Nashville’s Sol Cat quietly rolled through Chicago on very cold November 23, 2013 night. The Beat Kitchen was almost full, a Comedy Night scheduled in the front part of the bar; the back half of the bar, is your classic whiskey- soaked, rectangular, black-box room. Housing a practical stage, and an above average PA system – this is the venue that Sol Cat is about rock.
The second supporting act is building their stage, preparing for their set, and Sol Cat are scattered in a 100 foot diameter. To my left, bassist Aaron Martin is working in the merch booth, and creating profoundly artistic doodles. Vocalist Brett Hammann is checking the vibe and energy of the room – and keyboardist Jeremy Clark rolls into the scene; we all greet each other with big hugs. It’s been about six months since we last saw each other in Austin, Texas, and it’s very happy reunion. I am led downstairs and through the basement of The Beat Kitchen, where I enter the band’s dressing room. Drummer Ryan Usher is catching some sleep on one of the couches, a Professional Tour Move (catching sleep when you can, because everyone has a different schedule on the road). Sitting to his right are lead guitarist Jaan Cohan and rhythm guitarist Johny Fisher, who are chilling out pre-show, talking, waiting patiently for their time on stage. As English accents and mannerisms possess Aaron’s words, the room is filled with laughter, and English Accent Folly.
I ask the guys about their new release, the Cowabunga EP, and their response is enthusiastic – Jeremy Clark leads the way in discussing the band’s current transition. “This record bridges the gap from the older sounds… the newer tunes are different” he explains. Clark continues to say that there is new material ready for the next album, but this time around they are going to take their time, and be diligently more focused. Lead Singer Brett Hammann agrees. Brett is soft spoken in the interview, but you can tell this man carries a spiritual leadership of the group, and is the principle songwriter alongside Clark.
Sol Cat is a band that is maturing into their own skin very nicely, as they continue to understand the depths of the Business and Creative sides of the music universe. As with many artists, the constant struggle can be the slippery slope of “Playing Ball” and “Doing Your Own Thang.” Sol Cat is handling this confusing juggling act very well.
These circumstances can be best illustrated with Sol Cat’s Vernacular use of “Tourcation” and “Tourture.” This is a group of young men who understand one’s need to embrace all sides of the music business to survive. An example of a “Tourcation” for Sol Cat would be their recent performance at The Bowery in Knoxville, Tennessee. “It was like a Drug Lord’s House, you’ve seen Scarface, right” An amazing venue and an incredible night. Inversely, “Tourture” would be scenarios involving : Brakes giving away on an Exit Ramp or an Accidental Vomiting on Jeremy in the van. Nothing can get this band down though, and quickly things are returned to normal with “Burning The Wood,” an incense burning reset for the van during traumatic smells or circumstances. All the while, their musical soundtrack provided by the one and only Keith Sweat. The band evoked Sweat lyrics and persona a few times during the interview. It was impressive.
This is a very hard working, touring band, who are still very much connected to their roots. On the road for a couple weeks a month, living the other half to work locally, write music, and hang out. All Six Sol Cats are blue collar in their approach, and are ready to hit the road in a moment’s notice. They are preparing for 2014 carefully, and are excited to announce their SXSW 2014 trip.
Sol Cat are on a mission in this World, and I witnessed it this freezing November night. In that basement they shared three parts of their life mantra : 1. Call Your Mom on Wednesday and Sunday, 2. Taste The Days, and 3. Be A Ninja. (the remaining mantra parts are unknown to me). At any rate, that might be all we need to know. Call Your Mom, yes. Heck Yes. Share your life with the person who brought you into this world. Taste The Days, live every day in the fullest, kindest, sweetest way you are able, embrace your world. Be A Ninja, do things with a passion, stealth, strength, and ineffability. Sol Cat’s music speaks these words, and can be the soundtrack for all the mountains and sunsets in life.
Sol Cat has to get on stage, and we’ve already been talking for close to a half-hour. As everyone stands up and begins to depart – Video Games and Comic Books come up…. While all six are not united in all their interests, they are all united as a band. Writing Music, Gaming on the PS3, or reading Akira Graphic Novels are in the band’s rotation, and all contribute to final musical and metaphysical outcome. The band is out the door, and the set-change is on.
I walk upstairs, run into some old friends, grab a beer, and position myself near the stage. In no time at all, Sol Cat launch into a tight, 60 minute wall of Southern.Psych.Prog.Rock. This is a new musical ride for me, as they play many new compositions in addition the several that have been ingrained from listening to their album. A wonderful evening of music, that leaves the rewarded crowd wanting more.
That was it. No Encore. More music and stories for next visit. Like which member in Sol Cat is nicknamed Lance Armdong? To learn this and more, follow Sol Cat, Taste The Days, Be A Ninja, and Call Your Mother.
Words and Photography by Evil Vince.