Having been named one of Paste Magazine’s “12 Michigan Acts You Should Listen To Now,” The Soil and the Sun have gotten their name out there and by good word too. The Michigan band started off with just two members that would eventually grow into an eight-piece band, making spiritual melodies and infectious harmonies. Taking over a span of three years or so, The Soil and the Sun had released their full-length album Wake Up, Child last fall, providing an array of complex sounds in one cohesive record. We got to speak to Alex (Vocals/Guitar/Drums) about Wake Up, Child, their sound, Daytrotter, and more!
Get to know more about The Soil and the Sun.
Could you give us an introduction to who the different members of the band are and what they contribute?
My name is Alex, and I play guitar and drums. Benjamin plays drums, Ashley plays keyboard, accordion and oboe, Heather plays cello, Jacki plays keyboard and lots of extra toys, Joanna plays violin, William plays guitar, and Michael plays bass. All that, plus whatever else we can get our hands on.
the Soil and the Sun were originally a two-piece band, correct? How did all eight of you get together and decide that this would now be the band? Could you give us a little background behind the formation?
Yes, originally the band was just me and ol’ Benji. We did a lot of looping of guitars and keyboards and then both played drums over the loops. Goofy stuff. We’ve always had more we wanted to do with the melodies and instrumentation of the songs, so it felt natural to begin adding other friends into the mix as it happened. At one point we toured with 11 members, but now we’ve sort of settled into this really solid group of 8 people.
There is such a complexity of instrumentation in each of your songs that transcends into tremendous melodies and harmonies. There are so many different layers but it all blends in well that it works. Where do you behind when it’s time to create tracks?
The process is pretty drastically different from song to song. Or at least I’d like to think it is. Each song is it’s own animal. Sometimes things just fall into place for a song, whereas other songs may not be played live until we’ve rehearsed them for almost a year. It’s really exciting to bring a new idea to the rest of the group, because we never know for sure where it’s going to end up. Still, the process never ends. The way we play the songs live is always changing.
What other musicians do you listen to that inspires you all as a band, as well as your sound?
I wish I could weigh in with each person individually on this one, because I think each member brings something unique to the table. Personally, I’m inspired by the folk music of most cultures, especially South American and Southeast Asian. There’s just some mysterious quality to it that I admire so much. Some of our favorite artists right now are Efterklang, mum, O’brother, and Grizzly Bear. Also, I can’t get enough of Feist’s new album.
You all released Wake Up, Child this past fall, stating that it was “a re-do/do-over of songs previously and sporadically recorded over the past 3 or so years…” Why did you all choose that time to release it? Was it that you had finally written/recorded enough songs for an entire album over the course of time?
Wake Up, Child is our first ever album, made up of songs that we’ve been playing for quite some time. Most were written when the band was just me and Ben. We’ve written a lot of new songs recently, but we wanted to put together a complete cohesive album of the older songs before recording the new tunes. Hence, Wake Up, Child. Now we’re working on an album of the new songs, and it’s almost done!
Not only are the melodies and harmonies complex, but lyrically there is mood, vision, and spiritual feeling. Could you explain the songwriting process for Wake Up, Child?
Thanks for noticing. The way the lyrics are formed is not dissimilar to the way the music is built. Sometime I agonize over every word and syllable, but at other times the words flow out more naturally. I value both aspects of this process. Usually, the lyrics come together over a long period of time and the subject matter is pretty broad.
What’s the story behind Wake Up, Child being chosen as the name of the album?
Wake Up, Child is a line from our song Raised in Glory. Now that you mention it, the Soil & the Sun has actually never played a show at which we didn’t play that song. It seems to capture a good portion of our vision for the band. We hope that what we do (for others as well as ourselves) continues to make us more awake, more alive, more aware of the reality of our world.
How does behind a band from Michigan influence your music?
Most of us are not native to the mitten state, but we have all definitely grown to love it very much. I’m positive that the people and natural environment of Michigan influence us a million times a day before we even eat breakfast. There is a special quality to this place, and the people here (Grand Rapids!) are super supportive of the arts community.
You guys just played a set for Daytrotter, which is a pretty huge deal! How was the experience for you and how’d it come about?
Daytrotter was a great experience! We’re really grateful for these opportunities that come our way. The session was a lot more chill that we anticipated. Low key. Low lighting. They run a real nice operation out there. Our friends in the band Pomegranates hooked us up with the Daytrotters. Thanks, guys.
You also were named one of Paste Magazine’s 12 Michigan Acts You Should Listen to Now, which is another big deal. How has the press affected you all since then?
Yeah! That was really nice of them. I guess we have mostly been encouraged by what the press has put out. It’s nice to know that other people think what we’re doing is worthwhile.
What are the plans for the band for the rest of 2012?
Well, up to this point we’ve just kind of been taking things as they come. In 2012, besides preparing for Dec. 21st, we will be releasing a new album and hopefully doing a lot of touring. West Coast, anyone?
We appreciate you taking the time to talk to us at Pick-Up Productions. We’re hoping to see you all play in DC soon. But until then, any last shout outs to the readers?
Keep your eyes peeled for the new record this summer! Keep it real, stay positive.