Encompassing alternative, post-rock, pop and funk influences, Soma Sons are an ambitious band with a broad musical spectrum. They combine pounding beats, hooky bass lines, glistening guitars and soaring vocals to produce a dynamic and exciting sound both on stage and on record.
What first got you into music and when was it?
Huge variety in the band but Benedict/Fitz’s answer to this was my favourite!
“My sister made me cassette tapes of The Offspring and Smashing Pumpkins
when I was about 8, as well as having Nirvana and Radiohead CDs as a kid, so heavily into grunge and rock from way too young an age, then my dad introduced me to Hendrix and Zeppelin when I was about 10-11, which kinda cemented my descent. Though he did show me a lot of jazz and folk that I still enjoy.”
Who inspired you to make music?
For me, I didn’t start creating, or even really caring about, music until I became obsessed with Bloc Party at about 14. I still think they’re an inspiration but they can’t seem to top the magic of Silent Alarm. Before then all I had was what my parents listened to (Soul, Disco, Smooth-Jazz kinda stuff) and Musical Theatre, which I think you can still hear in my vocal delivery.
Benedict apparently started playing just to be better than his friend, who themselves binned it off soon after, but now he’s stuck with it. Musical influences for him are ridiculously broad, but his bass tuning (super awkward for the rest of us) is apparently inspired by Acid Bath.
James’ first musical experience as a 30 piece samba band he saw as a kid in the Eden Project (how good was the Eden Project!?) and he’s been spent the rest of his life playing Brazilian percussion music of one for or another for the rest of his life! Mix this in with a random assortment of funk music and you get his drumming style.
How would you describe the music that you typically create?
Well hopefully it’s for better! I think with changes in our creative process, as below, it’s become slightly weirder whilst also becoming more organised. We are still making what would probably be described as “alternative rock” but we are quicker to lean into a more challenging idea like a time signature shift, or to really strip things back if we think these serve a dynamic or emotive purpose. I want to give the songs and the lyrics room to breathe, but that also means you need contrast, and I think we’ve gotten much better at creating those moments, and highlighting them when they’ve happened organically.
What is your creative process like (how do you create your music), has it changed over time and how?
When Soma Sons started it was kind of just two people writing music quite separately, and then squeezing it together. Having spent so much more time together and with some line-up changes, it’s now a way more collaborative process. We can start from weird places like Benedict’s strange electronic compositions, which can offer really interesting and pretty chord progressions, or take the classic acoustic guitar song and then work together to turn it into a more complex and dynamic piece.
Who would you like to collaborate with?
We’d probably be too terrified to collaborate with any of our heroes (though I’d love to work with a big producer like Mike Crossey or Mark Ronson). Artist wise I’d love to write songs with FINNEAS (because he’s got an absolute Midas touch) or Radiohead (just because I think you could learn so much from a band who can do everything).
If you could support one band, who would it be?
Fitz picked Deftones which I agree would be really fun. I’d think bigger though – I’m obsessed with The 1975, and think they’re probably the best pop band in the world. I’d love to support them just because that’s an absolutely career-making support slot. Outside of that, just someone with a really good, creative live show. I’d just sit and interrogate them and their stage manager on how they created it, how they do it practically. You could learn so much from those bands at the top!
What is the one message you would give your audience and what message would you give the MU readers?
Stay safe, and spend this difficult time introducing yourself to new bands, particularly Soma Sons! (sorry).
What is the most useless talent you have?
Benedict is really good at climbing trees. We call him a gorilla, or various other apes dependent on the mood, but that’s more to do with his chungus fingers and monkey brain...
More musically speaking, James can make some bizarre techno sounding rhythms with a Jews Harp/Mouth Harp. Funnily enough, there’s never been an appropriate time for us to use that skill.
What would you be doing right now if it wasn’t for music?
I have no idea! In all fairness we all have good normal jobs too, and the music is the passion project we pursue alongside! I’ve had to talk Fitz out of leaving the country to go travel around the world like a hobo, and apparently he thought about teaching (but don’t tell his mum).
Where have you performed?
We’ve performed all over the place – mainly the North West but we’re looking further afield for upcoming shows. That said, what’s upcoming at the minute? We had one booked in London before Coronavirus so who knows?
Best was probably this really weird gig a while back at the Cavern in Liverpool. Our old guitarist Gin landed us a support slot for Miserable Faith, who are massive in China. It was absolutely rammed with international students - biggest crowd we’d played for and we got treated like celebrities! People wanting selfies with us after the show. It was surreal.
Not sure I’d want to say a worst show – we had a couple where not everyone was really feeling it, and those can end with really crap down time afterwards!
How do you feel the internet has impacted the music industry and you specifically?
It's a real mixed bag. Improvements in connectivity make it easier to create, even in a time like this and we spend quite a lot of time pinging each other melody ideas. It’s so easy to get your music out there and heard, but it also means the market is so saturated. We hope ours is good but there’s so much good music and so much rubbish – just so much variety available, it’s really difficult now to cut through the noise.
