Sons of Hippies: Sexy psychedelia from south of the Skyway
(All this week, we’re spotlighting tbt*’s 2010 Ultimate Local Artists on Soundcheck. Today: Sons of Hippies.)
Mention the name Sons of Hippies around the Tampa Bay music scene, and you’ll get some positive reactions. Almost invariably someone will say, “Great band, horrible name.”
Funny enough, Sons of Hippies — which features singer-guitarist Katherine Kelly, drummer Jonas Canales and bassist Michael Mok — doesn’t sound like hippies at all.
That’s not to say the name isn’t apt. There’s something spry and rebellious about the trio from Sarasota. They might not be skipping through daisies, but they delight in tripping up expectations. Their sound is rock but experimental; psychedelic but modern; electric but raw; sexy but innocent.
The band formed two years ago after Kelly left the short-but-sweet-lived Nous Rapport. Canales was in a band called Third Society and had like-minded ideas about forming a new band. They would create their own spectral, otherworldly style using effects and electric guitar, taking some of the best elements of classic rock and experimental and fusing them together.
Kelly and Canales hit it off as a duo. They were invited to play WMNF-88.5 tribute shows, appear on a Bay Area Arts and Music Organization compilation (Tales of Lust and Longing) and record a critically acclaimed CD, Warriors of the Light. They’re also slated to play this year’s Tropical Heatwave festival in May.
The chemistry between Canales and Kelly became so intense, it overlapped into their offstage lives, too: They got married last year, a fact that doesn’t enter into play with their collaborations, Kelly said.
“Sons of Hippies started as a collaboration,” she said. “Its members strive to influence each other to be better, do more, play more instruments. We’re a trio, and there’s a lot of ground to cover for only three people. There’s no room for spotlights.”
Kelly may not be one to diva it up, but she’s a fierce frontwoman in her own right, emoting with an off-kilter style that recalls Patti Smith, Grace Slick, Siouxsie Sioux and Kristen Hersh. She moves winsomely like a marionette to each note while grinding out riffs with androgynous rock machismo.
Another star of the show shines among SoH’s massive array of gadgets and gizmos. Canales and engineer David Byrd blend in sounds with boards and synths while Kelly drenches her guitar in reverb, wah-wah and delay. It’s a lot to handle on stage, but Kelly says she’s getting the hang of it, along with overcoming her own stage fright — almost.
“At first I thought it was the amount of work I have to do live with these songs that made me nervous — singing, switching pedals, running loops, playing guitar and keys at the same time, etc. But now, nearly two years later, I’ve grown accustomed to the regimen, and I still can’t open my eyes before a crowd for long periods of time. The meaningfulness of this band is a bit overwhelming for me, but I’ve found that dancing and feeling the space around me helps a bit. And there’s nothing that kills nervousness better than the energy of a crowd that knows you and your songs and sings them back to you.”
-- Julie Garisto, tbt*. Photo: Luis Santana, tbt*.