Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics
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Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics

Atlanta, Georgia, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2005 | INDIE

Atlanta, Georgia, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2005
Band R&B Soul




"Ain’t Nothing If It Don’t Feel Good Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics Dig a New Sound From the Red Clay of Georgia Soul"

Wednesday night rehearsal for Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics starts off slowly.

Start time was at 6, but as of 6:30, less than half of the eight-member soul band is present at Diamond Street Studios, a small space in Atlanta’s funky Little 5 Points neighborhood. I push my back against a partition, making room for the controlled chaos of tuning up and settling in — instrument cases open and slam shut, amps move, then move again. Amid a backdrop of chatter and random bursts of music, frontwoman Velle quickly scans the room. Nothing fancy about it. A piano and organ sit toward the rear. Sound panels covered in vintage-styled fabric hang on the walls. She turns to me and smiles, explaining the delay: “There are costs and benefits to being right next door to a tequila bar.”

Surely one of those benefits is that by the time the band is in place, everyone is feeling tequila-good, even if only by association. And baby, soul music ain’t nothing if it don’t feel good. Tenor sax player Taylor Kennedy tinkers playfully on an upright piano.

“You could get a job on a ship!” trumpeter Jason Collier yells. Laughter. The tinkering simmers, then stops.

Velle has an announcement to everyone and no one in particular: Grab some flyers on the way out to promote the show next month. They’re performing at The Earl in East Atlanta Village, an alt-scene restaurant that books indie bands in their smoky, cave-like venue in the back.

Outside on his mobile phone, keyboardist and producer Spencer Garn calls baritone sax man Tony Staffiero to pin down his location. Drummer Mark Carbone starts to set up his kit. Scott Clayton plugs into his amp, bluesy guitar chords echoing over the monitors above. Garn re-enters with news: Staffiero is parking; bass player Kevin Scott can’t make it tonight. Then Garn starts a discussion about the tunes they need to rehearse. Between the multiple conversations and cacophony of notes, it is not immediately clear to me just who Garn is addressing.

Apparently, the right person heard him. Clayton’s casual guitar chords build into structured, mid-tempo strumming. The music sounds right and tight even at this stage, a song sure of itself but still in-progress. The ear-catching phrase has a contagious vibe, and I wish I could hear the full arrangement. I’m pretty sure I’ll know the lyrics to this tune one day. Still in their own worlds, each musician moves to the riff.

Yeah, it’s pretty obvious: Good music gets made here.

For almost two years now, Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics have been working on a sophomore album, a follow-up to their 2012 debut, It’s About Time. A lot of indie bands are on the grind right now, working to book new shows and record new material. This band is different from a lot of the others, in that they are not just building momentum. They are working to pull off the infamous sophomore feat that follows an unforeseen, yet totally deserved, sudden burst of success.

It’s About Time was a groove-laden record that encouraged listeners to wake up, choose their fate, and take action (in matters of love and life in general). The record gained immediate traction. Within two weeks of its September release date, the single “My Dear” was selected as the iTunes single of the week. Then the album hit Billboard’s Heatseeker Top 30 chart, which catalogs the most popular songs by new acts. In December, Starbucks chose “Heartlite,” a single predating the EP, as their single of the week.

As with a lot of good fortune, some of it was nice timing. Over the previous decade, soul music had experienced a commercial revival, if you will (true fans will tell you it never went anywhere). Acts like Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Duffy, and Amy Winehouse had garnered notable sales and critical acclaim, bringing the genre into the foreground more than it had been in decades. Timing and more established contemporaries aside, Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics had something. People noticed.

“They’re the real deal,” says DJ Jamal Ahmad, host of “S.O.U.L of Jazz,” who’s now in the 20th year of his nationally syndicated show, hailing from Atlanta’s WCLK-FM. His program is known for mixing contemporary UK soul with underground domestic acts. He was among the first to play Erykah Badu and D’Angelo; he helped found the Atlanta ’90s collective Groovement that launched the careers of India.Arie and Anthony David. During our phone conversation, he says more than once just how much of a Soulphonics fan he is. Especially when you put them in context with how soul music sounded in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s.

“They’re part of this global movement of young bands who are trying to get to the root of what soul music is today.”

And this is why listening to Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics is both entertaining and compelling — because they’ve gone after the root of the thing, in their own way, while living in a place that’s got a built-in connection to soul.

Ahmad calls it the “ancestral energy” of Georgia. He says what the Soulphonics have is an extension of “that cultural red clay that’s always been a breeding ground for this style of music.”

But fans who downloaded It’s About Time weren’t channeling memories of soul music from the past. They identified with the band’s sound, which was just gratifyingly real. Here was a group of musicians that could really play. Here was a recording that had enough grit to feel like soul, but was polished enough to assure you someone had been paying attention. This wasn’t a group asking to be considered. They knew what they had. On the opening track, “My Dear,” Velle sings, “Listen here,” in her throaty voice, and most people keep listening — for the next 42 minutes.
My Dear
Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics

“That was pretty surreal,” Velle says of that post-release period, over a late-morning coffee at Fork and Juniper in Midtown Atlanta.

