If you remember back to one of our earliest interviews, Nick Byrd (of The Lonely Biscuits) made reference to local p-funk purveyors Mocha. While it was only a passing recommendation, we met up with Sakari Greenwell and Sheila Graves (the braintrust) and chatted about everything they had on the horizon in 2018, among which was their newest EP, Snack Time Honey. The EP’s title was something of a byword for Sakari throughout the interview, and it was absolutely delightful, so it only seems fitting that the same byword would almost perfectly encapsulate the EP itself (that’s probably why they chose to title it as such).
Something that came up on more than one occasion during our conversation with Mocha was figuring out where the city of Nashville was headed in terms of its ever expanding (though occasionally stunted) horizons in the world of music. Obviously, Mocha’s distinct take on neo soul, p-funk, PBRnB and the like places them in on a different plane than most of what one would immediately assume for a “Nashville act.” For the record, that’s a good thing. Not to knock the Americana scene that’s come to veil a large portion of Nashville, but sometimes things become a little too…. insular.
But that’s what makes now the perfect moment for Mocha to drop something as nonpareil as Snack Time Honey. It opens smooth with “Ride,” reminiscent of Reality Show era Jazmine Sullivan (specifically “Mascara” and “Silver Lining”) but with less of the drama and more of the unruffled equanimity that became apparent during our time spent with Sakari and Sheila. That being said, there’s a sea change that happens about halfway through the song, as a literal and figurative crescendo of spirit and sound plume into a dynamic second half shepherded by Greenwell’s back and forth from crooning and flowing, all the while anchored by Graves’ substantial rhythm work.
It becomes apparent pretty quickly in Snack Time Honey that dynamism is yet another aspect of Mocha’s recorded presence that further separates them from other contemporaries of the Nashville scene. “R.R.R” features what is probably the strongest hook of the record, a simple “real recognize real recognize real/but you fake, and you stank boy.” It’s a simple line that’s more than supported by the content of the verse, but at the end of the day, everyone wants something they can shout out any time the song comes on, and that’s about as heavy hitting a hook as you can hope for.
And on the subject of dynamism, if you read the site, then you know we have a unique appreciation of humor, wit, and the occasional wink to the audience. As you might have guessed, Mocha does just that with “Early 2k,” a track that sounds like it’s been (tastefully) extracted from the early 2000s (presumed namesake) with a little Nico Segal meets 3LW flair that’s all Mocha’s own. Most notably, the B3 sounds and shimmery percussion make the track pop with a nice mind meld of era-confusion, which is no easy task.
From “Early 2k” we’re led to “How Do I Know?” which might be the single best summation of what’s to come from Mocha. We have the pocket rhythm work, holding it down amongst some meandering (but controlled) guitar work, creating a nice RnB groove. But again, with the aforementioned dynamism in mind, it drops into a sort of acid jazz break, before hopping out into another solid flow from Greenwell, opining in a classic RnB form, this time flanked by backing singers.
Ultimately, it’s the ideal closer to the first substantial release from Mocha, because it’s playful, poised, and purposeful. Not only is it dynamic, is it a jam, does it bop, and all that, but it features a small outro skit veiled over the exit instrumental. If Snack Time Honey is a sign of things to come, then there’s a lot to look forward to from Mocha. It might just be a snack, but it’s one hell of a tasty morsel.