"Ekoostik Hookah Invaydz the Planet"

by Geoff Wilbur

One show at the Small Planet in October and another in November? The way Columbus, OH's Ekoostik Hookah packed the Planet at its late November show -- only Ekoostik Hookah's second Planet show -- you can probably expect to see them back again often.

The music's reminiscent of the Grateful Dead, but E.H. is able to draw in non-Dead fans, too, with its apparent multiple other influences.

Says bassist Cliff Starbuck, "We're all into extremely different types of music, which is good, and I think the one generalization that can be made is that we don't listen to many bands that are in the same genre as us. We don't listen to the contemporary groove-oriented stuff, and a lot of us go to sources that are pretty far removed from what we end up sounding like." Indeed, that explains the many elements that result in the band's diverse fan base.

So, with such a broad audience reach and the ability to draw live in new towns, is a record deal imminent? Not necessarily, says Cliff. The band is content to slowly build a fan base by moving into new markets one at a time. Although the band wouldn't turn down a "really good" record deal, the band likes the control it has over its future, cutting its own CDs and signing its own checks. Says Cliff, "We're looking more for a promotion company. But we're waiting for them to approach us, really. It's not something we're going out to pursue. There are so many disadvantages to having a record deal that it's better to wait until we're already firmly established." So far, Ekoostik Hookah has self-released two studio albums and a double live album.

The band tours extensively to spread the word. "Usually," Cliff explains, "we go home on Sunday and come back out for at least four nights. But we just got done doing a couple weeks straight out west, in Colorado and for a couple weeks on the way back." He adds, "We do well enough here in the Midwest that we can afford to go on tours out where we don't necessarily make a lot of money [to] continually spread ourself. It's a little slower than the record company push, but I think it's a lot better."

Musically, the band's appeal is both song and sound oriented. And the most recent personnel change, says Cliff, has further strengthened the songwriting: "Our new songwriter/singer/rhythm guitarist (Ed McGee, who isn't in the band's press photo; ex-member John Mullins is) has brought definitely a fresh, new direction, and he's really interested in making the music coordinate with the lyrics well, so he explains to us what the song's really about, what he was thinking, and how we can make the music fit that, which I like to do."

The only 1996 Michigan date remaining on Ekoostik Hookah's schedule is in the Detroit area -- at the Seventh House on December 26th. (Some of our MSU student readers who'll be home in the Detroit area for Christmas break may want to get out to that show... or, like the rest of us, you can wait 'til they come back to East Lansing.)

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