Surreal, like half-a million-downloads-as-a-result-of-the-exposure surreal. The swift, positive response was all the more impressive since the band launched the record off of their own label, Gemco Recording Group, founded by Garn and Bill Elder (of soul band The Dynamites). To get the word out, they partnered with North Carolina-based Redeye for distribution, and to keep earnings close, they opted to self-publish.

The group enjoyed spurts on the road, meeting their fans and earning new ones.

They played SXSW in Austin and the Governor’s Ball in New York City, a lineup featuring Kings of Leon and Kanye West. They took to San Francisco, St. Louis, and Chicago. At the Mammoth Festival of Beer and Bluesapalooza in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., they shared billing with Mavis Staples and blues hall-of-famer John Hammond.

They even sold out the Blue Note. Yes, that Blue Note, located in New York’s Greenwich Village, heralded as one of the most respected and historic jazz venues in the world.

“I’ll never forget it,” Velle remembers, humbly mentioning that a lot of her friends came out to support the band. She pauses, then chuckles, almost to herself, “They’re probably like, ‘I can’t believe she’s still fucking doing this.’”

If by “this” Velle means fronting a band that writes, records, licenses, sells, and performs well-crafted soul music, pays homage to the genre’s classic form, while keeping the attention of a dedicated listenership, then yes, she and her fellow bandmates are still doing it.

They’ve persevered now for almost 10 years, not solely because they’re a band that’s passionate about making music. They’re also a band that has invested in the business of making music. Sure, they may be an indie act struggling to navigate a fickle industry that doesn’t cater to them. But as indie bands go, they’ve done pretty well. Some of their success is certainly attributed to their solid sound and a live show that connects with people. The other side has a lot to do with the foundation they’ve built as resident performers of Atlanta, a place with a few of its own special marks on the history of soul music.

But before the Soulphonics settled in Atlanta, there was an instrumental funk-jazz band in Gainesville, Fla., on the lookout for a female vocalist. And long before those wires crossed, a young girl in Toronto was falling in love with music.

Velle, age 29, was born in Toronto to Indian parents of an arranged marriage who had immigrated from the North Punjab region of their homeland. Her mother worked as a nurse, her father, who had studied throughout Europe, as an engineer (he holds a microchip patent). Velle, her parents, and older sister lived in Toronto until she was 7, and in those early years she remembers her parents played a lot of Paul Simon and early Bollywood tunes. But her biggest musical benefactors were a British couple her parents befriended. Ruby knew them as Aunt June and Uncle John. The two couples became extended family, so close that when June’s father died, Velle’s maternal grandfather adopted her. Velle says in addition to exposing her to a range of new music, the couple were always advocates for her creative interests — an important balance in a household with strict Indian traditions.

“Aunt June and Uncle John used to tell my parents, ‘Watch out for this one, she’s not going to go the conventional route. You have to foster her creativity and make it a safe place.’” Over gin rummy and coloring books, her “aunt” and “uncle” introduced Velle to The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, and Al Di Meola. Along the way, Velle says, her parents became music lovers as well, even when her aunt and uncle weren’t around.

“We’d still listen to Marvin Gaye, Joni Mitchell, Queen, and Sting,” Velle says, “these great artists I was able to build a foundation on.”

And she did build on that foundation. She learned all the words to those great songs by great artists. While she didn’t take up an instrument, she studied the musical patterns, repeating them through beatboxing and mimicking sounds. Her father eventually moved the family to Melbourne Beach, Fla., for work, where Velle grew even more passionate about music and how to put it together.

She sang in her school choir. She was motivated by the storytelling elements of folk music, and wrote pages of lyrics in her journal. There wasn’t much else to do in the low-key beach town — surfing, mall trips, picking at the guitar in her room. In choir, she noticed she kept getting assigned soprano solos, something she attributes to an early childhood spent singing along with Bollywood divas. Velle worked to strengthen her alto skills, not content with singing only the top. “I wanted to master the whole range, to take my voice as far as it could go.”

Velle knew that she wanted a career in music, but the big picture was still a little vague. After high school, she moved three hours north to Gainesville, to study advertising at the University of Florida.

“I wanted to learn the business side of things — I figured if I made anything, I would always know how to promote it,” she says.

Gainesville is where Velle got into Incubus, Portishead, and Ani DiFranco and spent even more time writing. Gainesville is also where she met Garn and Clayton, who would become the founding members of the Soulphonics band. In 2005, during Velle’s junior year, a mutual friend introduced Velle to Garn. Garn was busy with a mostly instrumental funk-jazz band called The Elements, and he wanted to add a female singer to change things up. Clayton played and managed a small music venue called the Side Bar, where Garn would perform. The friend thought Velle’s sound would be a good match for what Garn was trying to do — play soul.

While it’s hard for Velle to pin down her soul music “a-ha” moment, she says the emotion of the style always resonated with her. Her eyes widen with enthusiasm when she talks about music from the ’60s and ’70s, like Marva Whitney and Aretha Franklin. “I always thought that’s what music should sound like,” she says.

The messages in soul music, its raw honesty: For a girl who filled journals with song lyrics long before she was a member of anybody’s band, the way soul values the human experience moved her. Velle wanted to sing songs that built a dialogue with people. She wanted to write songs like that, too. Velle met up with Garn for the audition. She sang, she says, and “that was it.”

