Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman shares observations, insights, and updates relating to South Florida's musical environs. This week, SOSOS's Americana indulgence.
I've mentioned it before in this column, but I suspect I'm slowly losing the argument. "South Florida has never been a haven for genuine Americana." We are, after all, more acclimated to tropical climes, hardly synonymous for the wide prairies and dusty realms that inspire rootsy inclinations. But, I'm being proven wrong. Take a look at the music made by Jim Wurster or the 18 Wheelers or any of a number of singer-songwriters eager to sing their heartfelt laments. Indeed, maybe I needn't grouse at all.
The latest outfit to convince me I'm mistaken is SOSOS, a band I was introduced to by promoter Chrystal Hartigan. She was touting the fact that the group has been selected to participate in this year's Rombello Cruise, which departs from Miami this Friday, November 1. They'll be appearing alongside Michael Franti and Spearhead, G. Love & Special Sauce, State Radio, Donavon Frankenreiter, and Rebelution. Not bad, especially considering the fact that over 1,500 acts submitted their music to ReverbNation, the cruise's sponsor, and only one -- that being SOSOS -- made the cut.
Naturally, I was intrigued, and after listening to their latest release, For You, and then seeing them open for Poco this past Saturday, my curiosity was piqued. SOSOS are a solid Americana combo, powered by a down home delivery, folksy inclinations and acoustic instrumentation that give credence to their back porch designs.
The band -- currently consisting of Chris Monteleone (Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, Banjo, Mandolin), David Klein (Djembe, Vocals, Pump Organ, Harmonica, Shakers), Ben Manburg (Upright Bass, Vocals), Mitch Herrick (Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, Stomp Box, Shakers) and Pete Vega (Drums) -- has its origins in Jarrod's Door, a band that Monteleone and Klein played in together a decade ago. Once Monteleone left the band, Klein joined him in a new outfit dubbed Thirsty Foursome. Thirsty Foursome eventually evolved and changed its name to Hoopers Nougat. Sensing the name didn't really fit with the format, they settled on SOSOS, or "so-sos."
"It didn't really pigeonhole us into a particular style," Monteleone says of the new name. "I figured if we wanted to go from an all-acoustic band to a punk band, we could. Not that we would though..."
The first fruits of the new line-up resulted in an album entitled Abigail in 2005. However, before work could begin on another album, several other personnel changes transpired. Other shifts took place following the release of their sophomore set, For You, in 2011. However, now, with the membership finally stable, the band is ready to get to work on their third album, and with the band's two principle songwriters, Monteleone and Herrick prepping new material, Monteleone promises "a new sound, that still maintains the distinct roots influences of SOSOS."
"It will be a more polished approach, because the band is well rehearsed and tighter than ever before," Monteleone promises. "The songwriting has grown tremendously, and we feel this will be an album we will all be proud of."
Despite individual influences that include Roger Waters, Jeffrey Gaines, Mother Earth, Galactic, and the Delgados, Monteleone also offers kudos to the South Florida scene. "It's very healthy," he insists. "The musicians all support each other, and we're all learning from each other, which makes the local musicianship very good. I personally feel like I learn something from every person I've played with. I'm lucky for that!"
Presumably, the rest of us are as well.
SOSOS will take part in the Rombello Festival at Sea, sailing from Miami to Great Stirrup Cay, November 1 to 5. Call 877-379-9184, or visit rombello.com.
Chris and Mitch also open for Donavon Frankenreiter duo at the Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale, on Tuesday, November 5, 2013. Visit cultureroom.net.