Unisoul takes C-bus by surprise
New band making a name for itself early in the game
Eight months ago, Unisoul was just an idea floating around in the head of Oscar Harris (bassist), owner of Rock City Studios. Now it's a bona fide, six-man funk-rock band on the fast track to becoming one of the next big things in Columbus.
That band, whose name represents the motto "one heart, one mind, one soul, one sound for all to hear," has been together only since June and already has booked gigs at Skully's Music Diner -- and is even on the short list of bands slated to perform at this year's Com Fest. The phrase "hitting the ground running" doesn't seem to cut it with these guys.
Wining a preliminary round of Alrosa Villa's "Gorilla Battle of the Bands" back in December landed the band a spot in the finals this Sunday. The competition is sporting a grand prize of $500 and a chance to play the famed Peabody's Concert Club in Cleveland.
Metromix talked with Harris and his wife, Crystal, a.k.a. Sasha Grace (co-owner of Rock City and Unisoul's lead singer), about the band's creation, their uniquely eclectic influences and a funny story about a wife's sneaky determination.
Were the two of you always interested in music?
Crystal: Oscar has always written music and recorded music, but after I got pregnant we both abandoned those dreams. But last year I bought him a bass guitar for Christmas and it was then that he decided he was going to start a band. It's also funny because he wouldn't let me in the band at first. He said, "you do not want to sing rock," because my background is mostly gospel and show tunes. So, I sent him and (Barb "Bad Girl" Amos, keyboardist and background vocals) an e-mail requesting an audition without telling them it was me and then finally they were like, "OK, OK, I think we can work with you."
Where does the band draw from for inspiration?
C: I think that's why our band is so great, everyone has a different background. (Gus Echeverria, guitarist) is from Venezuela, he loves rock, but also brings that Latin sound to the mix. (Amos) has a more jazz and gospel background. And our drummer, (Jeff Robb) has done a little jazz and a little rock.
Oscar: (Herb Holder, guitarist) also has a rock background. He used to be in a band called Revival an Almond Brothers tribute band out of Buffalo.
C: When we put all these sounds together it sounded different than what anyone else was doing and once we got together we didn't want to do anyone else's songs so we wrote our own.
How do you come up with your songs? Describe writing process?
C: A lot of stuff comes out of practices. "Unisoul," that song was written in one practice. Someone will start to jam and we'll go off that with just an ink pen or pencil, writing the words down as quickly as they come to us.
Tell me about your first few gigs? How did you book so many, so fast?
O: After we played our first gig at Old Town Tavern we immediately wanted another one, so I started with MySpace messaging all the local bands and venues, and I also put some listings on Craig's List. Then things just mushroomed from there. We got a gig at The Circus through MySpace, the bar was virtually empty, but we played like there was 1,000 people. The owner of Schoolboy Productions was there and he came right up to us afterwards and said he wanted us to play Skully's. I know bands wait forever to play at places like Skully's. When he introduced us he said he'd just found his new favorite band in Columbus. It was a pretty big compliment. And that same night the people from Com Fest approached us. It's been a whirlwind.
What about the Gorilla Battle of the Bands?
O: We played in one of the first rounds on Dec. 14, and we won. It was interesting because many of the bands came up to us afterwards and told us how great our set was. The owner of Alrosa told us that is unheard of, usually the bands have some bad blood when they don't win. He said he'd never seen a new band come in and take the whole thing like that. The first time we were up against eight bands, this Sunday we'll be up against 10.
How would you describe Unisoul's sound?
O: I would say funk rock. There are so many elements we kind of embrace a little bit of everything; it's hard to put in a box. Originally, I thought it was alternative, but it way more than that. I had a vision when I started the band. I didn't want people to come and see another cover band. In our new song, "Lady," Crystal starts offstage at a table setting, and makes her way to the stage. The song's about a girl who's sitting alone at a table because she's been stood up. Also we change up what we wear for each show. In a song we do called "Awake from the Dead" Crystal's in all black and wearing a veil. The concept was not only are we going to give these people a real show it's going to be visually appealing as well.
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