We're crammed into a tiny green room at Neck of the Woods venue in San Francisco on a rainy Friday night. The sound of the opening act's set is reverberating through the walls, matching the positive vibes emitting from musicians Aaron Borowitz and Matt Masih.
Their band, Thrive, is on the tale end of their 6-show California tour with Maui-based Inna Vision. The 5-man group was founded by Borowitz, the lead singer and guitarist, in early 2008 and has taken the California reggae scene by storm since then. Their most recent album charted number 3 on iTunes and number 6 on the Billboard charts.
The group’s unique sound stems from each member’s variety of musical influences. Their differing tastes in music, from gospel and soul to R&B and of course reggae, have helped their sound evolve and the group has become a pioneer within the genre.
It's quickly apparent by their upbeat attitude that the soulful band from Santa Cruz practices what they preach. According to their website bio, they pride themselves on carving a ‘positive, new musical niche in a world where materialistic and careless attitudes prevail.’
These positive vibes are inspiring; especially due to the tragedy the band faced in the past couple years. In December of 2013, their saxophone player, Scott Schipper, lost a 2-year battle with cancer. Borowitz says losing a huge piece of their band, and lives, has been an “eye opening experience” and pushes them to work harder. They still stay connected to Schipper’s parents, who are avid supporters of the band.
“Scotty was a big motivation in this group. We still feel his motivation everyday that we are on the road and everyday that we hit a stage. We still feel his presence with us every time that we play,” said Masih.
When Schipper was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in 2011, he didn't let the disease overcome him, but instead used his misfortune to help others. He created Unify to Thrive, a nonprofit that raises cancer awareness and offers support groups for young adults.
The organization is in a transition period, but the band plans to continue running it in Scott's memory. They will have a booth at Cali Roots, a 3-day reggae festival in Monterey in May, with shirts, bracelets and hats to support the cause. They are debuting a brand new line of merchandise, one of Scott’s many passions, which they are excited about.
Though the band itself isn't in the lineup for this year's festival, they have plans to play a secret acoustic show at some point during the weekend.
“We have a new album coming out, so we are going to be out [there] with the presence of that album and pushing it and telling people about it,” said Borowitz.
The album is the first for the band since they released Relentless in May of 2013 and incorporates songs they’ve collected over the past year or two. Borowitz hopes the new EP, which the band has been in the studio working on the past couple of months, shows the growth they have experienced after everything they’ve been through.
“For the first time in all of our years playing music, this little EP that we put together is some of the most proud music I’ve ever done in my life.”
Masih believes the collaboration and chemistry they’ve had creating the album has not only shown the growth they’ve had as individuals, but also enhanced their live performance as well. He said that the overall vibe of the project has come together effortlessly and “everybody wants to be a part of it”.
If you go to a Thrive show, you can bet on being a part of a large group photo Borowitz usually takes from the stage. The band is really in touch with their fans, encouraging them to be a part of their growth and success, especially in regards to the new album.
“That’s our main focus, to connect everybody together,” Masih said. “It’s about making music about real things that real people go through,” Borowitz added.
The band is planning on announcing their next hometown show in Santa Cruz Tuesday, and promises it will be full of special guests. For more information, follow them on social media or check their website thrivetheband.com.
To find out more about Thrive’s non-profit organization, please visit UnifytoThrive.org or make a stop at their booth at this year’s Cali Roots festival May 22-24.