In a fast-paced, pressure-filled world, it is refreshing to find a cool band with a chill vibe. Enter: Sol Cat, the 70‘s inspired psychedelic rockers, well known for songs filled with trippy lyrics and bangin’ grooves.
Sol Cat spent the week in NYC for CMJ this past week, and Joonbug thankfully caught their last performance at the studio at Webster Hall. The Nashville natives started off their set with the perky Earth Queen, a track peppered with shimmering keyboards, distorted guitars, and vocals reminiscent of Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Sol Cat mesmerized the crowd with their signature jams: What’s Wrong With What?, Fishin’ With John, (off their debut album,) and Keep Your Heat, off their album Welcome To Cowabunga. They then took the party to the next level with the riveting Let It Slide. The audience watched in awe as frontman Brett Hammann closed his eyes and swayed from side to side, while belting out the lyrics as if in a trance. The unusually stripped-down instrumentals proved to work for the up-and-comers, effectively highlighting the band's unquestionable stylistic versatility.
Following Let It Slide, Sol Cat picked up the beat with the questioning Sea Of Light, off their debut full-length, self-titled album before diving into Gold Chains and Soft Corn. Next up was the trance-inducing Ups & Downs, a track with a steady, calming beat that contradicted the passive-aggressive lyrics like, “You’ve kept your nose clean so far / How long will it last with these times? / But it’s not like you to act your age / I know that now. Wrapping up the set was Dirty Glasses, whose peppy chorus and catchy hook leaving the audience begging for more.
After their gig, we spoke with two members of the band, Johnny Fisher (guitar) and Brett Hammann (vocals.) The comical twosome opened up to us about their musical message, saving money, and…Nelly?
What's the story behind your name?
BRETT: I guess I was in The Bahamas wearing a t-shirt with a cat on it, and for some reason or another - I don't know why – I was feeling somewhat...almost similar to how I'm feeling right now, but the dealer kept whispering “Sol Cat.” So after I got back from that trip we were kind of trying to get stuff together and I came back and I guess we were like, “Hey! We need a band name...” so we went with that.
How did you all get your start?
JOHNNY: Brett and I went into a studio called Toy Box and tracked out like four or five songs, and tried a bunch out at our house like on Garage Band and stuff, and we just slowly started adding dudes. Over time, we would just find our good friends that were actually like willing to put up with...us [laughs] and our tunes I guess, so it was cool.
B: John and I were kind of jamming out and did like a few songs together and then we didn't want to spend any more money, so Jeremy, who plays keyboards, is also kind of a wizard of synths if you will. We say he has “hungry fingers.” I don't think that's that common of a term, but it's on the rise, I think. So we met him and started doing stuff in his house and in his studio, and he eventually ended up laying down a bunch of keys and synths, with some drum machines and stuff, so we kind of stuck him in. But yeah, there was five of us at one point, and we all go to the same school as well – we all went to Belmont, and then we met Aaron about six months ago, he was just a local artist in town. He does a lot of, like, stuff for bands – posters, album artwork. We originally just had him doing some artwork for us, and then we were just like, “wouldn't it be so great if we could have a dude that could draw and do all of that stuff for us instead of hiring people again. We've just been trying to hit people that can do more than just play and instrument -
J: We don't have a lot of money so we've just been sucking up to everybody, trying to get anything -
B: Just trying to get them involved so they don't really feel like they have to charge us, and then before they know it, they're in way too far to back out [laughs]
Who are your biggest musical influences?
B: I think with us, it's just so far across the board that it goes back and forth a lot. I mean, we'll kind of write a song and we'll be like, “oh, this kind of has that vibe,” and then we'll write another one. It still sounds the same to us because we're doing it, but it's definitely pretty across the board. I know I kind of grew up with a lot of soul music, and so that was kind of like my staple. And John, he's from Texas, so he had a lot of country, and Jerry's from Saint Louis, so he likes…Nelly [laughs] so it’s kind of a real hodgepodge of a lot of separate genres. I feel like everything comes together with the idea that we just make music that we love. I realize that didn’t really answer your question, but…well.
Are you trying to get any certain message across with your music?
B: Yeah, I’d say so. I think there’s a certain degree of – I mean, I don’t know how you are, but there’s a lot of apathy with younger folks, and that’s cool because I’m pretty apathetic with a lot of things. But, you know, there’s one or two things in my life that I’m not trying to be apathetic about. And I think that along the way, everybody knows what they really really want to do and what they love to do, and sometimes along the way distractions and situations come up and you find yourself in a place that you didn’t really see yourself in. So that’s kind of really what we’re trying to do, is to kind of stay in the zone that we’ve kind of found for ourselves and just let everybody know.
J: I think from like, a musical point, that there’s no real “worldly” message or anything like that. I mean, what we’re doing is cool because there’s six of us so we really all do everything. We don’t have to have backing tracks or we don’t have to autotune, or we don’t have to have, like, six girl background singers or however people are doing it these days. I think that’s what we get about hip-hop shows…I mean, hip-hop shows are so crunk, but there’s never like, a band there. And then rock bands are cool because they have so much energy, but there’s never a full sound there. So we want to kind of cross over and make a full dance groove, give out some energy, like real people playing everything, not just like, a dude hitting a button for a tambourine sound or something. So I think that’s musically what we’re trying to do, we’re just trying to make it as real as possible and to just be the best that we can be. I guess that’s weird, but like, every practice we have, we’re not like, “oh, that was good enough.” Like, if someone goofs up once, we’ll go back and do it again because we really have to do it correctly. So I guess we just push ourselves to that place to try to be good musicians.
What’s next for you guys?
B: We’re kind of just always writing. There’s not really a time where we’re not out and doing the road thing and writing, and it’s kind of a constant process right now. We don’t really do heavily too much of one thing, we’re trying to do a bit of everything at the same time. So we’re probably going to be putting out some new music probably in the spring I would think, but we’re pretty much just trying to stay on the road. I feel like the go-to for us is playing live. That’s not to say that we don’t like the recording end of it, because we like those too, but we definitely like the live aspect of it. We want it to be sort of an experience when you’re listening to the song, you know? Not just listening to it on your jog in the morning or in your car while you’re sitting in traffic. I mean, that’s great, people can totally play our music in those situations all the time if they want to, but we’re just trying to stay on the road pretty much…kind of grassroots it, playing a lot of small towns in the south. A lot of times, it doesn’t sound like it’s a big deal, or that there’s not that many people at the show, but we feel like we really want to take a pretty organic approach to this…even though we’re at CMJ, which is like, industry central for a week.
J: We’re trying to get this all over within a week [laughs]
B: We’re trying to kind of infiltrate the system, but not find ourselves too deep within it. We’re big on the DIY and not having to answer to too many people, so the longer we can keep that and still kind of progress the music and the show, we’ll pretty much be happy.