Since 2012, Rosa Nova has been trading on abiding passion and preternatural skill to produce music that is at once
both homage and a re-imagining. Mellow reggae/rock combinations you might fondly recall among the godfathers of
mid-‘90s ska-pop progenitors jive with the edgy grind of guitar rock to form the backbone of the smooth and
swaggering Rosa Nova sound, filled and finished out by a heavy low end and bold and rhythmic delivery of vocals.
Their filled-out, five-man setup leaves no margin of error, as their music comes across at the same time both
intimate and forceful. Guitarist Richie Stephenson, nephew of ‘80s country and rock legend Van Stephenson, draws
heavily on influences from a broad range, including the sweet southern tunes of Ricky Scaggs and Randy Waller to
the modernized, eclectic sounds of Dave Matthews, and the hard driving guitar rock of Cage the Elephant and
Disturbed. Reggae rocker Jesse Liles takes his cues from the likes of Sublime, Slightly Stoopid, and some of
Hendrix’s chiller tunes, taking over at the natural evolution of the smooth, crisp reggae rhythm that regularly produces
nothing less than full-on, arm-wavin’, booty-shakin’ grooves. On vocals, Robert Peters deftly constructs his delivery
from influences ranging from the throaty tenor of early country music to the wild-man wailing of the post-rock stadium
giants. Bass responsibilities fall to Eli Cook, who you might know better as a local blues guitar legend, who brings a
rootsy authenticity to the low end. Hard-hitter and former Gray Matter drummer Mark Wilkinson rounds out the band’s
wide ranging sound.
As music practitioners, the trio goes way back. While most middle-schoolers are dealing with acne and adolescence,
Rosa Nova was already finding its legs. Out in the back country of Goochland, they liked to party, they liked to cause
a little trouble. They intrepidly forged their own cool, and piece by piece, they became a band. They played the songs
that defined their passion, dabbling in Jack Johnson, Everclear, the Doobie Brothers, Sublime, and the Dirty Heads,
with a healthy smattering of punk and alternative influences from the likes of Something Corporate, New Radicals,
and Taking Back Sunday. They had a knack for re-contextualizing, frequently spinning out their favorite
tunes into their own form of Southern reggae jam. Playing became second nature, and soon they were standing
shoulder to shoulder with some of the area’s great, collaborating and competing with the likes of Chris Daughtry’s
bassist Andy Waldeck, Everything’s drummer Nate Brown, Mike Taylor, Steve Riggs, Andy Rowland; the working, wandering elite of the music scene in central VA.
As they look out on the prospects of an extensive 2014 tour, the interim year promises to be one of careful focus and
sound development. Their recent self-titled CD release formalizes them as a group with a bright future, and
collaborations from the aforementioned local luminaries legitimizes their claims to the smooth, southern reggae rock
throne to which they aspire. Their time is ripe as they embark on possibly the most influential phase through which
any band can travel, and now, more than ever, they have something to prove. All it takes now is the doing.