When you hear the slow, heavy riffs of rock legends drifting from the C2G Music Hall, or the soft, soulful vocals of “Summertime” being crooned from a Wooden Nickel store, there you will find Soft N’ Heavy. This band of young, ambitious musicians doesn’t seem to notice they were born in the wrong era as they expertly churn out a solid mixture of blues, jazz and psychedelic rock with an infusion of funk.Soft N’ Heavy are a mash-up of lead guitarist and vocalist Atticus Sorrell’s solo act and the band Bongo Scarecrows. They formed exactly how one might imagine bands form. One fateful night, Sorrell opened a show for the Scarecrows, a band that contained most of Soft N’ Heavy’s current members. He knew as soon as he heard them play that he wanted to make music with them. After the set wrapped, Sorrell whipped out his Telecaster and jammed Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” on the spot with the band. The resulting musical magic gave way to the birth of Soft N’ Heavy.
Aside from Sorrell, bassist and vocalist Ben Tarr, drummer Bray Coughlin and keyboard player Garrett Spoelho are musical magicians that are Soft N’ Heavy.
Two years later, these four guys are more sure of the music they want to put out than most of us are sure about our own address. Their performances are littered with tributes to their musical idols and improvisation that allows them the freedom to show off their musical and creative chops.
“I think raw, improvisation during live shows is a very beautiful thing,” Tarr said. “We’re all music lovers, and we all have a lot of influences in that area.”
While the band labored to narrow down their musical influences to just under a dozen for me (these range from Little Feat to Otis Redding), there is one influence you’ll hear in their performance above the rest. Their licks come off as casual, lilting melodies much in the style of Led Zeppelin, but with a clear basis of musical proficiency that drives the casual sound.
Live shows are a 50/50 mix of the music they already love to listen to and their own creations. All of the music, however, must leave room for improvisation. None of the members relish musical monotony in their own music, or in the covers they play, so having jam sections allow them to mix things up for their audience and themselves.
“We definitely do a lot of jamming,” Sorrell said. “It’s what we enjoy doing the most. I love the idea of improvisation; it changes the music. Even if you end up playing the same song, and the audience has heard it before, it’s still different in a sense. We jam it and we change it up, so it’s never the same.”
“It lets us continue to get excited about the same basic ideas,” Coughlin added.
Keeping their original music fresh is easy because each member has complete creative control of his own part in the music, each adding to a new song in his own individual way.
“Everybody has their own influence on the song writing. But usually Atticus or I bring something to the table, either a rhythmic idea or a lyrical idea on our instruments, and then we show it to the guys and they’ll slowly add on with their own thing on their own instruments,” Tarr Said.
“We just feed off of each other. We don’t tell each other what to do. I don’t play drums, so I don’t tell Bray what to do. He adds in whatever he’s feeling, so we just work off each other. And eventually, when everybody has had their say and idea, then the song comes together.”
Their commitment to creativity and originality extends beyond the music they write and into their recording process. Their first, full-length album, due out this summer, and the band is making the record as gritty and true-to-life as possible.
In order to preserve the integrity of their sound in its original form, their analog recordings began as live takes in a home studio on two 24-track tapes.
“I think in modern music it’s really rare to come across a band or album that’s really true to their roots,” Tarr said. “A lot of the time when you find an album, it’s edited so much by the recording company it’s not real sound anymore. It’s not true to the artist.”
Their devotion to classic rock, desire to preserve the methods of original recording, their intense talent and commitment to the sound of 60s and 70s psychedelic, bluesy-rock are a little suprising in light of one tiny fact. All the members are still in their teens.
Ranging in age from 15 to 19, these guys could be lazily strumming their way to pop-rock mediocrity with no respect for the past. They’ve chosen instead to take up in the vein of The Beatles, Paul Butterfield and Zeppelin with an unwavering stance for the return of great music to the public ear.
Just off this past weekend’s Beatlesfest concert, they’ll be playing Rock the Plaza at Allen County Public Library’s downtown branch on July 12 (during Three Rivers Festival) and, hopefully, a Zeppelin festival as they simultaneously release their debut album – a album that was diligently fretted over and should be an impressive offering to their audiences.
“It’s very personal to us and that’s very important. We’re kind of opening ourselves up to other people by putting out this album,” Tarr said. “It’s all us, and we had everything to do with every single thing that you’re hearing.”
“We just want to prove that real rock n’ roll is not dead,” Sorrell added. “The music that everybody reminisces about is not dead; it’s still here, and we’re going to try to keep putting it out.”
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