The three renamed the band The Soulphonics and filled out the open horn and rhythm section spots with alternating players on the Gainesville scene. They played the soul classics — James Brown, Otis Redding. It wasn’t long before they were considered the go-to soul act of Gainesville, where they performed constantly for about a year, selling out shows and touring all through Florida.

As Velle prepared to graduate, she felt the urge to go north to continue her education in graphic design. She liked Creative Circus, a leading art school in Atlanta, and asked Garn and Clayton how they felt about moving. They believed Atlanta could be a good market for what the band wanted to do next, which was play more original music and record an album. Plus the city had a couple of perks — it was bigger than Gainesville and it wasn’t New York.

“We’d been The Soulphonics for about a year,” Clayton says, “and we’d gotten a taste of what the big picture could be.”

Garn also felt what they had was worth keeping. “I was on my second stint in Gainesville: College Town, USA. Ruby was coming to Atlanta — if we wanted to keep it going, moving made sense.”

Velle arrived in 2007, Clayton and Garn followed a few months later. They worked on rebuilding the band, trying out different horn players and drummers. In 2008, the group snagged a residency at Star Bar in Little 5 Points, where they played every Wednesday night for about a year. They diversified their soul standards repertoire and incorporated other musical influences, like classic rock, R&B, and jazz. They got their chops up as a group and built a fan base. Now it was Atlantans who knew where to find Velle & The Soulphonics whenever they had a hankering for soul music. Those audience members would come back the next week and bring their friends to watch the live act.

But the stage is a place where musicians go to showcase. The band needed a dedicated workspace to rehearse — and record.

Diamond Street Studios isn’t on Diamond Street. It never was actually. The basement studio Garn put together in the house he once lived in with Clayton, was on Diamond Avenue in East Atlanta. That worked out OK until a bad leak got worse and they had to rescue the equipment. Garn tried booking recording time at studios around town, but it was cost-prohibitive. Day rates get real expensive real fast, Garn says, and if you listen to a demo of that day’s recording and want to make changes, better buck up for more studio time to fix it. It’s a restrictive way to develop a project that might need time to meander.

“Some of the songs on It’s About Time, we started two years before we got this space, at studios around town,” Garn says at Diamond Street, swiveling left-to-right in an office chair. An eight-track machine sits behind him. ProTools waits for instructions on his desktop monitor. “We’d run out of money as a band, so we’d sit around for four months. Then we’d get a studio for a week, then have no money again.”

Garn finally stumbled upon a space the band could afford. It’s behind Elmyr, a Mexican-ish dimly lit dive bar next door to the Variety Playhouse concert venue. The bar/restaurant is lovingly referred to as cheap, smoky, and awesome, often by the same person. The space had that same down-to-earth vibe. Elmyr stayed open late and sold tequila. It was perfect.

The wall with a window separating the control room from the recording space was already there. But they needed equipment and a few more touches. Garn sold his Honda Element to buy gear and he built out the rest of the space, bit by bit. The Soulphonics finally had a home. Enter Velle, the advertising grad with branding expertise, and the feel-good space also got a name: Diamond Street Studios. There’s always something on the wishlist, but the studio does what it needs to do.

“With the sound that we go for, less is more,” Clayton says, “Especially with the analog tape.” Most of the album was recorded there.

Garn leases and manages the studio, which he also rents out to other acts for whom he produces and engineers as well. While even the most casual music fan can put together a home studio, it’s a bit more unorthodox for an indie band to have their own commercial space. Velle says that’s one of the myriad opportunities they’ve been able to take advantage of while being in Atlanta. The band works in the studio throughout the week, pushing out digital singles when they’re ready, and sometimes selling commissioned demos for licensing in television spots and commercials (DSW and Monster Energy Drink are a couple). Velle & The Soulphonics sell a lot of vinyl — so whenever their neighbor Criminal Records has Record Store Day across the street, they take the opportunity to cross-promote.

”This place has allowed us to sustain and keep moving forward,” Velle says, referencing Diamond Street, as well as the city of Atlanta. “Why would we leave?”

It’s a good question. And if you consider that the Soulphonics’ foundation here is made from more than brick and mortar, you start to get into that “red clay” business Ahmad was talking about. You start to connect the dots between what the Soulphonics are doing now and what Ahmad says is often a “missing piece” of the soul music conversation as it relates to Georgia.

Well, now. We’re not about to overlook any pieces today.

When Ahmad talks about the “cultural red clay” of Georgia, he’s talking about the influence that persists in this region, one that lives in music and our spirits and belongs to everyone. He’s talking about Georgia native Fletcher Henderson, the innovative 1920s bandleader who toured with Ethel Waters. He’s talking about “Georgia Tom” Dorsey, a blues pianist out of Villa Rica, who became known as the father of gospel (and the writer of the immortal “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”). He’s referring to Ray Charles, who was born in Albany, James Brown (the Godfather of Soul, mind you), and Otis Redding, who came from Macon. But to understand what he means in relationship to the Soulphonics, we have to go back to the origins of soul music, which is firmly rooted in the black American cultural experience. Soul, no matter what its many manifestations might indicate, is a genre that evolved from the blues, an early 20th century mood of a people.

