In a matter of days, bands from across the Southeast will travel to Mobile to perform at the 2016 SouthSounds music festival April 8-10. Some will be coming to participate in the inaugural Lagniappe/SouthSounds New Southern Music Showcase. Five regional bands and one local band will provide an industry panel with a 20-25 minute taste of their trademark sound. These judges will choose one lucky band to take home a prize package that includes a $500 gift certificate, $150 gas card, three days of studio time at Rick Hirsch’s Studio H2O and a writing/R&R retreat in Gulf Shores.
Over the past few weeks Lagniappe has introduced its readers to the out-of-town bands that will be taking part in this showcase, and now we’d like you to meet the last two, The Sh-Booms and The High Divers.
For years, metal and blues have dominated the Florida music scene. This sonic bipolarity has made Orlando’s The Sh-Booms a fresh addition. The seven-piece band has overtaken the Florida music scene with an edgy tidal wave of rock and soul.
According to bassist Al “The Thump” Ruiz, their style of music is a recent discovery. Last year, The Sh-Booms underwent what Ruiz calls a reformatting. He says The Sh-Booms’ former incarnation leaned more toward a traditional Motown sound. The band also featured an enormous 10-piece lineup that featured backup singers and a full horn section.
Eventually the band decided to condense its lineup and recruit vocalist Brenda “Mizz Bren” Radney. The remaining members shared a passion for both classic garage rock and classic soul. This passion began to reshape The Sh-Booms’ sound into a style they refer to as “garage soul.”
While their new mix of soul and garage rock was refreshing, Ruiz admits the band’s evolved sound and newfound energy is also due to Radney’s charismatic vocals and stage presence. The Azalea City witnessed the band’s electric live show at The Merry Widow during Mardi Gras 2016.
“She [Radney] belts, and she shows it every show,” Ruiz said. “She throws it out there. It makes us want to play together and have that feeling. So we’re excited about playing shows and totally excited to come back and play The Merry Widow.”
When Radney joined the band, The Sh-Booms quickly entered the studio to capture their new sound. The band is performing in support of its new “Usage Fee” EP. This album’s title-track is filled with brash horns, classic rock guitar work and powerful vocal work by the entire band. The driving rhythm, rock overtones and soulful vocal work clearly defines this band’s sound.
Even though Ruiz said he personally finds the writing/R&R retreat very appealing, he emphasized their desire to participate in the showcase was not based on the impressive prize package. Having never performed in a showcase, Ruiz said the opportunity is a enough of a prize for The Sh-Booms. This collection of musicians is driven by the opportunity to bring their live performance to the masses.
The High Divers will be representing Charleston, South Carolina, and the city’s Hearts & Plugs label. Not too long ago, The High Divers were performing regularly in Hilton Head. However, these regular performances failed to provide The High Divers with an outlet for their original work. Eventually the band decided to follow their hearts and began concentrating on their original material.
The band’s original material is an indie style firmly based in roots rock. When the band was crafting their music, lead guitarist/vocalist Luke Mitchell said, the inclusion of quality vocal harmonies was a priority. He also cites classic rock as an important factor of The High Divers’ sound.
“We were living on Hilton Head and making a pretty good living at what we were doing,” Mitchell said. “It wasn’t were we wanted to be, and we weren’t doing our original music.”
When the band entered the studio, Mitchell said, Charleston-based producer Wolfgang Zimmerman helped the band “find their voice,” and they opted to record live and keep the tracks as unfiltered as possible.
“I guess we enjoy having live takes on our albums,” Mitchell said. “We like to keep mistakes in, and we like a rawer sound than most indie bands out there today.”
The High Divers’ work in the studio resulted in their debut album, “Riverlust.” Mitchell said this is an album with a purpose. He hopes the inspiration concept of seeking happiness no matter the cost inspires their listeners. This theme is especially strong in the album’s title track and “Give It Up.”
For Mitchell, one prize dominates the others. He finds the Gulf Shores writing/R&R retreat to be the most attractive. Mitchell is someone who sees his music as his job. Throughout the day, he said, his mind is filled with chords, melodies and lyrics. A retreat of this type would prove to be useful for someone wanting to find inspiration. Plus, it would be a chance for Mitchell to experience a new locale.
“I’ve driven through Gulf Shores briefly, but I’ve never gotten to spend time there,” Mitchell said. “So that would be really cool.”