|Photo by Larry Hirshowitz|
“I scream, you scream, we all scream for . . . reggae beats.” The sweet treats coming from I & I Sound System’s converted ice cream truck — painted an eye-blasting red, green, and yellow — come from turntables pumping out irie rhythms.
“It’s our mission to bring the music and vibes directly to the people, and this is our creative expression of doing it,” says Aurelito, a laid-back dreadhead who, along with partner Shakespeare, came up with the idea during some “herbal meditation.” Defining what I & I means takes the two to lofty heights. Says Shakespeare: “I & I for me symbolizes the connection with the most high in everyone. No separation. What I have in I, you have in you. Therefore I & I or Eye & Eye or High & High means One.” The partners, both of whom use a single moniker, were also inspired by their long-running weekly dance club, Chocolate Bar. “Our parties have been a melting pot of races and styles,” says Aurelito. “They’ve cut across all racial boundaries, bringing a lot of people together through arts and music.”
When the spirit moves them, about three times a week, they hit the road. “We’ve taken the sound system to so many neighborhoods in and around L.A.,” he says, “driving with the windshield-mounted loudspeaker playing reggae and parking at different locations.” They’ve been known to park the truck at a party, or perhaps in the parking lot of a concert, or at an event such as last year’s Sunset Junction street fair, where their crowds rivaled those at the main stages. Adds Shakespeare: “The response has been incredible. From old people waving to us on the streets to kids with giant smiles on their faces throwing up peace signs.” It’s all about human connection and interaction for the L.A. transplants, Aurelito from the Philippines by way of Chicago, and Shakespeare from Jamaica via New York.
“We plan on taking the sound system on tour and releasing our original music tracks, while documenting it all on video,” says Aurelito. The two are considering taking the I & I to the Winter Music Conference in Florida this March — although Shakespeare notes it would have to be towed there. He says they’ve been talking to sponsors. But even for a pair who have managed to keep a club hopping for six years — as well as work on events for luminaries such as Perry Farrell and Macy Gray — it’s not easy finding a backer. “We need to find someone with our vision, compassion and commitment to a higher destiny,” he says. “Music and art are our weapons of mass construction.”