Eliquate crushes boundaries between genres and audiences at the Catalyst on Friday.

Eliquate crushes boundaries between genres and audiences at the Catalyst on Friday.

“A lot of attention is given to the ‘best of the best’ or the ‘worst of the worst,’” says Elliot Wright, frontman and lyricist for Eliquate, about the group’s debut full-length, A Chalkboard’s War Against Erasers, which drops this week. “But a majority of people don’t fall under either of those categories, so our album is a celebration of the average person.”

For those who haven’t heard the name Eliquate, here’s a recap: The five-piece group has been rocking the Santa Cruz music scene since 2009, blending hip-hop, funk, rock, punk and everything in between for a sound that is truly all their own.

“Every single show, we have someone telling us they love our ska/reggae sound,” laughs guitar player and beat-maker Jamie Schnetzler. “Then the next person says it’s a great mix of hip-hop and jazz. And I think, ‘Wait, you guys were at the same show?’”

Schnetzler and Wright met at a mutual friend’s house, where Schnetzler was eating some questionable looking Chinese food.

“I asked him if it was any good,” Wright remembers, “He said, ‘yes.’ I tried it, it was, and I’ve trusted him ever since.”

The two began collaborating on several tracks, quickly incorporating Dan Wells on drums, Cosmo Stevens on bass and, later, Tanner Christiansen on keyboards.

Over the next several years, Eliquate built their name playing shows around Santa Cruz, opening for underground hip-hop giants such as Murs, Zion I and RJD2.

They have since played several sold-out shows at the Catalyst (including the Santa Cruz Music Festival in July), a couple West Coast tours and finished their first national tour earlier this year. Not bad for a fledgling band whose first recording was a five-track EP released in January 2012.

“Being out on the road really reminds you what life, and living, are all about,” explains Wells from behind his drum kit. “Which goes back to the album. We have a very short amount of time in life, and in the long run we are very insignificant. However, that short amount of time is all we get.”

One wouldn’t expect a hip-hop/funk/rock album by a bunch of post-college 20-somethings from the Digital Generation to be a mind-teaser about the philosophy of syntax, literature, perseverance and the moments of self-deprecation before the inner Phoenix rises again. Yet, ACWAE is tightly packed with tune after tune that demands and rewards active listening.

Take, for example, the should-be-a-single track, “Stanley Yelnats.” Named for the main character in the children’s book-turned-movie Holes, it features Wright spitting out a matrix of metaphors about filling the holes in our lives with passion, persistence and pride, interweaving the soothing chorus of “I hate to say it but I think it’s going to be ok” throughout the melody and finally ending with the jarring line, “The walk of a thousand miles starts with the first setback.”

“That was originally written for my Soundcloud,” says Wright. “And it was a campy, Toy Machine-esque, minimalist song.”

“Then we took it into the studio and realized all the different capabilities we had in a professional studio,” Stevens continues. “That’s when this song went into a more complex direction.”

“Having read Holes 50 times in my childhood, it’s nice to know that wasn’t completely for nothing,” Wright chuckles.

With such a wide variety of influences, an Eliquate show equates to an archeological excavation of sounds. The band builds layer upon layer of sound, with the musicians playing along but still exploring their own spaces in a page taken from the jam band playbook. Sampled beats, keys, guitars and percussion progressively build upon and work with each other, keeping the party going all night long. It’s a truly “live” experience, but that often doesn’t translate well when recorded. So the guys went to Prairie Sun Recording Studios in Cotati, Calif. to capture their sound.

“It was literally on a chicken farm,” describes Wells. “But it’s this old style recording studio where everyone from Paul McCartney to Primus has recorded at. Plus, they had a grand piano which we took full advantage of.”

To celebrate A Chalkboard’s War Against Erasers, Eliquate’s record release party will this Friday, August 23 on the Catalyst’s Main Stage. Keeping with their DIY, underground esthetics, local musicians Boostive will be opening along with Forrest Day, Rubberlegs & Daoud Anthony, and Alwa Gordon.

“In the end,” Schnetzler says, “this is the first real showcasing of what we can do, and what we will do. This is us.”

Eliquate plays the Catalyst in Santa Cruz on Friday, Aug 23.