What is your favourite song to perform?
We open our set with a tune called Like Armour, which I think most of us really enjoy. Live it’s introduced by this big electronic/orchestral build and these dramatic strings and I just love that feeling of release after all that anticipation build up breaks in such a satisfying way. It’s also another deeply personal set of lyrics and I’m always really satisfied with the way the content fits the progression and dynamics of the song. Therapy is great too, but that because it’s ridiculous, and one for the music nerds in the crowd.
What is the most trouble you have gotten into?
Apparently, Fitz once set off a firework inside student halls, but not even in his own flat. He’s like a DIY boss though so he covered it up and managed to fix the damage, but I can’t top that. I’m quite risk averse, I’m the responsible/boring one so I do my best to keep us out of trouble! James is a bit like me too, he’s too smart and thoughtful to cause a ruckus.
If you could only listen to one album from now on what would it be?
I Like it When You Sleep – The 1975 (Matt). It just has so many different states, emotions etc. it’s this genre blending pop masterpiece. It’s either that or Grace by Jeff Buckley. I don’t enjoy each listen as much as ILITYS, but as a vocalist and lyricist there’s so much to take from that record.
Fitz would pick a compilation album because he listens to much in such an eclectic way, but if that’s not allowed Either Skelethon by Aesop Rock or Frances the Mute by The Mars Volta.
James gave us two answers, but his serious one was that, though he’d struggle, Wish You Were Here would be a strong contender. “It’s a shortish album rack-wise but every single one is beautiful”. The other option was an extended remix of John Cage’s 4’33…
What is the best advice you have been given?
Fitz - Don’t worry if you hate the things you love sometimes. Find different ways to renew that love – try different things, take breaks, come back to it.
I agree with this too, it can be exhausting sinking everything into one cause, trying too hard to write a song, too hard to master a lick, get a harmony down etc. Sometimes just taking some time to enjoy your passions rather than constantly pursuing perfection can be a great way to improve naturally!
If you could change anything what would it be?
Right now lockdown would be over and as a result everyone would be piling in to venues to see small bands play great gigs!
Which bands do you think are currently under-rated or that people should look out for?
October Drift are ridiculous, their debut album this year is so good. I’ve still never been able to catch them live but by all accounts it’s a madness. Marsicans are really damn good, their debut is going to be fantastic. Can we say Soma Sons hah?
James wanted to shout out something really underground – a Zamrock group called W.I.T.C.H (We Intend to Cause Havoc). Apparently Zamrock was an Afro-rock movement that existed during a brief period of stability and economic growth in Zambia in the 70’s. Niche as that is, you can find them on Spotify now!
What is next for you?
We had a lot of shows lined up right now all we can do is try and plan for the future! We are going to be recruiting and training up a new guitarist, hopeful releasing another couple of songs we’ve been working on, and then trying to make the most of the new world we find after lockdown!
What was the driving force behind your new release, are there specific subject matters dealt with?
For sure. Same Mistakes is a song about some sleep deprived realisations – that moment when you’re growing up and you clock that your parents (or whoever your guardians were) are really just fallible people like you. I found it quite comforting to realise, and it seems other people really connect with multiple aspects of the song!
What was the process for writing and recording the release, are there any aspects of the production that were interesting or that you were keen to incorporate?
This song started out, like many do, with a really simple chord progression and those lyrics. They came together really naturally at first as those ideas in the last question had been on my mind a lot. I took the progression to the guys and they helped me shape it into a full song. We changed the time signature from 4/4 to 6/8 just to make it a little more interesting whilst still accessible, our friend and ex-guitarist Brad figured out some really lovely chord voicings based on the original progression, and we experimented with the dynamic peaks and troughs that make the end to impactful.
From a production perspective, the most important thing was to make sure that dynamic change and raw emotion were present. I like to layer up vocal harmonies where possible, but it felt like if we did it with Same Mistakes it would feel too planned, too calculated, so we stripped it right back. Along with some great guitar tone and some huge sounding production on the drums, that meant we were able to capture both the softer, more delicate moments and the big heavy ones and to blend them into something that still feels consistent.
Were there any hurdles to overcome when going through the writing and recording process, how did the album and songs develop?
To be honest, no. This song came together really smoothly. There was maybe an initial hump as we worked out from the original demo (acoustic guitar/vocal) what it could turn into, but once we had the idea it was really natural. The only thing we really struggle with from the recording perspective is getting everyone together at the right time, but the production process was aided by some great engineers and friends who knew how to get the best out of what we had, and then had the time to make it sounds even better all together.
When and how are you launching the new release?
It’s now post launch! We made a music video with an old friend of mine and, without the option to have a launch gig, that was the main thing we could do!
How are you hoping it will be received, have you changed your sound from previous releases to this one?
This is a more mature and personal song than our old material, I think. People seem to have really connected with that too, we’ve had people comment and message saying they really relate which feels amazing.