On the upbeat scale, Heartwurkz ranks higher than sunshine and rainbow glitter. The Ojai musical duo’s latest album is proof. There’s not a wisp of dark on Horizons, which is filled with buoyant, bright songs like “Rising Dawn,” “Rise in Love,” and if you didn’t get it the first time, “Love Ascending.” Even the potentially gray outlier “Rain” has a sunny vibe, asking, “Don’t you know that the water flow is a life bringer?”
Heartwurkz, featuring life-bringing couple Ash Tree on vocals and Chris Adams as DJ-instrumentalist, plays “livetronica,” which mixes electronic dance music with live vocals and instruments.
“We want to uplift people,” Tree said. “There’s a lot of sad music in the world, and I love a lot of it, but we felt there wasn’t as much of the happy variety. Sometimes I think, ‘It’s too happy.’ But then I sing it, and it’s working.”
Heartwurkz, true to their name and philosophy, will play a Valentine’s Day show titled “Let Love Fly!” at the Deer Lodge on Saturday, Feb. 16.
Tree and Adams dated before they became a musical pair.
They met in 2014 at Lucidity, an annual three-day “transformational” festival held at Live Oak Camp in Santa Barbara County that includes art, music and workshops on topics such as ecology, creativity, yoga and social justice.
Tree said she was dancing to the music of electronic artist Tipper and ended up backstage, where she ran into Adams, who was performing as his solo act, bass DJ AHEE.
“Our first conversation was in gibberish — making sounds and syllables that aren’t recognizable words, but still emote communication,” she said. “Tipper is one of those artists that brings out the weirdo within us all.”
It was a brief moment, but they met again by chance the next weekend, at another music festival in San Francisco (this time speaking in English).
They started making music together about a year and a half later, after returning from Burning Man all fired up and inspired.
Music and Healing
Adams simply asked Tree if she wanted to perform with him, and Tree, who hadn’t sung for four years, agreed. Tree, who grew up in the Bay Area, did musical theater and choir in middle and high school. “It was my whole life growing up,” she said.
But the singer had an “existential crisis” at age 18 when her father died. “I had to reevaluate, and stopped doing music,” she said. “I wanted to learn more practical things to help people.” She switched gears to train as a yoga teacher and study herbalism and massage, and now makes a living in those fields, and also works for Lucidity.
Tree now realizes music helps people as well. “It keeps us all sane,” she said.
Adams said he started making “cheesy techno and trance music” on his computer at age 12, and learned guitar, piano and drums. He also plays triple flute and charango (a small South American stringed instrument). But he’s known for bass electronic music.
The due chose “Heartwurkz” for their name, Adams said, “because it’s “sort of like ‘artwork,’ and a slight homage to Kraftwerk,” one of the first electronic music bands.
Tree and Adams, who have lived in Ojai for four years, said their music is hard to classify. They both chime in with phrases like “happy bass music,” “dance-y bass,” “hippie pop,” and the more detailed “future base and tropical house mixed with indie pop but with a world music twist.”
Horizons was released via Jumpsuit Records in 2018. They also have a 2017 EP, Sunshine, and are set to release another EP this year. For a duo, Heartwurkz has a rich sound, with many layers of vocals thanks to Adams’ technological prowess.
“We use a very advanced live vocal processor that lets me copy Ash’s voice in real time up to 16 times,” Adams said. “It also creates harmonies, so we can have up to 32 layers of her voice.”
The electronics don’t take away any of the emotion, however.
“It’s really polished bass music, but you still get that love experience,” Tree said.
“It can be felt, not just heard,” Adams said.
Heartwurkz performs during the “Let Love Fly!” Valentine’s Party on Saturday, Feb. 16, at 10 p.m. at the Deer Lodge, 2261 Maricopa Highway, Ojai. For tickets and more information, call 805-646-4256 or visit www.deerlodgeojai.com. Visit Heartwurkz at www.heartwurkz.com.