Most musicians have a “back to their roots” album. It usually occurs three to five records into their history, when it’s time for them to get in sync with what initially inspired them and got their fans to tune in and fall in love.
For guitarist Scott Tournet, his “back to their roots” album is a cascade of hook-filled Afrobeat that is unlike anything he’d ever released as part of the rootsy rock phenomena Grace Potter and The Nocturnals. It’s a left turn that probably nobody saw coming, but fans will be happy to learn that the guitarist’s new group Elektric Voodoo doesn’t just remind them of why they love Tournet but gives them whole new reasons to be cast under his spell.
Every album like this starts with some fissure in the universe that lends the musician to, well, go back to their roots. For Tournet, it was his decision to leave Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, the band he had co-founded some 13 years prior that had risen from beloved hippie rock and roll group to arena-sized stars, driven by its Rolling-Stones-in-the-mountains vibes and spitfire live shows. But the fame wasn’t 100 percent fulfilling for Tournet and the adrenaline rush of jamming for idols and fans at such a prominent level was replaced by the serenity of the musician settling into a hermit lifestyle in San Diego and regaining a home life with his wife. “That shit is awesome but you kind of get nostalgic for life before all of that excitement. Something nice about routines and waking up in bed everyday and calmness,” Tournet said.
In addition to the change of lifestyle, Tournet had a change of musical heart. One of the things he had longed for since Grace Potter and The Nocturnals took off was the chance to “steer the ship” of a band’s musical direction, which certainly couldn’t be done with the ensemble cast he dealt with in The Nocturnals. So toward the end of his tenure with the band he began to start penning songs that danced to the beat of his own drum, which just happened to be Afrobeat.
He had studied the music in college — writing his own Afrobeat composition for his thesis — and had tried in faint hints and stabs to incorporate the music into his daytime work on stage to less than stellar results. But once he was free of trying to fit those influences into the GPN box, the sound in his head naturally began evolving into the origin of Elektric Voodoo.
“Probably three years ago I started doing a couple home demos just for the fun of it and I was trying to jam it together with more David Gilmore guitar playing. It almost succeeded but it was more synth driven and it didn’t turn into songs. I think the first one I did was ‘Expectations,’ which is on the record. That somehow worked out. And it kind of opened the door (laughs). Oh man, this is a whole new playing field,” said Tournet.
Elektric Voodoo is not only new for fans of Tournet’s previous work, but also for any fan of music. The guitarist has created a beautiful and dynamic new sound that synergizes the sensational rhythms of Afrobeat with the invigorating stylings and structure of rock and roll into an infectious concoction that plays best under the limitless optimism of a night out on the town. On Elektric Voodoo’s eponymous debut album, Tournet leaves room for blazed out solos, jangly dance rhythms and psychedelic tour de forces that just haven’t been put together in such a cohesive way before. It’s unique and refreshing and it feels like Tournet is tapping into some deep, soulful potential that has been brewing inside of him since he began his music journey.
“The things that are popping up in this music is music that I studied 15 years ago that I just put away for awhile. Coming back and have it all connect with the stuff I was doing with The Nocturnals and other side projects it kind of seems like it is coming together at the right time. I am using as much as my brain as possible. You’re pushing yourself and your challenged. Sometimes it’s hard work and you want to watch Netflix all day (laughs). There’s a reward that comes with challenging yourself to your full capacity and working through it,” Tournet said.
As head of Elektric Voodoo, Tournet has been giddily working through all the different ways the music can manifest itself within the band. Voodoo’s first album runs the gamut from Afrobeat infused rocker “Secrets” to epic, smoked-out dance ballad “Mercy” to coasting on the rhythmic psychedelica of “The Feeling,” all done with a tasteful ear towards a meaningful hook. Tournet recorded much of the album by himself and found a masterful way to celebrate past sounds while still forging his own unique soundscape.
His dedicated hustle has attracted others who’ve become purveyors of Tournet’s vision and the guitarist is joined by Mark Boyce (keyboards), Ty Kiernan (percussion), Matt Bozzone (drums), and Evan Lucas (bass), many who came to fruition after the debut album had been recorded.Tournet has also recently added a three-piece horn section to the mix and is excited about the sonic possibilities that lay ahead for the band.
“I just love how everything fits together. Kind of like how a chef would get really excited about all the different ingredients, about how fresh the basil is. I can get lost in the details of each instrument and how to make it as cool as possible and what makes it unique and what combines it with the other pieces,” Tournet said.
Eager to ride the momentum of the previous year, Tournet revealed Elektric Voodoo has already started to record a follow up to its debut album. What started out as a solo project in many ways has now morphed into a full band collaboration that is only growing in strength as the shows pile up. Elektric Voodoo has a firm hold of his musical identity and will continue to grow deeper as Tournet seeks more input from his band. “The more a band gets out and plays on the road and gets natural the more that starts to evolve,” Tournet said.
Elektric Voodoo has the potential of taking the musical world by storm if it takes it one show at a time. At some point, bands and musicians will start pointing to Elektric Voodoo as being the root of their sound.