SOLARiS Interview: Their New Album Black and More.
Formed in 2010, SOLARiS is a 3-piece all-instrumental band from upstate New York. Their new album “Black” was just released [available free for download]. In the short time they’ve been together as a band, the members of SOLARiS have created a bevy of original compositions that range from electronica to dubstep, jazz fusion to funk, breakbeats to drum’n’bass. Since bursting on the the scene, they have played with the likes of Brothers Past, BoomBox, and Dopapod just to name a few. Sensible Reason sat down with the band’s drummer, Dan, to talk about their new album, what the future has in store and much more.
How did you all come up with the band name “SOLARiS“?
The band name comes from a Russian sci-fi novel, “Solaris,” about a space mission to a planet that actually turns out to be a large extra-terrestrial entity. Essentially it’s all about us humans communicating with an entity we can’t exactly understand or fathom. In many ways our band tackles the same ideas. Here we have three guys with absolutely no formal musical training doing their best to communicate their ideas and passion through an art form that has no words. It’s weird stuff, but somehow what we have to say comes out without lyrics or explanation.
How long have you played together?
How long have you been playing drums?
I think it’s about 16 years now…since I stumbled on a rusty drum kit in a shed at my childhood day camp.
Do you play any other instruments?
I don’t exactly, but after constructing our new EP with a keyboard midi-controller, I’ve come to realize that my musical passions can easily be transferred to keys and synths as well. There would be days where I’d be playing a keyboard for 6 hours straight and it got to a point where [it] really [sounded like what I] want[ed].
Being a instrumental band, how do you come up with your songs?
It’s been a totally collaborative process. In the beginning we brought a lot of material in from previous projects and put the old SOLARiS twist on them. These days we’ll come up with a measure of music or a theme that we like and then just play on it. Many of our songs were written by going back and picking apart recordings of improv that we had played during rehearsal that either stuck out or spoke to us. It’s so important to record everything nowadays; especially in rehearsal because it’s so much easier to go back and develop ideas you’ve already started as opposed to sitting down and forcing yourself into coming up with something new on the spot.
What is your favorite SOLARiS song and why?
I have a love/hate relationship with mostly all of our songs. I can’t objectively say which one is my favorite because sometimes the best-sounding songs to my ear are the hardest to play. As of right now I’m loving our new material from this summer, particularly the song “Nostromo.” It’s a song that has endless potential for improvisation; at the end of the summer we played a version of it in NYC that took up half a set.
What is your favorite show you guys have played?
One of my favorite shows we played took place in Binghamton about a year ago at a bar in downtown Binghamton. We were playing the late-night after party from a festival in the area and during our set the Mayor of Binghamton stopped by with his bachelor party in tow. After what I assume were PLENTY of drinks, him and his raucous friends really started taking over the show. At one point we brought the mayor on stage and proceeded to play 12 bar blues as he completely ripped apart a harmonica solo front and center on stage. It was surreal.
What do you find to be the hardest part about playing in a band? Is there an easy part?
The hardest part of being in a band for me has been sharing a singular vision with so many other people. I’ve been creative all my life, be it writing or otherwise, and thus far everything I’ve done has been very solemn and concentrated. Being in a band means sharing your vision with your bandmates, your manager, and even your fans. You can’t really just do whatever you want. You’ve built something that others rely on, that people create expectations over. In many ways it more closely resembles owning a small business than being an artist or a writer.
From The first time I saw SOLARiS at Binghamtronica II till I caught you the following year at Binghamtronica III you guys have grown as a band and as musicians. You all seem to be all in tune with each other on stage. What would you attribute that to?
We’re becoming telepathic. In all seriousness however, we are just learning so much about each other musically. There is a definite signature to each of our sounds, and it took a while for all of that racket to fit comfortably together. Now that it does we can take things up or down, we can change key mid-jam or lock into a set BPM without a metronome click and sometimes without even thinking. It’s quite freaky, and it’s all happened naturally. Well, that and the near-daily practicing.
You recently hooked up with Wes Hall to manage the band. How is that going for you?
Having a manager has really changed things for us. I used to take the burden of most gigging/emailing/planning on by myself and it was quite disheartening. I’m also really glad to see that Wes‘ new production company, “INFRARED Presents“, is going to be really trying to revive (or start) the Ithaca electronic music scene. He’s got great drive and I want to see Ithaca get put on the map in the next year or two as a place for every East Coast EDM act to stop while touring NY.
Where do you see SOLARiS in five years?
I can’t say. I don’t plan ahead because I’ve always maintained that the most important part of being a musician at this stage is to be humble and to fight off delusion. There’s shows where people come up to us afterwards and promise us the world, a tour bus, an album, 10 nights here or 500 dollars there. What we get is typically earned through very hard work and barely any handouts. I would say that with 5 more years of intense work and dedication we could be crushing the country year-round… but what do I know?
Bucket list venue to play at?
The Mann Center in Philadelphia followed by Red Rocks Amphitheatre. I love those tremendous natural amphitheaters. They’re like the 80’s rock arena equivalent for the jam band world.
I have been hearing about this set you guys played on the porch of your cabin at Catskill Chill this year. Any chances you guys recorded that set? If so are you planning on releasing it?
Sadly there’s no recording of that one. We set up in the middle of the festival’s cabin community and had an incredible crowd the whole time. Our manager hiked a mile up a mud hill to my car to try to find the recorder but ultimately missed it in my glove compartment… but that show was nothing less than legendary. In one review of the festival a writer mentioned that we played a 5-hour set. I can’t exactly agree, but without a recording I guess we’ll never know.
Before I let you go I have one last question for you. It’s that time of year when bands are announcing their NYE shows. Any chance SOLARiS will be throwing down anywhere to ring in the new year?
SOLARiS did the NYE thing last year, and while it was a blast we’ll be focusing on other things this New Years. Besides the new concept EP “Black” that’s coming out right now, we’re actually going to hit the studio again in late December/early January to record an LP with Mike Nassar from Laser Sex producing. It’s going to be wild, I really can’t wait to see what we end up producing together.