Denver's Envy Alo has been brewing a fresh blend of Colorado soul since 2015.
The band's funk- and lightly jazz-tinged sound showcases seductive vocals, original songwriting, smooth playing and dance-inspiring grooves. Having slowly morphed from a traditional organ trio to a six-piece ensemble, the group solidified its upward swing by playing the first L4LM Funk Sessions at Cervantes' in Denver with members of Tauk, Lettuce and the Motet.
Envy Alo drops its new full-length studio album, Ship It, on January 17, with a release party at Lost Lake on January 18. The release offers music sure to please jam, funk and soul fans alike.
The band includes Callie Morrocco on lead vocals, Aaron Pettine on keyboards, Kevin Hinder on guitar, Kevin Supina on saxophones and vocals, Karl Summers on bass, and Nate Etter on drums. Ship It finds the outfit venturing into fresh terrain, with eleven tracks that span soul, R&B, Afro-Cuban, drum-and-bass, blues, jazz, heavy rock, and plenty of the group's trademark funk.
Westword spoke with drummer Etter to learn more about where Envy Alo is headed.
Westword: How is the band's name pronounced, and what does it mean?
Nate Etter: It's pronounced Envy Aloe (like the plant), but with no "e" at the end. It's kind of a play on a Spanish word, envíalo, which basically means to ship it or send it. "Ship it" was kind of our theme from the start, and it's the name of the new album. We all ski, and it's an expression that means to go for it no matter what you're doing. So the band name is a play on the Spanish version of "Go for it."
I had a buddy who went to Patagonia to do a bunch of skiing, and he said that "Envíalo!" was one of the things that the guides would always yell out to encourage people to really go for it. Hopefully it's not too much of a stretch for people.
How long has the band been playing?
We've been around for about four years now, and in our current incarnation for about two years. But we started out back in the day as kind of a power trio with just keys, drums and guitar. It was more an instrumental kind of upbeat funk music. More like jazz-funk, I would say. Since then, we've changed the sound lineup to get more of a full-band Turkuaz funk sound. So we added Kevin on sax — he's incredible — and we brought in Karl, our bass player, and Callie on vocals. The key player goes by AP, which stands for Aaron Pettine.
Are you all living in Denver?
We say we're based out of Denver. The bass player, Karl, and I still live in Boulder, but everyone else relocated to Denver. So we essentially say we're Denver-based. We recorded our new album in Evergreen, at a place called Evergroove Studio, with Brad Smalling as our engineer.
Who writes and sings the songs?
I wrote the lyrics on "Ship It," but I don't sing or contribute a lot of lyrics. Callie takes most of the lead vocals, and our sax player, Kevin Supina, also sings lead on a couple songs. And some of the songs that Callie sings were written by Kevin Hinder, our guitar player, with her voice in mind. It's a very collaborative songwriting approach, with everyone in the group contributing music and lyrics on occasion. It helps us create good material.
How would you describe the music now?
We used to be cooking funk all the time, and now we transport a little more soul. And there are also some poppy numbers on the album. But the sound of the band is a funk band that's trying to bring high energy and keep people dancing.
What else might people want to know about the band?
Well, we've definitely picked up the pace of touring in the last year. We've been around for a while, but with this release, we're trying to hit the ground running. We just did a little run up into Montana, and in March we're going to do another Mountain West tour, where we're going to go up through Wyoming, Montana and Utah, and then we're going to Sun Valley, Idaho. We'll announce that tour soon. It's going to be fun.
We're all skiers, and we love Colorado mountain towns. We just played Winter Park, and this winter we're going to be in Aspen, Telluride, Silverton, Breckenridge and also Frisco with the Kyle Hollingsworth Band and Magic Beans as part of Snowstalk at the end of January. We try to hit the Colorado markets hard, and are trying to really expand our influence this year beyond what we have in the past.
How old are you all?
I'm 31, and I'm the oldest person in the band. But basically we're in our mid-twenties to about thirty. We all have day gigs, but we're looking to get out and tour more. Nobody is married, so that helps in terms of being able to have some freedom to get out there. It's been a bit of a battle to figure out how much we can get out and play and still hold down our day gigs, but there's a lot of passion within the band, so hopefully we can make this a career path.
Are you all transplants?
Yeah. We all come from back east. I'm originally from Pennsylvania. We're excited to go back there this summer for a little run based around some weddings that we have booked, one of which is in upstate New York. We're looking forward to going back that way to bring the music to our family and friends.
Anything else about the new release?
This is the first time we sat down with a good producer in the studio and fine-tuned every aspect of every track. We released an album called Cruise Control back in 2018, but it wasn't as polished as this one. We did that one using a home studio, and we recorded it all live with no overdubs. It was cool because it had that aspect to it. We tried to keep some of the live aesthetic on this one, too, but it's definitely the most polished, studio-oriented stuff that we've put out.
Envy Alo Album Release Party (with Monk Gyatso), 8 p.m. Saturday, January 18, Lost Lake, $10 to $12.
Listen to Envy Alo and more favorites from Westword writers on our Westword Staff Picks playlist.