Scene and Heard: Ruby Velle and The Soulphonics
The Basics: Beginnings and Independence
The soul was brought to High Dive on by Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics, a group with a history that is strongly connected to Gainesville.
The lead vocalist, Ruby Velle, graduated from the journalism school at UF, and it was while she was living in Gainesville that she connected with the band.
“It happened collectively through a mutual friend of ours,” says Velle, describing how she got together with the band. A musician, guitar player, actor that I was dating at the time actually, he brought me in as a front woman, and we used to do it as a duet, and eventually he moved on to other things and I became the solo lead singer of the band. Shortly before that they were called the Elements, and then when I joined the band we decided to change the name. And it was for a long time Soulphonics featuring Ruby Velle and then it was Soulphonics and Ruby Velle, and then seven years later, we finally took our fans advice and changed it to Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics.”
The rest of the band includes Jason Collier – trumpet, Taylor Kennedy – tenor sax, Tony Staffiero – baritone sax, Spencer Garn – keyboard, Scott Clayton – guitar, Kevin Scott – bass guitar and Mark Carbone – drums.
In 2012, the band released their debut album, “It’s About Time,” which they produced independently in their own recording studio in Atlanta.
“I feel that “It’s About Time” changed things for us by bringing us closer together. I think the songs really helped us to be a cohesive unit and to express ourselves in a cohesive way.” says Velle, “It took a long time, I think that’s one of the reasons it’s called ‘It’s About Time.’”
“In the process of the recording we would have money and not have money, so sometimes we did some studio sessions in another person’s studio, then we would wait for a while, mix and master and just sit on those tracks and then we’d go to another studio and spend money there. And it wasn’t until I think around early 2012, Spencer Garn who’s the engineer and also the keyboardist in the band, sold his car and put all of the money into studio gear and equipment. And it became a lot easier for us to create on the spot and it really moved us to forward and out of that stage as an independent band that’s relying on a studio and that day rate to make something happen. So that was a really crucial turning point for us, in putting out the album.”
The album has seen some success since its release, which, according to Velle, “inspired us from a perspective of being independent artists and just knowing that we did make a dent in the universe with our little baby debut album as an independent band. And we got on iTunes single of the week; we were Starbucks’ pick of the week; we were charted on billboard, so it really was an inspiration. Anyone who wants to put out an album, who wants to start a band, who wants to make this their life and dream and career can do it very easily these days, if you have the drive and the motivation and a good team behind you.”
Songs to Know
“I’ve heard from a lot of fans that they connect the most with the lyrics from that song,” says Velle, “it’s basically recognizing people’s tendency to be tit for tat, to want to give a little but take a lot.”
“It’s About Time”
“It has political overtones,” says Velle. “It’s kind of harkening to the roots of what soul music was in the sixties and seventies, when there was a lot to be fighting for politically, and I often get frustrated about our political landscape, and so instead of trying to write to a congressperson, I write a song. For me personally on a civil level, that’s how I can use my voice.”
The vibe that the band was giving off was undeniably cool and collected. The eight band members strolled on to stage with confident and started playing, creating a sort of up-beat blues feel. They began building momentum, until Ruby Velle took to the stage. When she did, she started belting out a melody in her powerful alto voice, reminiscent of R&B and pop greats like Amy Winehouse and Duffy.
The crowd at High Dive was a good size, you could still elbow your way to the bar without having too much sweat dripped on you. People were generally well-behaved, apart from the usual odd characters, including an old couple at the beginning who were slow-dancing suggestively and the two young guys who always seem to be there, using their arms in an attention seeking way just in front of the stage.
It was obvious that the band had a lot of experience playing together live. I especially enjoyed the three brass players, who stood in the back looking aloof, and, at one point, all turned around slowly in unison, which looked like a hipster dance move. The bassist, Kevin Scott, was particularly talented and gave a memorable solo towards the end of the set, and of course Ruby Velle was a vision in a yellow dress as she sang and played the tambourine.
Everyone was thoroughly pleased with them, and my only complaint was that the balance could have been a bit better; the bassist and guitarist sometimes drowned out the vocalist and brass, but the overall sound quality was good, and I had “It’s About Time” stuck in my head for 2 days. Velle’s Gator chomp at the end of the set was a nice touch.
“We want to do some worldwide touring,” says Velle. “We’ve yet to break into Europe and Japan, we have plenty of fans that are waiting for us there so that’s definitely high on the list. We want to be able to be a good supporting act for a larger band. We want to continue building our name that way, and then I’d love to make it on Conan before Conan stops being on the air, because I’m a huge fan. As far as what we do collectively a band, I’d like us to grow together in our efforts in non-profit and social change initiatives that we support, there’s a few in Atlanta that we support, like local businesses and local restaurants, local fashion designers, that mean a lot to us.”
Their second album will be released around Fall 2015, according to Velle, so make sure to watch out for it, as well as checking out their first album on iTunes.
Featured image courtesy of: Gemco Records