Stolen Idols, Tampa’s jazzy luau godfathers and worshippers of the tiki gods, present their first full-length album, Moonlight Offerings, this weekend.
The title is based on Robert Jimenez’s midnight blue painting, a nocturnal and nostalgically ephemeral work bandleader/composer Drew Farmer selected for the cover of the Stolen Idols album, and it perfectly captures his band’s trip to Shang-Ri-La. Like the fictitious pan-Asian-meets-tribal paradises of 1950s tiki art and lounge music, the Stolen Idols’ tunes are anachronistic and cross-cultural. They dance the conga line between campy and seductive; a little Latin here, a little psychedelia there and just a touch woozy and weird. Imagine the soundtrack to an episode of Mad Men on Gilligan’s Island. Their cover of “Sophisticated Savage” by Les Baxter would be perfect for a love scene between Ginger and Don Draper.
Far-flung, imaginary locales like “Kyoto Protocol” and “Sumatra Mist” grace song titles as the Idols deftly balance influences of Latin, Afro-Caribbean and modern jazz, bossa nova and Polynesian standards.
Formed as a “Craig’s List miracle,” the Idols have been playing since 2007, and the current lineup features Farmer on piano; Kent Oldfield on vibes, marimba and percussion; Mauricio Rodriguez on acoustic bass; Ivan Ftorek on drums; and Jeff Browder on percussion. Playing off each other in tandem, Ftorek and Browder provide steady beats with complementary syncopation. Birds, monkey calls and “ominous chanting” also enter the mix.
You’ll usually catch Stolen Idols with a bevy of tiki torches and statues onstage. The band is a favorite at the Hukilau, Ft. Lauderdale's annual tiki festival, and they headlined Tampa Bay’s inaugural Sunset Tiki Party at the Post Card Inn in 2012.
"Exotica is escapist, impressionistic music," says Farmer. "The best exotica has this irresistible combination of rich harmonies and hypnotic rhythms. I try to capture this in our music."
What drew Farmer to exotica? "After living in the chilly northeast for about 12 years, I moved back to Florida about ten years ago," he says. "I was surrounded by all these tropical plants, and all l I wanted to listen to was old-school Latin jazz and exotica. I thought, 'Somebody should be doing stuff like this here.' That's what gave me the idea. I like the fact that it is location-appropriate music."
Celebrate the release of Moonlight Offerings and Drew’s birthday at the Palladium this Sunday; DJ Brian Oblivion spins between sets, and other special surprises are in store.
DETAILS: Stolen Idols CD Release show, Sun., May 18, 7 p.m., Palladium Theater, St. Petersburg, $13 in advance/$16 dos, mypalladium.org, stolenidols.com.