If you’d like to compare New York-based Oxygen Box Band to another group from music history, Black Eyes Peas would probably be the group that you comes to mind, followed by City High. When compared to Fergie and Claudette Ortiz, Oxygen Box Band leading lady Natalie has this nearly nun quality to her though. When she sings lead on the song “Close to You”, it’s almost as if she were crooning the verses of a gospel track. Her voice is passionate, as if she’s singing a modulated version of some hardcore Negro spiritual, and not a love song. Yet, the reggae and R&B influence is sprinkled all over their musical notes, like chia seeds on an organic cake. And there’s a bit of Haitian konpa additives thrown in. This is specially apparent on the soca-soaked track “Se Ou Mwen Vle” (It’s You That I Want).
The on-stage chemistry that the songstress has with bandmates Malvo, Wilson is amazing, especially when viewing videos of their live performances at venues like the Shrine in Harlem. As Natalie holds up her handS, prayer-like, her bangles slide down her wrist. Malvo is on guitar, and takes over on the mic at one point, doing Wyclef to her Lauryn, while another female singer, a second guitarist and a keyboard player do their thing.
Kreyolicious: Who makes up Oxygen and how did you meet one another?
Oxygen Box Band is made up of lead vocalist and keyboardist, Natalie Alese, lead vocalist and acoustic guitarist, Stanley Chery and lead guitarist Malvo 509. We met each other after preforming at an open-mic event in Bloomfield, NJ in 2010. A discussion after the show lead to songwriting collaborations and performances that started us on the road to where we are today.
Kreyolicious: How did you come up with the name?
The original name for the band was Fresh Air. Although the name was fitting as our music has often been labeled a “breath of fresh air”, this was a very common name. Being an uncommon and unique band, it was only fitting that the name be modified. This is why Malvo 509 came up with the name Oxygen Box.
Kreyolicious: Which bands, and of course artists, have been the most influential in molding Oxygen Band’s style?
Songwriting within Oxygen Box Band is collaborative, so the artists that influence Oxygen Box Band’s style are the artists that have most influenced each core member of the band. These artists include Bob Marley and the Wailers and India Arie among many others.
Kreyolicious: Tell us about some of your songs.
Oxygen Box Band is more than music, it’s a movement, and so our songs reflect that theme. We have a song called “Music For the Rebels” that speaks of a change needed in our society and encouraging those who recognize it to take action. We believe that positive vibes are nourishment for the soul, so we have songs like “Close To You” that are just feel-good [type of songs]. As a conscious band, we bring awareness to specific issues like the earthquake that occurred in Haiti in 2010 with the songs like “Amen”. We love to turn up the energy in the crowd and get people moving, dancing and celebrating life with songs like “Pump it Up”, or “Se Ou Mwen Vle”.
Kreyolicious: Being part of a group means being part of a collaborative effort. How do you make sure that all the voices in the band are heard?
In addition to rehearsal, we also have meetings in which we review and discuss the progress of the band as well as make plans for the future.
Kreyolicious: What does Oxygen plan to accomplish over the course of its duration as a band?
Oxygen Box Band is here to have a positive impact on the world. As the title of our first EP suggests, we do soul surgery. We plan to reach people across the world in order support, unite and encourage through music.
Kreyolicious: What would you say has been the most memorable moment of being a member of Oxygen?
It’s difficult to pinpoint a specific moment, but any time we see evidence that someone in the audience is better after the show than they were before it, it’s a great moment.