INTERVIEW: Solar Love Society make hay while the sun shines

I first saw Solar Love Society in the summer of 2018 and became a fan instantly. Several gigs later, we were all set to meet up for a chat, but agreed to wait a few weeks until their first album was released. Then the world went mad. But finally, after a long and frustrating wait due to Covid, their first album, Now Is The Time, is finished. I met up with Jina, the lead singer, and Joe, who plays keyboard and percussion, over a pint or two in the Dog and Partridge to find out what’s been happening since we last spoke.

Words: Mark Perkins

This last year and a half must have been so frustrating for you. Who knew we’d have to wait so long to talk about your first album?
Jina: It certainly has. We played our first gigs in 2018, had a full year of playing live, then… nothing. We tried to play together online, but it didn’t work. It’s hard when you all live apart. Even though Joe and I live together, we needed the whole band to make anything meaningful.

How much of the album had you finished before the lockdown?
Jina: We started recording in October 2019, went into the studio and recorded the drums, bass, keyboards, horn overdubs, some percussion and vocal overdubs, but we then put it on hold over the winter. We were ready to start up again in early 2020, and then it all stopped for a year and a half. We could have returned to the studio earlier, working remotely with the producer, but we needed to have everyone in there together – and it was worth the wait. The album was recorded with Dave Hadley at The Laundry Rooms studios and was mixed and mastered by Martin Smith at MU studios, which is also based at The Laundry Rooms. They were brilliant. We’d highly recommend those guys and the studio for anyone looking to do some great quality recording.

Solar Love Society

Could you describe the Solar Love Society sound, and maybe tell me about some of your influences?
Jina: It’s not easy! There’s such an eclectic mix of sounds. I suppose there’s a basic reggae sound, with lots of offbeat, but mixed with funk, soul, ska and some dub on our live songs. There are even elements of latin. We try to mix it up in the live show. For me, some of my influences are Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane, and Soundgarden too. I’m really into a powerful vocal performance. Also Roisin Murphy from Moloko, which some people have said I sound like. Powerful, straight vocals.
Joe: I’m big into soul, and my brother Tom and I were into reggae since we were kids growing up together, getting into it from punk. Alex is really into funk, which comes out on the bass part on ‘Power’s Out’.

Tell me about the rest of the band?
Joe: Tom, on trumpet and vocals, is my brother, and his wife Sarah plays sax. We were all playing in a band called Steel City Rhythm from about 2013. Jina joined as the lead singer in 2017, just before the band called it a day. We knew the four of us wanted to carry on working together, and the two of us went to Asia for a few months and wrote some material. When we returned, we recruited Alex on bass, Marcus became our sound engineer and after a few different drummers, we settled on Sam.
Jina: We still want to improve our line-up though. We’d love to add a guitar to the mix. I want to sound more psychedelic; I’d love some crazy guitar solos, maybe add a more 70s or even 60s feel to the music. Joe plays the Hammond organ, which is a sound we love, and the look of the band on stage is very important to us. We need to add a guitar to take over from Joe on the rhythm section, to allow him to improvise some crazy keyboard.
Joe: When we were recording, I layered some extra keyboard parts, but I can’t play all of them live, so we need to have other options. We need to get a guitarist, but it’s really difficult with this kind of material. We need a player who likes playing both reggae and psychedelic guitar solos! I’m sure there must be someone out there. If there’s anyone reading this who’s interested, please get in touch!

Solar Love Society

How do you write your songs?
Jina: It varies from song to song but generally it starts with the chord progressions and people add their parts like the drums, bass and horn riffs, so it’s very much a group thing. The vocal melodies and lyrics usually come from whichever one of us is singing that particular part. The final structures and arrangements develop through working on the songs together in rehearsals.

I can’t wait to see you play live again. I bet you’ve really missed it. As much as I’ve enjoyed the recorded songs, that’s where your music really comes alive.
Jina: Yeah, we have played some crazy gigs. The Washington was a memorable one, perhaps not for all the right reasons. There were so many of us crammed on the stage, but the atmosphere was great. We need to play on a bigger stage. We’ve actually just played our first gig in over a year. We played the Lindisfarne Festival, which was very special. Just seeing people responding to your music and dancing. It’s been such a long time to wait and we’ve missed it.

What gigs have you got coming up?
We’re playing in Crookes at Mango Rescue Team’s album launch on November 27th, and we’re planning some more. We can’t wait for people to be able to come and see us again, especially since the album is now out. We’ve got some YouTube videos available, and we’re planning on announcing more very soon.

Now Is The Time by Solar Love Society is out now. Listen here.

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