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The Mantras' musical mantra fuses styles

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Getting to the essence of The Mantras' mantra is a real head scratcher. Although the term is generally used to describe a sound or verbal formula that creates spiritual transformation, these Mantras aren't so easily classified. "We don't stick to any one particular style of music," says Keith Allen, who contributes half of the band's twin lead guitar attack, along with founder Marcus Horth. "We all have short attention spans, so we're trying not to get too stagnated."

To achieve that goal, the band mixes funk, blues, Southern rock, jazz and world music into a chunky marmalade. "There's a side of us that's straightforward Southern rock type of band, and a side of us that's out there with fusion and world elements," the guitarist says.

To add more texture, the band uses two drummers as well. "Marcus, Brian [Tyndall, bassist] and I all have such a high-energy dynamic, it was hard for us to play with one drummer, always felt weird," Allen says. He believes the band started to jell in '06 when Brent Vaughn came along on percussion, joining drummer Justin Loew.

Although the band's main catalogue is composed of original music, Allen says he sees nothing wrong with throwing in a few covers in a live set. The Mantras gets its togetherness together by covering everything from Frank Zappa's "Titties and Beer" to Iron Maiden's "666 The Mark Of The Beast" to Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls."

The band's latest all original release, Dharland, blends an eclectic mix of styles. "Further" stirs up a Southern rock psychedelic funk like The Dead commingling with Frank Zappa and the Marshall Tucker Band. "Rocky Peace Blues" sounds like it fell out of the Allman Brothers catalogue, voiced by Cream's Jack Bruce. The making of the record was a collaborative, if somewhat indirect effort between band members and fans. The record was funded by prize money and the use of the studio time The Mantras got by winning the FloydFest Under The Radar contest last year, voted on by festival-goers and online supporters.

Despite being based in Greensboro, the band has Charlotte roots. Allen grew up in Charlotte playing in local bands including Henry Hoo and Uncle Curtis & The Trailblazers as well as jamming with Bellyfull's Curtis Wingfield and Dave Eatman throughout high school and into his college years.

Although the band members live in Greensboro, Allen claims a wider base for the band. "I think we would just call ourselves a North Carolina band at this point," the guitarist says. "I feel like the community of North Carolina is really growing together. Everybody's starting to know each other and it doesn't seem like towns are very far apart."

Allen sees The Mantras' role in music as not only unification, but as a healing force as well. If you want to get all spiritual about it, Allen admits to believing in transcendental meditation, but says he gets most of his uplifting from the music. "The main reason I do this is because when I was in need of some kind of direction, music always helped me," he says. "I believe it does that for a lot of people, especially younger people really struggling to find somewhere they belong. We want to try to be very positive high energy all the time, bringing happiness and joy to people in a time when there's not a lot of that going around."

That's a mantra any band would be proud to claim.

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