Unity the Band - Bios

Kai “Pita” Katobalavu

Kai “Pita” Katobalavu, the lead singer of Unity the Band, was born in Suva City, the capital of the Fiji Islands. In Fiji, there was no formal music curriculum in the schools. By listening to and singing native songs, Kai taught himself to play a wide range of instruments including a wooden drum, called the lali. He also learned the meke, which is a complex combination of voices and dance, and is often used in times of war. Native dance was an integral part of his life. At a very young age, Kai followed his uncle’s band, The Blue Ribbon, based out of Tailevu. This band had a modern sound and opened his eyes to the vastness and power of music.

At the age of 10, Kai heard the album Soul Rebel, by Bob Marley and the Wailers, and discovered reggae had a similar beat to the native music of his islands. It was the message of a colorless existence, and the indefatigable struggle against oppression, that motivated him to pursue his own music. Kai wanted to send a similar message of inspiration, in the Pacific Islands, and became a reggae musician.

In addition to seeing The Blue Ribbon, Kai traveled around the islands and listened to other local bands. At the age of fifteen he heard the first reggae band out of New Zealand, called Herbs, at a Greenpeace assembly, in Suva City. Herbs represented the Pacific Islands, a minority in the world, and gave them a voice; Kai wanted to be part of this.

In 1988, after the first coups in Fiji, Kai moved to the Hawaiian Islands to be close to his parents and pursue a dream of becoming a working musician. He formed a band called the Polynesian Connection that combined reggae, ska, and rock. He also played in several luau bands, but was never fully satisfied.

Then, in 2002, Kai, or Pita, as so many people in the Midwest know him, moved to Wisconsin. There, he found fertile ground where he could continue his music and share his original reggae with a new audience. Wisconsin has provided a generous opportunity for Kai to refine his own sound and also assemble a broad and wonderfully diverse fan base, in the Midwest. Kai hopes he and Unity can become a bridge to his remote part of the world. Kai encourages you to visit his homeland:

Jason "Red" Brown

Jason "Red" Brown began playing bass in 1982, in Pasadena, California. Exchanging Los Angeles for the mellow vibes of Humboldt County, Jason shaped his music playing bass in a number of different bands. Starting with the Schmidt Heads, he eventually played in many of the North Coast’s best known bands: Earl Thomas, Dr. Ross, Graffiti, Stone Crazy, Bishop Mayfield, Teddy Taylor Trio, and Ralph Lightner, the shit-kicken cowboy.

In 1995, after finishing Summer tours with NOFX, as their guitar tech, Jason went to Branson, Missouri and started playing with Hank Williams III. This led to living in Nashville, TN., where he worked as Hank III’s bassist and band leader for nearly seven years. In Nashville, Jason worked with many other artists as well as becoming a fixture around town as an upright bassist. During this period, he frequently played blues at clubs on Beale Street, in Memphis, Tennessee. Playing packed shows, ’til four-thirty in the morning, with the likes of Gerry Moss and even the legendary James Cotton, always made trips to Memphis a blast!

Jason has appeared on Late Night With Conan O’Brien, The Grand Ole Opry, Prime Time Country, BBC Radio, Europe Radio One, and many other shows. He has appeared in Rolling Stone Magazine, GQ Magazine, and others. He recorded on most of Hank III’s recordings between ’96 and 2001, on Curb Records. He also has appeared on the Grammy-winning album “Timeless.” In May of 2011, the latest Hank III CD was released, Hillbilly Joker, also on Curb Records. Jason played bass on this CD, and it broke into Billboard’s top 10, in June 2011!

While in Wisconsin, Jason has played and recorded with the critically acclaimed Sam Winch. Sam’s music, with Jason on bass, has appeared on the hit TV show, Grey’s Anatomy, and also as the opening theme for Comedy Central’s Comedians of Comedy.

In 2003, Jason recorded on Unity’s first CD and played some of Unity’s earliest shows. Jason rejoined Unity in early 2009 for more good times.

Jason uses and recommends Acme bass speakers.
Kelvin Ayres 

Kelvin Ayres has been playing drums since he was ten, when he got his first gig at a house party in Indiana. Kelvin’s dad, a Jazz musician with his family band, traveled and played extensively throughout the United States. Many of those engagements were for political functions and corporate events. His early musical influences were John Coltrane and Weather Report.

As a singer, songwriter, and producer his current influences include Usher and Producers Timbaland and Pharrell of the Neptunes. In his free time he can be found at his recording studio, KAP, where he writes, produces, and records local talent.

Jeremy "Chunk" Schroetter 

Jeremy "Chunk" Schroetter (Percussion) began controlling vibrations in 2001, after acquiring a doumbek. Thanks to his friends, and other great musicians, he finds his inspiration in Jazz, Native American, Latin, Indian, and Nyabinghi. To the musical lilt of Unity he adds the nyabinghi style, which was originally used in roots reggae. Since everybody and everything has a vibration, Chunk hopes to catch every person’s vibe, and apply it to the rhythm, so that they may connect with the unifying message.

Ryan Peerenboom

Hailing from Green Bay, Ryan adds energy and technical expertise to the world beats of Unity the Band. Ryan's diverse style is a combination of rock, blues and funk gained from playing with various bands across the midwest.

Special Guests
Tom Jones

Tom Jones (Saxophone & Keyboards) has been playing for over 27 years. When he was young, his father introduced him to music and with his love for music already in place, he started playing the saxophone at age 12. Throughout school, Tom regularly listened to such great musisicians as John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Theolonius Monk, Dexter Gordan, Michael Brecker and James Brown. Their musical stylings had something unique that grabbed his attention. Tom continued his music education in high school while placing second in the Texas All-State Jazz Competition. The music education then continued all the way through college with a focus on Music Education at the University of Houston. During the college years and a few years after he played throughout the Houston area in various blues, Jazz, and pop bands including the Green Onions and the Ronnie Renfrow Big Band.

A few years after college he took a leave from music to start his family. Gradually, he reintroduced himself into music playing at a church in the Houston area called New Hope Church. There, he developed a higher passion for performing.

After moving to Appleton, Wisconsin, for his job, he continued rounding his skills within the Christian music scene at Christ the Rock Church as well as events such as Lifest. During this time he has been exploring new sounds and new instruments, such as the guitar and keyboards.

After a long break from the bar band scene, Tom chose to re-enter the live music scene and at the end of 2010, Tom joined Unity the Band and recorded on their latest album "Oceania". After recording on the CD, Tom gradually moved into a full time role with Unity the Band. Tom continues to hone his skills on saxophone and other instruments through performing with Unity the Band as well as participating and playing with multiple local jam groups and Bands including the Kai-Man Project, Lucas Cates Band and The Jazz Orgy.

While Tom’s full time engineering job keeps him busy with work and travel, he still manages to continue to be part of the music scene in the Appleton area. Tom’s first passion is music and he loves to share his passion for music with others.

Alana Miron

Alana Miron plays percussion and sings harmonies. Alana has been a member of Unity for many years. She is not always able to make all the shows, but she is so cool, we take her whenever we can have her…we are always happy to have her positive vibe around!