What started as an after-school hobby nearly eight years ago has turned into a cross-country touring, pop/rock phenomenon.
In just the last year, Jake Balistrieri, Charlie Celenza, Sam Gehrke and Sean Hirthe released and toured their second album Nosebleeds, and are now looking to release album number three later this spring.
After their college-years’ hiatus, the band’s first full-length album, Uneasy, was born. It spurred from a two-week tour out to New York, and a decision to move back to Milwaukee to turn the once hobby into a serious art.
The tour of their second album was supposed to be a one-off, but the group collectively decided they enjoyed it too much to let it end. Several EPs and two albums after its birth, Soul Low is close to performing its 200th show and are ready to reach other milestones in the next coming years.
The Milwaukee-based band said the music scene there is really supportive. Though it may not be as big as other cities like Chicago, bassist Sam Gehrke said bigger bands and new bands know each other — it’s easy to chat with whoever you like, and this has led to a more inclusive atmosphere. This has allowed bands like Soul Low to thrive.
Soul Low has fine-tuned its sound over the past few years. The youthful pop and excitement from the first album remain, but dark tones infiltrate much of the band’s recent work. Soul Low’s sound is not just defined by its two albums, but also by its three EPs. One of them, Sweet Pea EP, is nearly an album itself with a solid nine tracks and demos. Gehrke said the band uses its EPs to fine-tune its sound and workshop its approach to future releases.
These EPs create space for opportunities like collaborations with local rappers, as well as allow the band to test “long, drawn-out, dramatic” songs, and reconnect with its more-or-less pop roots whenever it likes.
Looking forward to the third album, Gehrke said they have shied away from pop songs in the initial writing process, so it is projected to be pretty dark, but it will include some “fun pop elements with a dark flare.” It is also likely to be longer than the first two albums — the band has written a few extra songs this time around.
On Soul Low’s writing process, Gehrke said, is pretty consistent — everyone shares ideas, and Balistrieri, lead singer and guitarist, writes the tunes. Recording is also pretty straightforward — the band was able to record Nosebleeds in just one weekend. The speed they recorded this album with came out of the momentum from the first one, namely Uneasy, Gehrke said.
Beyond writing and recording, Gehrke said his favorite part about being a part of Soul Low is booking tours and performing:
“Touring is a personal favorite; I love traveling. I’m kind of a nerd about booking and the organizational aspect, and I love experiencing live shows,” Gehrke said.
Growing up, Gehrke loved live shows, and now experiencing new audiences every night is something the entire band really holds dear, he said. The live aspect is also exciting because it forces them to adapt to new situations and respond accordingly to new audiences.
Reflecting on his favorite experiences, Gehrke offered advice to younger artists: “Write the music that you’re into, and go with the ebb and flow of your ideas.”
In addition to its next album, Soul Low is planning a month-long run to the west coast, more collaborations, more shows and more records. Listeners can look forward at what’s to come.