The blues soaked up everything its creators had — deep South work songs sung by slaves, Negro spirituals, and even the minstrel shows. The blues was pain and suffering, peaks of joy, and the defeat of happiness lost. That mood, the instrumental and vocal outpourings of people who weren’t born free in a country that espoused freedom, was so consistent, that it developed into a standardized musical structure called the 12-bar blues.

Most popular music today tips its hat to this form. But the storytelling essence of the blues — musical and lyrical — is an intrinsic element here. That’s because a blues chord progression is built with a beginning, middle, and end. Even music-theory novices would notice if a phrase left them hanging — it would be as if someone stopped the joke right before the punch line. Musically, the blues always resolves itself. There’s something incredibly resilient about that fact, considering the people who first sang the blues were violently and unilaterally denied the opportunity to determine the results of their own day-to-day lives.

This is why many artists, including Velle, say that singing soul music is like therapy. If you’re doing it right, you cannot help but tap into some personal, vulnerable place. But the blessing and irony of the blues is that the blues actually make you feel good. People sing and play the blues not to summon grief, but to process it — to bring it all up and get it all out. The performer’s emotional delivery, along with their ability to weave a story inside the format, is what makes up the style.

The blues have endured, but they have also evolved. That’s because the experience of black Americans changed, and drastically. More than 6 million blacks decisively left the Jim Crow South (named for a popular minstrel show character) between 1915 and 1970, seeking better economic opportunities in northern and western cities. The Great Migration changed the demographics of the United States forever, and the new, urban environments people lived in influenced black music, too. By the 1940s and ’50s, rhythm and blues, or R&B, had arrived, along with its determined backbeat. Even then, there was talk of a return to the “roots” of black music, where artists wanted to embrace early blues and the secularization of gospel (think Ray Charles’ “I Got A Woman”). By the late ’60s and into the ’70s, black popular music would take a looser and more political tone, with calls to action, unfettered appeals for love and lovin’, and prideful declarations that being black was just as beautiful as being anything else.

Right here — this is where we find soul music. Now, you could say that soul music has always been a part of black music, regardless of how the final product might be packaged. Listen to Mahalia Jackson, Paul Robeson, Johnny Hartman, Sarah Vaughan, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, Dianne Reeves, Natalie Cole, Lenny Kravitz, or Seal — it’s there. But hone in on this place in time, layered with Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, upon Ruth Brown and Dinah Washington, upon Sam Cooke, Bobby Womack and so many more — this is the era that Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics begin to draw from in the course of creating their own sound.

The strongest point of It’s About Time is that it doesn’t separate Velle from The Soulphonics. The band is cohesive and conversational, which adds ear candy to the listening experience and is a joy to watch live. Their songs develop as naturally as conversations. On “The Man Says,” a lament of lost perseverance in the face of economic distress, the horns brood in response to Velle’s desperation, and the finale builds on form and improvisation.
The Man Says
Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics

The gentle fade-in of “Looking for a Better Thing” belies the bright opening notes from Velle, who went against the general rules of songwriting to begin at the top of the range.
Looking for a Better Thing
Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics

“Don’t hold your breath for bad love to change” she cautions, almost pleading with the listener. From the emotional way she pushes the words out, you get the sense she just just learned her own lesson. Garn’s organ playing is wonderful here, energetic and supportive as the song continues, like that good friend who knows just what to say when you’re down.

“Ruby, the Soulphonics — they went deeper,” Ahmad says, remembering a time when he says Atlanta’s soul scene got a little too “pretty” for its own good. “They came out of nowhere, it seemed, and then we got back to it. They showed that people will follow you if you do something right.”

And you know something is right when you hear it. There’s a line in “Medicine Spoon,” a driving force of a song about a lover getting his comeuppance. When Velle sings “I’mma let you have it,” you know she’s not playing around. Later, she challenges the “little boy” to get a move on: “Don’t worry / I heard yo’ mama house got room.”
Medicine Spoon
Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics

That daring spirit, that sass, combined with Clayton’s frisky guitar and the band's sharp horn arrangements — that is soul music. Even if you’ve never kicked out a trifling man, you find yourself rooting for her.

You can’t hear It’s About Time without recognizing the band’s salute to “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” the James Brown classic from in 1966. Its plucky guitar opening, the sustaining bass line, the arrangement that builds with drama — it’s a nod to the founders, but they are carving out their own place.

“We’re trying to be the torchbearers,” Velle says.

Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics are settled in some ways, but they’re still hungry in others.

“We know where we’re going and what we want,” Velle says. But they’re also trying to figure out the power of their music and what really works for a Soulphonics record. Most of their songs on the first album were written music first, lyrics second. On this new project, they’re playing with a song concept and lyrics first, which will then inspire the music. Why? Just because. It’s part of the exploratory process.

During rehearsal at Diamond Street Studios, they’re excited to bring new material to fans at The Earl, to try it out and see how it lands. Atlanta is good for that, Velle says. The city has been like a safe haven. In Atlanta, the place they gelled, grew, and garnered both national and international attention, they’ve become strong enough to let down their guard.

“In another place, you’re on their stage and you’re trying to prove to them that you deserve to be there,” Velle says. “Here, it’s home. It’s like, come to our soul party!”

Someone is talking about the notes Clayton is playing, part of the tune Garn wants to rehearse tonight.

“Isn’t that the piano part?”

“Well, it might be an organ, actually. I don’t know yet.”

