Over the pulse of keyboards and drums is a high-pitched wail: half screeching and half soaring, just a little bit jazzy, and altogether beautiful. It’s the vocals of musician Linsey Olsen, a former Santa Cruzan, fronting for the live hip-hop group Joomanji.
“Even today, it still surprises me when I hear her sing,” says Joomanji drummer Amir Oosman, a UCSC grad.
Oosman formed Joomanji in 2010 with friends Jonah Christian and Robert Finucane, who were all taking music classes at UCSC. They met Olsen through local singer/songwriter Kendra McKinley. Olsen’s syncopated sensibilities proved to be a fascinating match for the guys’ electronic music backgrounds.
“She’s definitely got one of the most unique voices I’ve heard,” Oosman says. “A lot of people think she has an accent, or she’s not from the U.S. She’s from San Diego.”
Joomanji, who play the Crepe Place Saturday, Dec. 20, later moved to Los Angeles, where they connected with rapper Austin Antoine, now a member. In the past, Joomanji has collaborated with Devin the Dude, and they are currently writing for their next full-length album.
Whenever they have the day off of a West Coast tour, they like to spend it in Santa Cruz.
“The Crepe Place, especially, has been very kind to us,” Oosman says. “And if it’s a Bay Area tour, I try to make a point to stop in Santa Cruz for at least one night. It’s an extremely peaceful place for us to unwind for the day. It’s a nice boost, whether it’s the beginning or the end of a tour. It’s always nice to stop in Santa Cruz, especially because we want to bring new music that we’re working on to the people who first saw us originally.”
INFO: 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 20. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $8. 429-6994.