New Earth Army makes TV debut: Destin band to be featured on StudioAmped

Jennie McKeon
New Earth Army is comprised of Carly Foster, lead vocals, Jacoby Jackson, drums, Michael Flatua, bass, Chavis Hobbs, lead guitar, Ben Johnson, sax and clarinet and Joshua Zook, sax and electric wind instrument (EWI).

They regularly bring the house down at local haunts such as Funky Blue's Shack and Pandora's, but on May 1 you can watch Destin band New Earth Army on TV as part of WSRE's StudioAmped series.

Founded in 2011, the band stemmed from a friendship between two FSU students.

"I met Mike [Flatau] while performing in the FSU Flying High Circus," said Lead Singer, Carly Foster with a laugh.

After college and various bands, Foster and Flatau, who plays bass, met guitarist Chavis Hobbs in Destin and created the New Earth Army with an impromptu show at Funky Blue's Shack. The three each brought their own inspirations of blues, funk and whimsy to create the sound that is a little bit of everything, but all their own. The complete set includes Jacoby Jackson on drums, and Joshua Zook and Ben Johnson on saxophone.

The band has a large repertoire of original music with two albums under their belts and a new one on the way. However, NEA keeps their music fresh, adding an improvisational spin to each live set.

"It's almost like a conversation," Foster explains. "Sometimes I find myself off of the stage just listening to the music and screaming with the crowd."

The improv jamming is all about pushing fellow musicians to do better, said Hobbs.

"We're rooting each other on," he said. "Sometimes I'll play a note and kind of just nod to the guys saying 'You better bring it.'"

The songwriting process is very similar. It all starts with a note or a lyric that the band works on to expand together.

"I can have a vision in my head — a story, but will have a hard time putting it on paper," Hobbs said. "Carly has an amazing ability to make something out of my vision. And because of our individual tastes, we can all write something different."

On their upcoming album, "Muzikizinew," the title track explores the night and day lives of the musicians. The odd spelling refers to the way Foster would say "Music is in You" so fast.

"Nobody does this to make money," Hobbs said. "But when you catch somebody and they get it — they're on that journey with you. That makes it all worth it."

Each member of the band has their own separate life outside of music. For Foster, she's a married mom working at an engineering firm by day. On stage with New Earth Army, dancing to engaging with the audience, she's a performer in every sense of the word.

"Being on stage is my time to let it go. It's my drug of choice," Foster said. "Music is movement. What I'm seeking when I perform is freedom. I want people to watch me and find that freedom in themselves."

At each show, regular fans come to sing along and dance. Some even bring the band chocolate.

"We've have so much support from this area since we started," Flatau said. "It's always nice to go to a show and see familiar faces."

While band members each have their own performance anxieties — Foster used to throw up before every show until last year — they fared well for their first televised performance. 

"Lately, we've been trying to expand our fan base," said Flatau. "Being a part of StudioAmped does such great things for the local and regional acts. All of the bands I've watched on the show have really blossomed."

Fashioned after Austin City Limits, WSRE, the local PBS affiliate started StudioAmped six years ago. Billy Harrell, executive producer, seeks out musicians throughout the year to feature on the show, which reaches 500,000 homes from Mobile to Panama City.

When he caught New Earth Army at Hopjacks in Pensacola one night, Harrell needed no convincing.

"Carly really impressed me with her vocals and I thought the funky sound was very interesting," he said. "The band has a lot going on."

The six musicians harmonize off stage as much as they do on.

"I told the guys I'm married to them now — they can't get rid of me," Foster said. "I'll be 90-years-old in my sparkly dress doing my stuff."