LuvAmp Wants to Open Up Your Heart (Don't Be Scared)

Left to right: Tony Moss, Dylan James Byrne, Sam Babayan, Miranda Rondeau, Sunny Solwind and Daniel Pritchett
Left to right: Tony Moss, Dylan James Byrne, Sam Babayan, Miranda Rondeau, Sunny Solwind and Daniel Pritchett

The notion of opening your heart through music definitely sounds like cloying new age stuff. Tony Moss is aware of that. But he also knows that music can actually open the heart up, as proven by quantifiable data (having to do with electromagnetic fields and planetary energetics). It's called heart math.

Having studied this field for almost 20 years. Moss has created a project called LuvAmp, which has to do with community, ceremony, and the creativity-bursting effects of contemporary ritual, among other things. (Stay with us.) At its foundation, however, is the premise that love feels really good to all living things. Through music, Moss and his LuvAmp band propagate the notion that people are nicer to themselves and each other when they feel love. Call it a subtle revolution. Moss does.

"I've always been interested in bridging where science connects with spirituality," he says. "Quantum physics is headed in that direction. LuvAmp was born from the idea of popularizing the science that says that love actually does matter."

Moss, who was born in Indiana and raised in Southern California, concedes that it's difficult to talk about such things without sounding "airy fairy." The music of LuvAmp though is easier to get into, featuring elements of indigenous flute, didgeridoo, frame drum, upright bass, the occasional channeling of ancient languages with a fusion of ceremonial music and contemporary pop. It's not uncommon for audience members to spontaneously burst into tears during a performance.

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The seeds of LuvAmp began fifteen years ago. Moss, who is of Native American and Haitian Zulu descent, craved the community ties and ceremony that he found largely missing from Western culture.

This desire grew into a weekly salon in Long Beach, where friends gathered to talk, eat, and play music, and the salon grew into a signature event called LuvFest, a community gathering designed to juice up everyone with the feeling of love. He saw it as an understated form of social activism.

"I used to be an activist marching and carrying signs," Moss says, "and it was so unsatisfying. I realized that you can put Band-Aids on things, but legislation is not actually going to fix the problems we're facing. I wanted to focus on consciousness and working in more of a root level by fostering the concrete idea of why love is valuable."

Out of LuvFest were assembled the players that eventually became the LuvAmp band. Vocalist, frame drum player and "spiritual touchstone" Miranda Rondeau and self-taught world music aficionado Sunny Solwind were old friends. Next came guitarist Sam Babayan (a member of the L.A.-based group Dirty Diamond), guitarist/vocalist Dylan James Byrne, (the group's resident "teen idol heartthrob" with a voice like a miracle), and upright bass player Daniel Pritchett. The group made their debut on Valentine's Day 2012 and have since gained traction as a sort of house band for the SoCal consciousness crowd, with gigs at Ojai's Elevate Films and at last year's Lightning in a Bottle.

 

Miranda opened for Dead Can Dance with this song when they played here

The music is informed by each member's experiences with ceremonial ritual. This includes the Amazon-based spiritual tradition of Ayahuasca, which Moss has practiced for nearly two decades.

At the end of this month, their project I Am Life will take a group of young people to Big Sur spiritual mecca the Esalen Institute. Here, they will receive leadership training before traveling to the Amazon to collaborate with the Pachamama Alliance, which works to protect indigenous tribes and disseminate their knowledge. I Am Life has found backers in L.A.'s Agape Spiritual Center and a Google executive who has requested to remain anonymous.

Moss acknowledges LuvAmp's barrier to entry: It has no sharp edges. They lack irony, sarcasm and insidious spiritual elitism. "Obviously, he says, "at every show we do there's a certain percentage of new age hippies, but our audience is really broad." While hipper crowds might be repelled, those open to the music find it a tonic for the oft- overwhelmingly sad state of the world.

"We don't have a developed language for the mystical experience," Moss says, "so almost anything you say in terms of how the music works sounds questionable." But the letters, emails, hugs, and happy tears they receive show the effectiveness of their message.

"What really works for me is when someone tells me that their heart opened during the show," Moss says. "I know what they mean when they say that."

LuvAmp's debut album, "LuvSongs," will be released in March.

Follow us on Twitter @LAWeeklyMusic, Katie Bain @bainofyrexstnce, and like us at LAWeeklyMusic.

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