SOLARiS Interview – Conspirator and SOLARiS at the Westcott 10.11
SOLARiS is a three-man instrumental band formed in 2010 from Ithaca, New York. With Dan Lyons playing drums, Jared Raphel on the keys and Vincenzo Naro on bass, their sound varies from dance electronica, to funk, jazz, and anywhere in between. Each jam incorporates unique experimentation making each improv and live set different from the last.
SOLARiS has been bringing the dance party all over the North East on tour and in the festival scene with sets at Catskill Chill and The Big Up. On October 11th, they will open up for electronic jam giants Conspirator at the Westcott Theater in Syracuse, New York.
Sensible Reason had a chance to discuss everything SOLARiS with drummer Dan Lyons:
Q: How long have you known each other and how did you all meet?
A: “We’ve known each other for around 3 years. Our friend Jeff introduced me to the band after their previous drummer departed their last project. For over a year, I commuted an hour each way to practice with SOLARiS in Binghamton. I probably drove there 200 plus times. Eventually, we decided we were going all in with this project and the guys moved up to Ithaca. “
Q: Please describe your song writing process.
A: “We’re very collaborative in our songwriting process. We’re so fortunate to live down the road from each other in Ithaca, and this gives us the ability to practice almost every day of the week. As a result, most of our songs come about by bringing an idea or a theme to the table during practice, which then gets developed by all sides of the band. Things usually gel instantly with us. We all come from different musical backgrounds, so by the time we’re done working a song it really seems to represent each one of our separate style. “
Q: Can you describe what goes into planning a live show? When do you know when to improv and what direction to take your jams in?
A: “When it comes to show preparation, I come from a fan’s perspective. I usually write our set lists a week in advance and work on them up to the day of the show. I try to imagine what I would want to hear as a SOLARiS fan, but I also take into account what songs we’re currently crushing, and what songs I know the band wants to play as well. When it comes to improv, anything is possible with SOLARiS. The crowd, the environment, the lights, and the sound of a venue all effect our improv, how much of it we play, et cetra. Improv can never be forced and is hardly planned. Last night in Watertown we played a nearly half hour version of our song “Infrared”, which is usually a less than 10 minute song. I always envisioned that as a SOLARiS fan, you should be able to go to a show and get something new and exciting every single time. Even when we play the same songs in a given weekend, their form, energy, and shape can morph without any planning or foresight. It’s the magic. Our secret ingredient.”
Q: What has been the biggest challenge as a three man instrumental band?
A: “Filling space. The absence of guitar and vocals ensures that there is a lot of responsibility given to our rhythm section to fill in every moment with energy and breadth. When we started out we struggled to fill every measure with something meaningful and different. We were moving from point A to point B. These days during SOLARiS jams I often feel like we’re over-filling space. We’re pushing the envelope as hard as we can for an electronic 3 piece that doesn’t use computers. We don’t push start; our music is played note-for-note, and we literally run a musical marathon every night on stage to fill that space. We get better every day though. There is hardly a SOLARiS set with more than a minute of downtime out of an hour and half.”
Q: What kind of equipment does each member use? Any loyalty to a specific brand?
A: “There is no brand loyalty in our world. Whatever works for us, we use. Whatever we have, we squeeze all the life out of. Some of our keyboards and drum presets are beyond out-dated, but with enough passion and dedication we’ve turned older electronic equipment into state-of-the-art sounding stuff. Some of our more electronic jams reach places that a laptop with Ableton can’t touch, and I’m damn proud of that. We don’t play with a click, we do everything by ear, even when we’re running BPM set loops. It keeps us on our toes, and the results have been plentiful.
Q: What direction do you see the band going in? What is the future of Solaris?
A: “I can only speak for myself here, but I see SOLARiS taking a similar road to the New Deal. While I was never a tremendous fan of that band, I respected and recognized the fact that you could hire them for a show when you needed a band to tear the house down and get hundreds of people moving. Comparisons aside, I can personally say that I would like to see SOLARiS push the boundaries of typical jam-band fair. I want to release unconventional, experimental albums. I want to throw shows that have art-exhibition levels of interaction, and less of a focus on 3 guys on a stage with instruments. I would even prefer if we could be somehow obscured or hidden during our shows. To me, SOLARiS doesn’t sound like keys, drums, bass. It is a collective sound that is bizarre, unique, and lives on it’s own terms. I’d like to see the music of SOLARiS become the star, instead of us 3. We don’t even have a band photo right now. We’re not about image, gear, instruments, clothes, money, or style. We’re about creating, maintaining, and showing off magic. We are illusionists, and there is no greater trick then creating music for people that seems to have no origin, no power source, and is solely a living entity on it’s own. “
Q: What should the audience expect from your upcoming show at The Westcott Theater?
A: “The best material we’ve got. Nothing but the best. It’s our 100th show. Time to show off everything we’ve got. No holding back.”
Q: What does feel like to have the opportunity to open for Conspirator?
“It is a dream come true for me, personally. I’ve seen over 100 Disco Biscuits shows, and even saw my first Conspirator show in 2005 (I’m a college graduate now). I’ve grown up with the music of those two bands, and furthermore so much of my band, my skill, and my musical prowess I owe to those guys. It’s all very surreal to me. It’s taken so much dedication, in the face of so many odds, and to see our name on the Westcott Marquee at our 100th show with Conspirator is the culmination of my entire life’s work behind the kit. It’s gonna be a hell of a night for me, SOLARiS, and all of our friends and fans who’ve made this happen.”
Thanks Dan from SOLARiS for the great interview! Check out SOLARiS and Conspirator live at the Westcott Theater on October 11th! You can buy your tickets direct from SOLARiS just email firstname.lastname@example.org. (SOLARiS will be giving free merch to anyone that buys their tickets to the show through the band.)