Zeme Libre. L-R: Tim Washburn, Andy Porta, Dave Butts, Andrew Yankowsky and Phil Mantis . Photo by Greg Hryniewicz

I’m inventing a word to describe what I like about Portland-based Afro-fusion, reggae and ska band Zeme Libre’s sound: Chillfectious.

The reggae beats draw me in, and I could get up and dance, but I’d rather listen to their new five-song EP, “Forever, Waiting,” chilling on my deck, drinking lime-flavored Topo Chico, while watching the backyard trees sway in the almost-summer breeze. Throw in a few rays of sunshine and a splash in my dog’s kiddie pool, and I’m golden. Chillfectious. It’s an entire vibe and mood and Zeme Libre owns it.

“Forever, Waiting” was released on May 21 and is available at Bull Moose locations, Zeme Libre’s Bandcamp page, iTunes, Amazon and on streaming platforms. The band also has a few live shows scheduled, starting on June 25 at Aura in Portland with Los Elk and Skosh.

The band is guitarist Tim Washburn, lead singer/rhythm guitarist Andrew Yankowsky, Dave Butts on keys, sax, flute and backing vocals, drummer Andy Porta and Phil Mantis on bass.

Zeme Libre cover art of ‘Forever, Waiting’ EP. Design by Dave Butts

“Forever, Waiting” opens (and closes) with “The Initiative,” and Butts’ flute accentuates the track several times. Washburn’s electric guitar also shines. “Forever I’m waiting/Forever I’ve stood here/Forever I thought my mind was gone,” sings Yankowsky. The EP ends with an acoustic version of the track.

Things stay on the chillfectious, yet peppy path with “Rewind” and “Soul Lone.”

Lest anyone think Zeme Libre isn’t fully capable of lighting a fire under your feet, there’s “Homeward.” It starts out on a familiar note, but with the zip of the electric guitar and Porta’s righteous drums, the song demands volume.

Butts said the songs were written over the holidays last year and into January. The inspiration was a desire to try and keep being creative during the pandemic and feel some sense of normalcy.

“Music had always been an important part of all our lives, and I think we were all little desperate to try and keep our sanity intact,” he said.

Butts told me that the band is planning to release two additional EPs within the next six months – one dedicated strictly to punk, ska and reggae. Butts described the current release as a “more worldbeat hybrid similar to what is more traditional for us.”

Prior to “Forever, Waiting,” the band released full-length albums in 2015, 2017 and 2019.

Zeme Libre formed in Butts’ basement in May 2015, and a few weeks later played its first show opening for The English Beat. I was at that show and since have seen them open for The English Beat two or three times. I can attest that their live show is fantastic, so keep tabs on where they’re playing on Facebook.


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