Santa Barbara’s Soul Majestic plays SOhO this Saturday, March 12, after a few years of musical evolution. Although they cite S.B. as their hometown, roots-reggae band Soul Majestic has established roots across the Golden State while working to establish themselves in musical circles along the California coast.
Initially comprised of vocalist Eric Iverson, percussionist/vocalist Brian Jarvis, and guitarist David Lyons, the three founding members met while living in Santa Barbara. After moving up north to Santa Cruz, however, their previous band dismantled and the core three reformed as Soul Majestic with the added talents of female vocalist Oriana Sanders.
And while they cite popular acts like the Beatles and Bob Marley as major influences, Soul Majestic uses their own distinct flair to achieve an original, innovative sound. The history of roots reggae is bereft of male-and-female singing tandems, which is why the trade-off between Eric and Oriana is paramount to the band’s originality.
“We incorporate our own style of reggae,” says Iverson, “adding a little twist of our influences.”
Eric goes on to cite musical acts like Michael Franti & Spearhead, Burning Spear, Culture, and The Ethiopians as influential in creating Soul Majestic’s unique style.
“We’re always trying new styles and new chord progressions, which isn’t something you typically hear on a reggae tune,” explains Iverson. “The biggest thing is our combination of male and female vocals and Brian makes three vocalists. So that’s the biggest difference we have amongst other bands in reggae.”
What also makes Soul Majestic innovative is their use of electronic sampling. The band released “Dub It Out” back in October as part of their “Song A Month” series, and the track includes a “DJ solo” during the latter half. While sampling isn’t completely new to Dub music, Soul Majestic’s methods make for a “new twist on familiar sounds.”
“My cousin in Davis is in a band, and he does a lot of dubstep stuff,” says Iverson. “So I had him come in and we worked together on the Dub section. We’re always experimenting on different sounds to put into our production like reversing the guitar and having him play backwards and adding samples in. We’re trying to push the envelope a little by bringing more elements into our production.”
Their desire to travel and work with influential artists has been rewarding for Soul Majestic, as they ventured all the way down to Jamaica to record their 2004 album Until That Day. The band spent over a month recording the album in Kingston and staying on the outskirts of town in an area called Bridgeport.
“We mingled with people and locals, and every day we worked at Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong Studios in Kingston with Sly & Robbie, Anthony B, and Shane Brown. It was amazing to be in the birthplace of reggae music with all these living legends,” says Iverson, “a great learning experience stepping up our knowledge of reggae music, and it felt like we earned a stamp of approval from Jamaican culture.”
Recent years have seen the band connecting more with their community and fans. In 2014 Soul Majestic released their album Setting the Tone entirely with the help of crowdfunding.
“It was the first time we did it,” says Iverson. “Typically in the past we used outside money or investors, and crowdfunding is new in the age of digital music. It’s empowering for our fans to be a part of the process and being able to contribute, so it really brought us closer to our fans.”
The crowdfunding also allowed the band to create their own studio/production lab, called the “Astrolab.”
“It was humbling and empowering to see that we can do it, and that we have such diehard fans willing to help us raise that money…and it all happened in just thirty days.”
With the success of their recent campaigns, the band expects more of the same to come in the future. Soul Majestic is scheduled to appear at the 2016 California Roots Festival during the Late Night Pre-Show Pre-Party alongside Kimie Miner and other notable artists, and their fifth album Pass It Around is expected to be released this spring as well as a new single “Falling in Love.”