Tropical Heatwave 2010 spotlight: The Soulphonics and Ruby Velle
(It's time once again for Tampa's biggest, most eclectic annual music festival, WMNF's Tropical Heatwave. All week we're getting to know some of the most interesting artists on this year's lineup. Today: The Soulphonics and Ruby Velle.)
Their sound: Vintage ’60s soul, blues and funk.
Check ’em out if you like: Amy Winehouse, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Mark Ronson.
Their story: Growing up in Melbourne Beach, Ruby Velle was part of what she called a “perfectly blended culture,” attending dance parties with her Indian-immigrant parents and singing in Western choruses with her friends.
“I never had that strict upbringing that a lot of Eastern parents can inflict on their children,” she said with a laugh. “Now that I’m singing professionally, they’re probably regretting being so open with me.”
Not likely, considering the success of her group. With a reputation as one of Atlanta’s top party bands, the Soulphonics and Ruby Velle worship at the altars of James Brown and Aretha Franklin, playing classic horn-driven soul and funk in bars and at festivals.
Velle, 25, attended the University of Florida, where she studied journalism and design and met founding Soulphonics Spencer Garn (organ) and Scott Clayton (guitar), who were looking for a female singer for their soul band. The trio moved to Atlanta for Velle’s design career, and today, she, Garn and Clayton make up the group’s core, with an evolving roster of musicians over the years.
For six months, they held a weekly residency at Star Bar in Atlanta’s hip Five Points neighborhood, during which time they tried out new material every night and learned to gel as a group. For her part, Velle learned how to engage the crowd no matter how many people turned out. “You absolutely never know who’s in the crowd. You absolutely never know who’s going to want to hear you again and again and again, and who’s going to be a lifelong fan.”
That proved to be the case in Tampa, where the Soulphonics did so well at Tropical Heatwave in 2008 that WMNF invited them to close down the main stage this year.
“Once you get to the main stage, you’ve really gotta bring it,” Velle laughed. “So we’re gonna bring it.”
This weekend: The Soulphonics and Ruby Velle perform at 11:55 p.m. Saturday at El Pasaje Plaza at the Cuban Club.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo: JR Ward Photography.