Interview with Ruby Velle & the Soulphonics, playing the EARL tonight and tomorrow (September 13th &14th)
By Jhoni Jackson
Blame meticulousness for the delay in Ruby Velle & the Soulphonic’s debut LP. Before the Atlanta band could kill any of its darlings, first they had to grow and nurture them—slowly and carefully, in the most scrupulous way imaginable. Only minutes into It’s About Time and it’s obvious: It was worth the wait.
About seven years have passed since the band formed, and five since the R&B/soul outfit’s three founding members—vocalist Ruby Velle, organist and bassist Spencer Garn and guitarist Scott Clayton—relocated from Gainsville, Florida, to make a home in Atlanta. They released a slew of singles in the meantime, scored a residency at the Star Bar, played virtually every small to mid-size venue in the city and were even dubbed Atlanta’s best soul band by Creative Loafing the past two years in a row. Still, they didn’t rush their first full-length.
“Sure we’ve always wanted to have a full length album to represent us, but I feel if it was wrapped two to three years ago it would be a different album, with more fluff and songs to just get by,” explains Ruby Velle. “And vocally I’ve had a lot of growing to do before getting to be happy with what I hear back in the studio.”
“A large part is the cost of production, especially when you want to have a lot of various instrumentation and have certain standards to meet with audio quality,” notes Spencer Garn, who’s at the helm of Gemco Records, the independent imprint which released It’s About Time. Garn says he sold his car and “dumped 11K into studio equipment” in the process.
“We would jump around from studio to studio for a week or so at a time, then the band would be ‘out of money’ for another few weeks,” he says.
What resulted from the financially depleting, persnickety nature of the musicians is a well-crafted collection of songs that live both in R&B’s past and future. Velle names iconic Georgia R&B/soul artists like James Brown, Otis Redding and Sharon Jones as influences. And while, from the start, the band grew its following playing covers, It’s About Time is no replica of albums past. It’s traditional at the root, but uniquely modernized for 2012. That means plenty of nods to today’s political climate.
“I’ve always been a political messenger of sorts,” Velle says. “I’ve used poetry and songwriting as a way to express my beliefs for as long as I can remember…and I’ve also acted in a few protests and causes worthwhile in my day.”
The kickoff track, “My Dear,” is a call to arms of sorts. Like soul players of the past, Velle hopes to “nudge the complacent, to stir emotions into action,” she says. “Soul of the Earth” and “The Man Says” follow suit.
“This album, and every track on it, has been mulled over, scrutinized, rerecorded, and each has been through various mixes. In essence, we took our sweet time to deliver the best sound possible,” notes Velle. “But the result is something we can all be proud of.”
Celebrate the release of “It’s About Time” at the EARL tonight and tomorrow. The Dynamites featuring Charles Walker, another Gemco band, shares the bill.