The Salt Lake City band started as a prolonged jam session: A few friends hanging around, covering each other’s spontaneously composed songs. It was a sweet, introspective musical release from the stresses of daily life and the demands of other bands, an opportunity to harmonize, generate alternately mournful and playful guitar hooks, and pepper far-away ballads—which sound as if they were composed in a faraway decade—with tambourine and organ.
Eventually, the jam sessions expanded to include seven members who temporarily exchanged their given names for songwriting aliases.
What’s with the fake names? “It started as a running joke and it stuck,” says St. John the Revelator.
“We were an imaginary band,” St. John continues, “We didn’t even want to play shows. We just made music. We were a place for everyone to unwind and do what they wanted. After we played live, we decided to give ourselves a name and make it official.”
Blue Sunshine Soul’s sexy mix of blues, old-school country and early Bob Dylan-era folk rock is immensely satisfying and their gigs are in high demand, though catching them onstage is a rarity.
“Our live shows are pretty unpolished. We always make a few mistakes when we play live, but we’re pretty good at compensating. If the timing’s off, we all catch up to each other pretty quick,” says Jake of Hearts. “People always say, ‘You look like you’re having a lot a fun up there onstage,’ and we always do.”
Buffalo Brent Dreiling insists that Blue Sunshine Soul has no dominant member. The band is a purely collaborative effort. One member will come up with a melody or a lyric, and the rest of the members will follow. Each member exercises their songwriting chops without imposing on anyone else. All of the songs have a hazy, relaxed quality, reminiscent of something produced in the smoke-filled recording studios of the 1960s.
But while BSS has a decidedly vintage sound, they are influenced by plenty of contemporary bands, namely neo-psych rockers San Francisco-based Warlocks and Austin-based Black Angels.
“Our music is best described as the soundtrack to Easy Rider,” says Jake of Hearts with a smile. I bet if you played our album, it would sync up exactly with the film.” Right on: BSS backing a young Jack Nicholson on a hallucinatory motorcycle ride through the desert.
It’s been a long, if not strange, trip in the three years between BSS forming and releasing their August 2008 debut All the World at Once.
“We’re all pretty busy people in multiple bands, so it’s hard to find time to practice and record,” says drummer Rancho Cucamonga. The past six months have been especially difficult schedule-wise, since Buffalo Brent Dreiling and Moonchild double as members of Band of Annuals, who have recently toured the United States. extensively.
The band opted to release the album on vinyl, but all of the songs are available for download on the band’s Virb page. Here are a couple of critic’s picks to whet your palate:
“We Are Done”: This is the track that initially made me fall for Blue Sunshine Soul. I love the rolling, repetitive guitar riff and the “Hey!” back up vocals. This vintage-sounding rock gem is poppy enough to be radio-friendly, yet still imbued with plenty of rough basement charm.
“Darkest Hour”: The mournful guitar and dual male/female vocals on this track add up to supreme loveliness. This song is the perfect soundtrack to an overcast day or dusky drive through the desert. The simple, timeless lyrics give it universal appeal. A downcast song of love and longing that resonates long after it ends.