Nor-Cal’s Mystic Roots Band has spent the last decade bringing its reggae-inspired pop jams to the world, including a stint overseas entertaining U.S. troops. We spoke with vocalist Katherine Ramirez, vocalist/keyboardist Coot “Cootdog” Wyman and drummer/vocalist Marko Photinos ahead of their July 4th gig at Mandalay Bay Beach to talk about their ever-evolving style and more.
You guys have been together for a long time. How has the band developed over the years? CW: I’m the only member here who was in the very beginning stages. We got our start in the late ’90s as a college band, right around the emergence of Sublime and all the reggae-rock fusion that was starting to bubble. The band sort of took off on its own, and we moved to the LA area and got a record deal and started touring with Pato Banton. That gave us exposure to the world market.
You released the album Change last year. What was the influence behind it? KR: We were doing some changes of vocalists in the band. I’ve been in the band since 2008, but this album was more influenced with my vocals and also Marko’s, our drummer. He had more songs as well, so we were just making a nod to that kind of change, kind of a metamorphosis of the band. We have a lot of band members that trade off, that’s what we’re known for—keeping things moving.
Las Vegas has a pretty big reggae following. What’s the vibe like when you play a show here? MP: Vegas is always such a special place for us. Vegas has been a reggae hub for a long time, and a lot of new bands like Fortunate Youth have been coming out of there. There’s a really solid local base and there’s always a really cool international vibe. It really fits. It’s fun.
Tell us a little bit about your participation in the Armed Forces Entertainment program? CW: That’s a very cool thing we got to experience. In the beginning, we thought it was a prank—we were just like, our biggest song is “Pass the Marijuana.” We were super confused, but it was a legit program. We got to do Japan, Guam, South Korea, Diego Garcia and of course we got to Europe and did Portugal and Spain and the Azores and Greece—Marko’s home country.
You’re playing Mandalay Beach on July 4th. What’s your favorite part about the holiday? KR: My favorite thing about Fourth of July is playing Mandalay Bay—we took a few years off, but it used to be a staple every summer. We’d stay there and enjoy it as a little vacation.
Are you actually playing during the fireworks show? KR: In years past, the fireworks were the big opener, and we’d play after the fireworks. This year, they’re doing the opposite. We’re going to start the show off and then the fireworks will be the main event.
Mystic Roots Band July 4, 9 p.m., $18. Mandalay Bay Beach, 702-632-7580.