Clayton looks at Garn, slowing down the riff for emphasis. “It just goes between a minor 7 and a minor.”

Kennedy, Staffiero, and Collier clear out their spit valves. Carbone starts on his snare, joining in with Clayton, who has returned to the rhythmic phrase. Kennedy floats an improvised melody over the top. Velle moves about the space, feeling out lyrics beaming from the Evernote app of her iPad mini. She rarely writes freehand anymore.

Over in the control room, Garn turns on a partial recording of the tune Clayton started. The horn players stack their parts, singing bah-doo-dop back and forth to each other. Suddenly, a second of silence. Clayton counts off, and the band plays through the intro together, their music taking shape. It’s getting there, the vibe says. The band stops playing, and the space bubbles up with suggestions and more random notes. Good music gets made here.

By the way, rehearsal has begun. - The Bitter Southerner

""It's About Time" aired world wide on Showtime's Ray Donovan season finale"

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"Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics' music featured on CNNGo Atlanta"

CNNGo does a mini travel series of Atlanta, Georgia and features Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics music.

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"Metromix 11Alive Morning Show Video"

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"Soulphonics & Ruby Velle in Tampa FL"

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Within the genre of soul music there's been a certain revival of late, with modern artists making music that sounds like it was penned and recorded several decades earlier. The best faces for this revival belong to producers like Mark Ronson, and artists such as Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and Amy Winehouse. Of course, they can't be the only ones doing it.

Coming out of the musical madhouse that is Atlanta, Georgia, the Soulphonics have been bringing their own blend of funk, boogaloo, and big band-style show revues to audiences around the country since 2006. As a unit, their horns, drum, and percussion work could have placed them behind Wilson Pickett or Otis Redding in the '60s, but since it's the '00s, they've got their own lead singer with just as much charisma and soul. Ruby Velle is a 23-year-old starlet with a voice that's part Ella, part Etta, and full of up-and-coming talent that's hopefully found the right outlet. She's been playing with the Soulphonics for a while now, and the sound they're creating is more than just a throwback, it's a blast forward toward infinite soul and funk possibilities. If you check them out in person, you won't be disappointed.
- New-Times Broward Palm Beach |written by Johnathan Cunningham

"Live Review: The Constellations, Soulphonics & Ruby Velle @ The EARL, September 10"

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With The Constellations� recent signing to Virgin Records, I anticipated a rather rowdy show at The EARL on Thursday night, and, girl, was I right! There was not one disengaged body in the bar � the performers would not stand for such allowances.

Peaking around the corner through the back door to The EARL�s music room, I was a little surprised that more people weren�t there yet. After all, the show was slated to begin at 9, and I graced the scene close to 10:30. But the musings of Ruby Velle were undeniably strong and drawing in more spectators in each minute�s passing. Ruby�s voice is sultry and strong, sexy yet fun, and her musical style is difficult to find in the 21st century. The six-piece band, complete with a horns section (two saxophones and a trumpet), evoke sounds of 1960s soul and funk that is undeniably danceable. By the end of their set, I was amped up for The Constellations, already making plans to check out Soulphonics in the near future, and developing a small woman-crush on Ms. Ruby.

By the end of the Soulphonics set, the back room at The EARL was near capacity. Lead singer Elijah Jones and the seven other members of the band evoked a commanding energy that permeated the smoky room. The Constellations hung out in the crowd during the Soulphonics and Ruby Velle set, which is always welcomed and the sign of an artist in �it� for the right reason � the love of music. It just made me that much more excited for their success, the future of the band, and their drive to create immense music.

The Constellations played their radio success �Felicia� about three songs in. �On My Way Up� was next, then �Step Right Up�, an Atlanta favorite. The song takes its listeners on a journey through Atlanta�s venues and music scene, shouting out to �Buckhead frat boys,� the Clairmont Lounge, last call at 2 a.m. at the Drunken Unicorn, and more; and of course the crowd went wild when Elijah paid tribute to a �Saturday night at The EARL.�

The energy present at The Constellations' shows is impressive � not only from the performers, but also from the audience. Clap Squad Alaina Terry and Shabnam Bashiri keep the band, audience, and energy in full-swing, with their �ooo�s� and �yeah�s.� The musicians seamlessly integrate their sounds into the vibe of the room, and Jones acts as a cheerleader in keeping his audience�s energy high.

This Southern Gothic band has forged a unique path through Atlanta music, and their live shows display that they are deserving of their success. Atlanta is so excited for the recent and future success of one of its most unique and creative live bands. Catch them soon, or you�ll be cramming into a larger venue next time around!
- Atlanta Music Guide | written by By Sam Parvin

"Generation Y Backstage: The Soulphonics and Ruby Velle"

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In jeans and T-shirts, with ladders abound and wires hanging from the ceiling, I was watching Ruby Velle and The Soulphonics warming up on stage, two hours before show time.

At one of the world�s most recognizable venues, the Hard Rock Caf�, the sleek lounge is set to hold more than 300 of Atlanta�s chic-cocktail-dressed and silken-black-tied patrons of the official �After Party� for the 2009 Georgia Music Hall of Fame Awards. The band is preparing diligently for their primetime show while a whole other production is setting up backstage.

