Fractal Cat brings its psychedelia to the One World Coffeehouse

How the Dalai Lama brought together Columbia's Fractal Cat

Anyone who ever wondered what psychedelic rock, long the province of Western dabblers in Eastern thought and practices, might sound like in the hands of people with bona fides in yoga and music therapy will have the chance to find out Saturday, Oct. 18.

Fractal Cat includes Columbia natives Jason Baker on drums and guitarist Miles Gannett, one of the band's two principal songwriters. Gannett teaches yoga. Baker uses rhythm to help children with attention issues to focus and better control their impulses, and drums with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder as part of their rehabilitation.

The two met one year to the day after the 9/11 attacks, at an appearance of the Dalai Lama. A yoga teacher from whom both had taken instruction introduced them, knowing that both were musicians.

County schools use a game he created, "Sounds Around the World," to help students learn geography.

Fractal Cat, which Gannett launched initially as a studio project before it evolved into a gigging five-piece ensemble, appears this Saturday at the One World Coffeehouse, at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center.

The band, which counts among its influences jazz great John Coltraine and early Pink Floyd in addition to rock pioneer Chuck Berry, recently released its second album, "Lovingkind." In addition to the standard guitar-bass-drums arrangements employed by virtually all rock groups, Fractal Cat employs flute, sax and even classical harp.

Gannett and Keith Jones, the band's other songwriter, "even have the desire for a full-blown rock orchestra," Baker says, enjoying a chuckle at their ambition. "I asked them, 'Have you got that kind of money?' "

The band shot a video for the song "As You Fly" at the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area using a drone-mounted camera that took shots while hovering above the band members, seen with their instruments in a meadow.

"We shot it right before the leaves turned," Baker says of the video, which can be seen at fractalcatmusic.com. "We have a friend who's a gadget dude."

The Cat delves into the sort of spacey rock improvisations pioneered by the Grateful Dead and revived by bands including Phish, but Baker says its music is generally more structured.

"We get lumped in with the jam bands, but we're more about good texture and songwriting."

The songs often explore metaphysical themes.

"We like to think of ourselves as the sonic antidote to cynicism," Baker says.

Though now steeped in yoga and ayurvedic practices, Baker admits the band's funky name came from a psychedelic experience of the pharmaceutical variety.

"Miles and a friend of his were in New Orleans, and the friend was on acid," Baker relates. Seeing symmetrical patterns in Gannett's face, "the friend said to him 'Miles, you're a fractal cat.' The name kind of stuck."

Fractal Cat performs Saturday, Oct. 18, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the One World Coffeehouse, in the Owen Brown Interfaith Center, 7246 Cradlerock Way, Columbia. Tickets bought in advance at uucolumbia.net/music cost $12, $6 for ages 12 and younger. Tickets at the door are $15 for adults, $7 for youths.

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia sponsors the coffeehouse series, and proceeds benefits people in need through its Minister's Discretionary Fund. For more information, go to uucolumbia.net or call 410-381-0097.

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