Keep an ear out for Sol Cat: Pittsburgh Show Review and Interview

Keep an ear out for Sol Cat
Written by: Valerie Wallach

                  Have you ever stumbled upon a band so sensational that you just have to rant about it and listen to their album on repeat? Sol Cat achieves this effect.

An up-and-coming, six-piece band all the way from Nashville, Tennessee, Sol Cat stunned the audience at Club Café in Southside on Wednesday night. They opened with a new song which manifested the band’s swirly, melty, psychedelic style. Jeremy Clark on the synthesizer added a whimsical layer while Ryan Usher kept a steady backbeat on the drums, and Brett Hammann’s deep, sultry voice seemed to meld into the instrumentals perfectly. The bouncy bass part played by Aaron Martin was light and infectious, while Johnny Fisher transported us to a far-off island on the wings of his guitar. Jaan Cohan, the lead guitarist, also demonstrated impressive, face-melting abilities – always well-timed and ringing out crisply. With each musician playing a key role and cooperating nicely, Sol Cat proved that they can make the most of their size. During the third song, “Earth Queen,” Cohan switched from the guitar to the keyboard, and Clark incorporated various spaceship-like sounds on the synth which produced an out of this world quality. Not a single person at the bar, or on the stage, could keep from bouncing and swaying their bodies to the music. The small, mixed crowd – representing college-aged kids and older folks alike – was patently entranced by the band’s performance. “What’s Wrong with What?” and “Ups & Downs” kept the good vibrations going. “Let It Slide” represented Sol Cat’s beachy side, with the clam-shell noises and slow, breezy synth sounds creating a tropical escape.

Before diving headstrong into “Dirty Glasses,” singer Brett Hammann noted, “We’re happy to be here with the Pittsburghians… Pittsburgers?” which gave everyone a good laugh, and the song that followed brought the whole house down. Ending the show with two unreleased, untitled songs, Sol Cat showed off spotless vocals, a perfectly-timed drumbeat, and haunting guitar pieces. The intense, spooky sound was enhanced by an organ-like synth part and a deep, gravely bass that reflected the band’s eclectic style. It became clear that – as great as their recordings sound – Sol Cat must be heard live. People began chanting for “twenty more songs!” as the band quickly complied and performed “Pedro” for a dreamy, well-constructed encore that wrapped up everything flawlessly.

Unfortunately, the band is heading back down south, but I can guarantee we will be hearing much more from Sol Cat as they plan to record another album in the near future, so, keep an ear out!

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Getting to know Sol Cat
An interview by: Valerie Wallach

Q: How did you all become involved in music initially?

A: “We kind of, uhh, I guess everybody was involved in other projects in Nashville for a while. We all grew up playing a little bit, but I didn’t really start writing tunes until Sol Cat came about. Eventually, we scooped up everybody; Johnny and I were trying to start something, and it took us a few rounds of people to figure out who was actually going to stick around. We stole Ryan from a band; we stole Aaron from his art; and we stole Jaan from Jaan – his other goals in life. (laughter)” – Brett Hammann

Q: How did your debut in Nashville, Tennessee – “Music City” – affect the formation of your band?

A: “You see a lot of shows… People are constantly playing music, so being in that atmosphere keeps us on top of it. You can’t help but write all of the time because any second you’re not, your friends are, so it’s like they’re leaving you behind in some respects. So, as far as Nashville goes, it definitely molded us into a more productive band. I can’t speak for the sound as much, but it definitely made it like a machine.” – Aaron Martin

Q: Who are your main musical influences? What inspires you?

A: “Well, on our Facebook page we have the video of a drunk James Brown on the news, and that’s pretty much it. Most if not all of our inspiration comes from those three minutes of James Brown yelling at the newscaster.  But, musically, it’s pretty across the board; Jeremy plays keyboards or synths, and I’d say he’s largely responsible – at least for myself – getting more into wider ranges of music as far as electronic and hip hop goes. Aaron is kind of the psych king, so if we’re looking for new rock and roll kind of stuff, Aaron usually has a good ear for that. And umm, Jaan hates music.” – Brett Hammann

“I can’t stand it.” – Jaan Cohan

“We’re learning how to deal with that. So, musically, it’s definitely a wide range, and it definitely comes across in our tunes. We pull from a lot of different genres to create our Sol Cat.” – Brett

“Sometimes we go from words. This month’s word is ‘spooky.’ Last month was ‘space.’” – Aaron


Q: What was recording your first record like?

A: “I guess we did the record which came out in February of this year, and we tracked that out at the end of last summer. We did everything for that at our house, and Jeremy kind of engineered and mixed everything. So, the recording process is always really fun for us; we’ve always had a blast. We went out of house for the first time with this EP and still had a blast. We took our fog machine… I feel like most of the time we have a pretty good idea of what we’re trying to get done; we don’t really do much writing in the studio, per say.  If we’re gonna be recording a song it’s probably one we’ve been playing for a while and everybody feels really comfortable with it. So, it’s been really smooth.”

Q: Would you consider doing any covers?

A: “Yeah. We’ve always tried to figure out one. We have a bunch recorded; we’ve got a Laid Back cover recorded, Ricky Martin ‘Livin La Vida Loca,’ and ‘Ain’t Nobody Gonna Break my Stride’ by Matthew Wilder. They’ve all turned out kind of goofy. We just did one with a band called Kansas Bible Company – ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ by Lou Reed – as a Lou Reed tribute. We’re going to record that one soon.”

Q: If you had one message that you would like to project to your audience, what would it be?

A: “On a serious level, I think a lot of people have something that they really want to do, and, for some reason, ‘the man’ is telling them that they shouldn’t do it. So, I’d say, you gotta stick it to the man. We’ve got a serious case of stick-it-to-the-maniosis. I think everybody could have a little bit more of that.”

Q: What are your upcoming goals for the band?

A: “We’re gonna be off the road for a little while; December, January, and February we’re probably gonna lay really low. Not that we’ve done a crazy amount of touring, but since August we’ve been out almost every weekend doing the extended weekend warrior thing, so it’s the most we’ve ever done. But we’re going to be writing a bunch; we have about fifteen songs right now for a new record, and we’re hoping to have close to double to that by the time we actually sit down and start picking and choosing. I don’t know if that will come out in 2014; we don’t have too rigorous of a deadline. So we’re going to take the next few months to hone in on that. I think we’ve always been happy with the stuff we’ve put out, but we’re just trying to step it up a little bit personally.”