Bakersfield is a legendary country and honky-tonk music spot, and the birthplace of the "Bakersfield sound," defined by artists like Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. But the Central Valley city is also home to a reggae soul band called The Soul Chance. When record collectors first hear their music on vinyl, some assume the band is straight out of the 1960s, but The Soul Chance was formed in 2017. They capture that retro sound by recording with old-fashioned reel-to-reel tape.
The following is an excerpt from an interview with band members A.J. Brewer and Nico Collins. They talk about replicating early reggae and working as a couple.
On being from Bakersfield:
A.J. Brewer: Where the I-5 is it's all fields and agriculture, so people are like, ‘Oh, that must be a little farm town.’ Bakersfield is not a small town. Nobody's walking around with a straw hat and a piece of straw hanging out of their mouth.
On what makes them different from mainstream reggae groups:
Nico Collins: When [a lot of people] think of reggae music, Bob Marley comes to mind. But a lot of people don't know that Bob Marley did ska. So the genre of music that we do is something that Bob Marley did himself and it’s the style of early reggae.
On capturing the sound of early reggae:
A.J. Brewer: The Soul Chance basically mimics the old sounds by recording on analog equipment such as reel-to-reel tape. The singing has a lot to do with capturing the styles of the older artists.
Nico Collins: There's something to be said about stepping back and just actually holding a note out without having to do all these runs. Each member of The Soul Chance has a different strength that we bring to the table, to pay respect to the traditional reggae style.
On rewriting Billy Stewart’s classic “Sitting in the Park”:
Nico Collins: In Billy Stewart's version, he's waiting on his love. In our version, the woman sees him sitting in the park and doesn't appreciate that he's trying to paint the picture that he's the victim. He is messing around and she knows it. So she left him waiting in the park.
On making music as a couple:
Nico Collins: It's just another perk to our awesome relationship and it's great to be able to do things that you enjoy with someone that you love.