This is not just a production of colors, fabrics and hairspray � there is something deeper coming together, along with the make-up for this Southern soul singer. Backstage, I take notice of the level of specialized involvement and dedication of not just talent, but of character it takes to perfect an artist�s look for this caliber of an event.

If you were not aware prior to reading this, you will come to realize this is not an undertaking to be discussed dismissively as simply picking the right dress or bracelet. Behind the professionalism of each individual is an innumerably renewable source of passion that drives them.

With less than two hours before Velle sets the stage afire with her �Soul Hot� band, the Soulphonics, tonight � in the background, waiting with targeted purpose, is a team readied to turn this already sassy singer into a work of art.

In the dressing room � the hair, the wardrobe, the makeup��the works� � are all waiting to be executed adeptly and exclusively to appeal to an audience who knows all too well award-winning musical performances when they see one�let alone hear one.

What makes Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics� adventure into this next stage of their career all the more inspiring tonight over other great performances of the same ability?

Partly it is the shear dedication her team has. Her amazing team consists of dedicated design company owner and lead fashion designer O�Neal Wyche, seasoned New York City in-house stylist Shay Baker, and warm-hearted make-up artist Yasmine Jackson.

What makes this team, this band and this soul singer stand out? It is the common element that bonds everyone in that dressing room together � everyone is in their quarterlife.

SmilingRubyThey are all part of young Generation Y, whom is currently in the midst of a global-generational crisis. Velle, who is at the core of this seemingly frenzied but rhythmic styling routine, speaks in harmony for everyone in the dressing room watching the foundation brushes fly and bobby pins being positioned.

��Being in the quarterlife is not bad; it�s definitely a motivating factor.�

Motivation�that had to be the key component behind everyone there that evening, myself included. Everyone backstage was well aware that the �normal� road to success is currently blocked by a multi-faceted pileup that has left Generation Y waiting impatiently at the on-ramp.

This awareness, for some, is an indicator to seek a new route to their destination. While for others, like the design team, it is the proverbial green light to build new roads and make new destinations.

The new roads these young entertainment professionals are currently traveling is obviously uncharted and unique. From the start of their professional careers � all within metropolitan areas � these individuals have had to learn how to operate when conducting business with other Generation Y entrepreneurs and clients; while at the same time, defining their own level of distinction amongst the flailing economic and social world around them.

Their past experiences of trials, successes, diversions and reaffirmations have placed them all here today; concluding in the new found spirit that is reverberating loudly within this sample group of Generation Y.

Each of these skilled individuals have been shaking up how they think of business, right down to the very basis of, and what most consider the �American Ideal,� of how all business is initiated, executed and closed � money.

IMG_3324When I ask Velle and the styling crew how they came to work together professionally, Velle lets out a small laugh and recalls, �I found them�and at first, I approached it all wrong!�

Velle is a graphic artist by day and soul singer by life. After she completed her formal education as a graphic designer with professional social media experience, her professors told her �You gotta charge this � You gotta say this and you gotta do that!� And like all good students heading out into the �real world,�� Velle listened.

As she went to solicit her graphics skills to her current styling team�s company following �normal business practices�, she quickly came to the realization for most Generation Y entrepreneurs, monetary gain is not always the bottom line. Moreover for Velle, who works fulltime as a graphic des - Quarterlife Magazine | written by Paul Eulette


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The Soulphonics & Ruby Velle � Some bands who label themselves �funk� are merely jam bands in disguise. Not so with The Soulphonics & Ruby Velle. This group brings both the James Brown funk and the Sam Cooke soul. Their song �Fever� is guarantees to get any party started, so put on your dancing shoes! - OurStage Blog | written by Bethany Leavey

"Soulphonics Atlanta's new, young voice of soul"

By Bob Townsend

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The Soulphonics & Ruby Velle are giving a new voice to the sounds of �60s and �70s soul.

Taking after contemporary rhythm and blues revival artists, such as Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Amy Winehouse and Back Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, the young, eight-member band mixes classics covers with original music that conjures the heyday of James Brown and Aretha Franklin.

On Saturday at The EARL in East Atlanta, The Soulphonics & Ruby Velle will release a new single, �Feet On The Ground,� and make the evening even more special by playing a set with legendary �70s soul singer Lee Fields.

Recently, the Soulphonics founding members � keyboardist Spencer Garn, guitarist Scott Clayton and singer Ruby Velle � sat down at George�s Bar & Restaurant in Virginia-Highland to talk about how they got together, and what it means to have soul in 2010.

As it turns out, they all grew up in different parts of Florida. Velle joined Garn and Clayton in Gainesville in 2006, around the time she graduated from the University of Florida.

�When we started in Florida, we were called the Elements,� Clayton said. �But the band has always had the same sound. It�s kind of a conceptual. It was like, �Let�s put together a big soul band with a three-piece horn section and put on suits and play.��
�I was inspired by some of the other bands that were doing this kind of thing,� Garn said. �Mainly the Dap-Kings. But I was already a big fan of soul music.�

After relocating to Atlanta in 2007, the Soulphonics soon became known as one of the city�s hardest working funk and soul scenesters. In 2009, the band did a six month �residence� every Wednesday at the Star Bar in Little Five Points. Later, they appeared at the Highland Ballroom to pay homage to the famed Stax Records� revue, with songs by the likes of Otis Redding, Booker T. and the MG�s, and Wilson Pickett.

