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All about soul: Hybrid Soul Project

By Staff | Jul 31, 2013

Hybrid Soul Project is, clockwise from top left: Shayla Leftridge, Johnathan Smith, Tajae Mosley, Sara Renee’ Parker, Jaysen Lapsley, Mark Price, and Randraiz Wharton.

A shared love of musical expression is what brought seven talented musicians together to form Hybrid Soul Project in Charleston. Their repertoire includes unique sonic interpretations of soul, funk, R&B, blues and even gospel tunes. Band founder Randraiz Wharton took some time recently to answer questions about the band, including what influences their sound and where to catch them in the near future.

Graffiti: What is Hybrid Soul Project all about?

Wharton: HSP is a group of highly talented musicians and singers that share a strong passion for musical expression. We enjoy creating soulful vibes in a live performance environment that fosters harmonious spontaneity.

Graffiti: Whose idea was Hybrid Soul Project? How did the concept for the band come about?

Wharton: I formed HSP about 2years ago. I had recently moved back to West Virginia because of work and immediately began playing with several different bands in the area. I started gigging in Charleston on a regular basis and met several like-minded musicians along the way. Eventually, I moved to Charleston due to the music scene, level of musicianship, and overall appreciation for music in and around town. I had never really been a band leader per say. I wanted to create a project that was vocal heavy, while including serious instrumental elements. And I wanted to do material ranging from ‘old school’ to ‘new school’, while coming up with arrangements that kept everything fresh and soulful. After playing gigs with Shayla (Leftridge) and Mark (Price) in other bands, I concluded that we were all on the same page. And I had heard/seen Johnathan (Smith), Tajae (Mosley) and Jaysen (Lapsley) perform around town and decided that they needed to be part of this project as well. Then we added Sara (Parker) into the mix to round out the vocals. It’s a solid group, and everybody brings something to the table.

Graffiti: How would you describe and how did you develop your sound and style?

Wharton: I suppose our sound incorporates elements of soul (old school/neo), funk, R&B, hip-hop, jazz, gospel, blues, rock, reggae, pop, etc. We like to take songs and switch ’em up in some way by rearranging the chordal progression, restructuring what the drums and bass are playing to create a different feel, adding intros, interludes, and endings, etc. We have fun exploring new ideas to bring to our audience.

Graffiti: Listening to the band, you can hear a heavy jazz element in your sound. Also, it’s evident that you guys are players. What kind of challenge was it to find ample musicians to build the band?

Wharton: I have had the privilege of performing with very talented musicians in several different genres all over the country. Luckily, Charleston hosts some of the most talented musicians that I have come across. As such, it was no challenge at all to find highly capable musicians that shared similar musical interests. I have never been in a band before where all of the musicians can play both keys and drums. The challenge has been not ending up with 10 people on stage. We have so many talented friends that we love to play with, so we invite guest musicians to join us from time to time – Ryan Kennedy, Timothy Courts, John Inghram, Dave Loyd, Rick Perdue, Nery Arevalo, Christian Tanzey.

Graffiti: How much of what you guys do is original material and how much of the set is covered material?

Wharton: Some of the band members have original material, but as a band we mostly play covers with different arrangements. I would love to eventually come up with some original band material, but it has been hard to coordinate with everyone’s schedule. And a few of us are spread pretty thin with numerous work/music commitments.

Graffiti: How do original arrangements come up? Is there anyone who holds the roll of ‘band leader’ that ideas are filtered through or is there a collaborative effort in how the music comes together?

Wharton: I would say everyone has input with regards to the material, and that everyone’s ideas are considered in coming up with the arrangements. I suppose my role as ‘band leader’ is to ultimately decide which ideas work best and/or whether or not we can pull off certain arrangements successfully.

Graffiti: What is the live show like? What will people experience during a live Hybrid Soul Project set?

Wharton: Every show is different, but they are all live. Our arrangements, while providing some structure, definitely allow for improvisation. And we strive to come up with new material and/or incorporate new arrangements for every performance. Hopefully, (the audience) will experience an atmosphere wherein (they) can feel free to unwind and express (themselves) on the dance floor. We enjoy creating a vibe where the audience is dancing and boppin’ their heads to the music.

Graffiti: You just recently played Festivall in Charleston. How did that go? Was it a typical set or did you do something special?

Wharton: We try to cater our sets to the venue and work with whomever may be hiring us to perform appropriate material for that specific event. We have played in several clubs/bars in the area and have been hired for family reunions and other private parties. We have also performed for festivals and events like Live on the Levee, MultiFest, and WVSU Black Alumni Homecoming. And we are scheduled to perform for Marshall University’s Black Alumni Homecoming this fall. But regardless of the occasion, we are usually hired to just do what we do.

Graffiti: Will there be a recording made for distribution?

Wharton: At the moment, we only have live recordings that we have used for demo purposes only. We might end up in the studio at some point, but nothing has been scheduled yet.

Graffiti: Lastly, sum up what it is that Hybrid Soul Project is all about for those who might not be familiar.

Wharton: Come to one of our shows and find out for yourself. You won’t be disappointed!