, whom he cites as a major influence.
In addition to Cooper, the band includes bassist Baby John “Big Daddy” Tu’uta; keyboard players Siosifa “Albert” Lotima-Tonga and Top Afoa; drummer Oscar Ozuna; backing vocalists Meki Lilio and Bill Finau; and lead vocalist Nesi Finau, who sings with a crisp, high, soulful voice that carries well above the sound of the full band.
Drummer Ozuna wears a Guy Fawkes mask onstage and uses way more double-bass pedal than is typically heard in reggae—he’s the Metallica element. He throws in quick-limbed rock drum fills before leaning back into the smooth reggae grooves. This creates a unique sensation for the listener: You lean forward during the energy-building fills and then lean back into the grooves. You can’t help but bob and sway.
The overall effect is a pleasing mix of jazz guitar, rock energy in the drums, soulful, harmonious vocals, and a hip-hop vibe, especially in the keyboards—all wrapped up in a reggae envelope. It’s a unique, original sound that’s unusual to the local scene. The mix of genres provides entry points for fans of different kinds of music: Pop, soul and R&B fans will initially be drawn in by the vocals. Rockers will love the drums. Hip-hop heads and reggae fans will dig the grooves. And once any of these elements draw the listener in, they’re bound to get caught up in the happy, friendly mood.
The group’s sets are about a 50-50 split between original songs and covers, like “Queen Majesty” by Heavy D, “She’s Still Loving Me,” by Morgan Heritage, and “Is This Love” by Bob Marley.
The original songs are written primarily by Bill Finau and Tu’uta.
“Right now I just write about love,” says Bill, apparently sincerely, though when the rest of the guys start laughing and teasing him, he smiles, shrugs and says, “Well, that’s what sells.”
The group’s first album, Homegrown, is available at www.reverbnation.com/ephbeecee.
Eph Bee Cee’s next show is Dec. 22 at Studio on Fourth, part of a new regular concert series there called Island Breeze. Organized by the father-and-daughter team of Fetu and Crystal Mulitalo, Island Breeze is a cultural celebration of Reno’s Polynesian community, though Crystal Mulitalo is quick to emphasize that the events are geared toward everyone who wants to hear the good-times music of the Pacific islands.
The feel-good, community-oriented attitude is shared by the show’s promoters and the night’s headliners.
“Our number one goal as a band is that we want you to leave a changed person,” says Nesi. “If you come in with a big attitude, we want to turn that around, and have you leave feeling good.”
“We’re messengers of the feel-good music movement,” says Tu’uta.