�I think we�re ready for the day when The Soulphonics are playing every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night,� Clayton said. �But the Star-Bar gig really helped us solidify the lineup and find the right group of horn players.�

While Garn, Clayton, bassist Kevin Scott, and drummer Mark Raudabaugh lay down the groove, Velle commands attention at center stage � belting out songs, such as Arthur Conley�s infectious 1967 hit, �Sweet Soul Music,� with a big sassy voice that seems all the more uncanny coming from such a tiny young woman.

�I�ve always had a soulful voice, I guess,� Velle said. �Oddly, my early influences were more from folk music and classic rock. My uncle had a jam band, and I was singing with him when I was eight or nine years old. But once I started listening to soul music, it became kind of an addiction.�

Velle writes the lyrics for the Soulphonics original songs, and Garn and Clayton collaborate on the music and arrangements. Though the trio often reaches into the past for ideas, they�re trying hard to a create a fresh body of material they hope will translate to recording an album later this year.

�The formula is nothing new,� Clayton said. �Amy Winehouse has had success with it, and so has Sharon Jones, to a lesser degree. But the new music we�re writing doesn�t necessarily follow that �60s soul formula. We�re using those elements and finding our own voice.�

�Recently, someone left a comment on our Facebook page,� Velle said. �It was like, �I saw you guys on TV. I just closed my eyes and imagined the days when I was listening to a 45 and it was exactly like that.� To me, that was so cool that we could evoke that kind of emotion in someone.�
- The Atlanta Journal Constitution 3/4/2010

"Soulphonics & Ruby Velle celebrate new single this weekend"

by Chad Radford
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March 4th, 2010 by Chad Radford in Music news

Soulphonics-Feet-on-the-groundThe Soulphonics & Ruby Velle mark their debut release this weekend with the �Feet on the Ground� 7-inch single for Element Records.

�Feet on the Ground� is cut from a cloth of timeless soul and R&B rumination where vocalist Ruby Velle�s telltale croon traipses through the verses with a world-weary swagger while classic rhythms and horns wax and wane. There is an undeniably �60s feel to it all, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen the group play, but this is not simply a revival act. The performances from both Velle and the eight-piece band behind her are earnest and rely on their own musical, spiritual and personal devices to carry the music. But with just one song, �Feet on the Ground� is a full-on a tease. It�s only the tip of the iceberg for larger body of work the group has been showing off on stages around town. The single offers just a glimpse of how the Ruby and the Soulphonics translate to the permanence of vinyl, and it is a warm and sultry affair that leaves the brains and hips clamoring for more.

For the single release party at the Earl on Sat., March 6, the Soulphonics will also back �70s funk legend Lee Fields as he graces the stage with a set of classic grunts, shouts and cool croons. DJ Brian Proust of the Peachtree Soul Club keeps the party moving with classic soul, funk and R&B cuts on through the night. $10. 9 p.m. 404-522-3950.

Earlier on Saturday afternoon, the Soulphonics & Ruby Velle are also playing a free, 4:30 p.m. in-store at Criminal Records in L5P.
- Creative Loafing_Atlanta

"Mayor of Ponce digs out his soul"

by J.Winter

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March 12th, 2010 by J. Winter in Mayor of Ponce

WINTER ELIXIR: The Soulphonics and Ruby Velle

There�s a foggy glow over this gloomy corner of downtown Atlanta. The Georgia Dome is just over the hill, and I�m on the bad end of a dead end street. George Harrison was right, it�s been a long, cold, lonely winter. Only he seemed more optimistic. But this chill and these bad vibes have to break soon; I�m almost out of Ayn Rand books to burn.

My hearts been on ice and these ambitions bundled up. It�s been a mean season and this old soul�s getting restless. My apologies for the tired wordplay, but that just about sums up this clich� of a winter. The tulips, the wayfarers, the sundresses � they�re right around the corner. But they seem to be getting further out of reach.

It�s a Saturday night, and we�ve found ourselves in one of Atlanta�s best kept secrets. The location is in the name of the place, and I�ve been here a number of times, but my haphazard internal GPS still has trouble finding it. It�s Elliot Street Pub and it�s nestled in a creepy corner of Castleberry Hill. It�s a tiny bar that takes pride in its obscurity, a kind of place with cups, a keg and a chalkboard by the door that trusts the regulars with the honor system.

We�re all here to see Atlanta throwback darlings the Soulphonics and Ruby Velle. We�re cramped in this pint-sized bar shoulder-to-shoulder � more like a walk-in closet with a liquor permit. But the warmth is comforting, it�s like we�re in this together.

There�s barely enough room to tilt a drink to your mouth in this place, so I assume the band is playing on the just-as-tiny patio. But that doesn�t make much sense either. I saw the owners out in the street on a summer�s afternoon once, shooting bottle rockets at street signs, vermin and each other, so maybe they�re playing the dead end of Elliot? This is when I�m informed that this place has a basement. I feel like Pee Wee Herman finding out the Alamo does have a basement. Rhythm and blues in a dingy, secret crawl space on a Friday night, add some gin and touch of tonic and this could be the right medicine for my seasonal depression.

Down the confidential staircase, it�s charming and candlelit, romantic like Dr. Lechter and glass of Chianti. It�s a dingy brick fa�ade basement just like any other, but this one has a full bar, a three-piece brass section and a crossbow in the corner. Yes, a crossbow is propped behind the gin-slinger, Jordan. Tip well and tip often.

The Soulphonics take the stage and the pocket-sized Ruby Velle takes my heart. But it�s ok, I knew it was coming, right like the rain she does it every time. Another one of Atlanta�s best kept secrets, she and her seven-piece band are slowly becoming a must-see. Chad Radford describes their latest single as, �a warm and sultry affair that leaves the brains and hips clamoring for more.�

Ruby�s little toes and brown legs are tapping along to the �60s R&B. It�s quite infectious. She�s so petite, yet her voice is anything but. How does something so big come out of something that looks so harmless? Were it not for band photos proving that there�s a seven-piece band behind this girl I�d have no clue, because I haven�t been able to take my eyes off her to count.

I surrender every time I see them, but this time it�s different. Bundled up and beaten down by these last few months, this old soul needed something to pull it out, check its vitals and buy it a drink. George Harrison was right. Little darling, I do feel that ice slowly melting.

It�s been a mean winter, but the tulips, the sundresses, the wayfarers, they�re coming. Here comes the sun, and sometimes you need to be in a dingy basement with a crossbow to see that. And if you can�t find your way to Castleberry Hill, find your record collection. Reach down in that dusty crate. And dig out your soul.

(Photo courtesy the Soulphonics and Ruby Velle) - Creative Loafing Atlanta 3.12.2010

"Swing Out Sister_The Radar_Music"

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Photo by Angela Morris - March 2010 Atlantan Magazine by Jonathan Baker

"Don’t Sleep On | The Soulphonics and Ruby Velle"

By Tarik Moody

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You know what happens when you stay up all night looking for new music? You discover something really special, and that special is Atlanta’s Soulphonics and Ruby Velle. While I was writing the previous post on The Constellations, I saw this intriguing name of The Soulphonics and Ruby Velle on the list of people The Constellations follows on twitter (told you I’m a music geek). Don’t ask me why I stopped to check them out, I just did. Tell you what, I’m very glad I did stop and checked them out. What I heard was something fantastic, and soulful. Let’s put it this way: they put the ‘fun’ back in funk.

The Soulphonics and Ruby Velle have been around the Atlanta music scene since early 2008, and recently have played with fellow Atliens, The Constellations. The singer name is Ruby Velle and she is backed by a solid lineup, including a three piece horn section (trumpet, baritone sax, tenor sax) and rhythm section (B3 organ, electric guitar, bass and drums). They will be dropping their single “Feet On The Ground” on February 23rd on Element Records. You can check out the song below in their mp3 player (the other song is pretty damn good too). If you are going to be in Atlanta on March 6th, you can catch them playing along with legend Lee Fields at The Earl (great venue by the way). I would love for them to play show with Milwaukee’s Kings Go Forth (promoters/bookers make it happen)!

- Radio Milwaukee_Sound Board


"It's About Time"- Full Album

Released in 2012 on Gemco Records  | #29 on Billboard HeatSeekers | #4 on Itunes R&B list | New York Daily Pick by Jim Farber 



“It’s About Time,” the full-length debut album from Atlanta’s Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics, has quickly made waves around the globe since its recent September 2012 release. Billboard has recently ranked the album in the top 30 on the Heatseeker charts, a chart devoted to emerging artists. In the US, the lead off single “My Dear” was featured as iTunes’ “single of the week”, sparking a digital soul-grab of 200,000 single downloads, and 1200 full album download sales, landing the album at #4 on the iTunes R&B charts. The same week, Jim Farber of The New York Daily News named the album in his much sought-after top ten. In addition, Google Play has offered“My Dear” as a free track for the month of October for all smartphone users.

In Christmas week December 2012, the single “Heartlite” was featured as the Starbucks “Pick of the Week” which garnered over 250,000 downloads and presence in all Starbucks location wi-fi pages nationwide.

Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics roots are embedded in the rich sound and history of Georgia soul, beginning with the early 50’s and 60’s R&B that became so well known around the world. Having performed countless gigs since 2005, and with a slew of 45rpm singles already under their belts, the band has already contributed heavily to the steadily increasing awareness of genuine rhythm and blues music that exists today. They pack clubs and festivals with their original brand of soul, all of which is written and recorded in Atlanta.

“It’s About Time” Atlanta-based Canadian Ruby Velle channels Martha Reeves over soul tracks too punchy and too cool to be dismissed as retro.”

“First, good soul music is just too hard to come by. Second, it is refreshing because Ruby Velle has a timeless voice. You could listen to this voice all day and not get tired of it. More than that, you could listen to this voice and this album in 15 years and it would still sound good.”

“My Dear” has the groove, the charm and the lyrics powerful enough to make you stand up and take notice. Lee Fields himself even wrote that it was “awesome” on their Facebook page and who am I to disagree?” (Atlanta)

Funkalicious, UK: “Spirited singer Ruby Velle is Canadian born and of East Indian descent – her vocal qualities are direct and pure, no unnecessary athletics, just straight up soul. It’s upfront, with the 7 piece band’s backing simply yet effectively layered and displaying well executed timing.”

Band Members