the Soil & the Sun
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the Soil & the Sun

Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States | SELF

Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States | SELF
Band Alternative Rock


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Timbre and The Soil and The Sun serenade in a house show"

In 2004, Joanna Newsom made a splash with her harp-centered album, The Milk-Eyed Mender. For many people, the harp broke free from the confines of traditional genre assignments, only to be confined to another: the fairly self-descriptive "freak folk." Nashville songtress Timbre (full name: Timbre Cierpke) masterfully employed the instrument at a house show last night. On tour with ethereal folk rockers The Soil and The Sun, the classically-trained harpist treated spectators to a grand-scale set of chamber rock.

The Soil and The Sun are experimentally-bent folksters who produce whispering, rapturous tunes (they describe their sound as "New Mexican space music"). The Michigan quintet utilize the standard fare of guitars, bass, and drums alongside a grab bag of irregular instruments (including a mini-xylophone, a toy apple, melodica, recorders etc.) Performing in a friend's backyard carport just West of Troost, the group wrapped up their first song just as KCPD served an expected noise compliant. Whilst the group was performing in the back, the fuzz rolled up in front of the house and ran through the usual "turn it down" routine. Not to be deterred, the property owners casually announced the show would just continue inside. It wasn't a complete buzz kill, but the interruption heavily slimmed the crowd. Transferring inside the house, the group resumed their otherworldly serenading 25 minutes later. The smaller space and audience size allowed for a more intimate atmosphere, and the remaining showgoers welcomed the air-conditioned relief from the warm blanket of Kansas City humidity.

Frontman Alex Mcgrath's soft vocals seemed distant and entrancing, even when he was nearly shouting. The swelling crescendos and immediate drops of the percussion only enhanced the dreamlike quality of the music; they evoked the rhythm of drifting along in a dream, nearly waking up, and cozily resuming the big float.

Backed by members of The Soil and The Sun, Timbre lead with "The Wind May Be Beautiful," an arresting ballad that clocks in at slightly over 8 minutes. Her clear, angelic voice and traditional vocal styling complement her choice of instrumentation perfectly. Next, the ensemble performed a captivating cover of Radioheads "Spinning Plates," where the backing band played a bowed bass, accordion, and violin. The group resembled a fairy tale orchestra, with oddball instruments like a well-worn toy piano played alongside the imposing harp. Timbre would go on to play one solo song "acoustic": forgoing the PA system, the harpstress merely asked for everyone to be quiet. She then recounted the story behind the track "Fireflies." It carried such a weight that the entire house went silent as she plucked out the vivid imagery. Returning to amplified sound, she was rejoined by the backing outfit in delivering the titular track from her latest album, "I Will Go Plant Little Flowers." Her final tune, an untitled piece, featured supporting members Jacki Warren and Rachel Westphall lending their hands on the harp. The three ladies pulled a small symphony from the elegant instrument, bringing the show to a close. - Pitch

"The Soil and The Sun: the next band to watch out for!"

Did I mention there were four acts on Saturday night, the night The Calm Blue Sea played Miska’s? Well, the last act was a duo from right here in Chicago named The Soil and The Sun. Some of the guys from TCBS had chatted up Ben before the show and I was introduced. I don’t remember meeting Ben until afterward. It’s all sort of a blur, I’ll be honest with you, because after a few moments into their first song I think I lost a little of my memory due to lack of oxygen. I basically held my breath through their entire set. It was… breathtaking. Darlings, I really mean it this time. The Soil and The Sun are the real deal. This duo, who play a rather odd assortment of drums (together I don’t think the two of them have enough to make up a full set), shakers, tambourine, recorder, melodica, and a lovely acoustic guitar…. all accompanied by a looped background tape which they have also created themselves, before hand and control as they go, … this duo left all of us breathless, especially with IOWEEOW

Most songs start out with a simple percussion, a light tapping or the gentle shake of a rattle and then, in enters Alex’s quavering, beautifully balanced between reedy and hollow voice. He opens his mouth wide when he sings. His face is expressive and he’s completely into the forming of the sounds and words, and at times I turn away and watch Ben drum to hear him better and not be distracted by the level of his concentration. These songs are intentional but without a heavy feeling, quite the contrary, they’re labored over so much so as to be laid on us ever so gently. It’s folk music with very modern rhythms and one might even say world music undertones. I’m reminded of The Bony King of Nowhere at different moments on the CD that The Soil and The Sun gave me, but not all over it, not in a way that colors it exactly. The background tape swirls around above and behind these two men who drum with increasing insistence and Alex hammers the beat out on the coffee can he’s screwed to the side of his bass drum for Spirit of Memory until the end of it is this tribal pounding, and his friends in the front, sitting near him have picked up instruments and joined in. Ben provides perfect backup vocals, and a gorgeous light touch on the melodica and tiny xylophone (?) Alex lays down drumsticks to pluck deftly at his guitar, it’s simply beautiful, achingly beautiful. There’s no separating the two of them in the music even if Ben does claim that Alex is the “genius here.” I’m not really buying that. By the end of their set, all of us were standing and clapping and hooting and I will admit that I might have begun breathing by then. I’ve no idea what I said to them when I attacked them talked to them afterward. I do remember punching Alex in the arm. Sorry! He said it didn’t hurt.

What’s next for these talented musicians? I’ll let you know darlings! I’m in the process of tracking them down. I would love to see their music everywhere, I think it’s that good and so do a few others I’ve spoken with in the past day or so. Right now The Soil and The Sun are giving their CDs away for donations at their shows. If they’re reading this, I hope this prods them to give me a call! I promise, no more punching :) xoxo - Love Shack, Baby

"Taking a look at The Soil & the Sun's latest CD"

This album, recorded by Peter Fox at Stone House Recording, begs you to turn it up to release its energy. With two drummers piling on tight syncopation and scattered rim shots, their thick rhythms are driving, almost tribal at times. Four of the nine members often layer vocals for a rich choral effect behind the lead singer. Toss in guitar, flute, oboe, recorder, piano, bass, violin, mandolin, harp, ukulele, tin whistles, bells, melodica, accordion, and cello, and it’s a big sound (whoah, track 3, “WestDownRightUpLeftEast”). It commands your ear and your attention, and if you lend it, it will likely swallow you for all five songs.Buy the EP at or for show dates, visit - On-the-Town


"What Wonder Is This Universe" self-released 2012
"Wake Up Child" self-released 2011
"There is No Death" self-released 2010
"I AM in Everything, Everywhere" self-released 2009



Birthed two years ago when given the opportunity to support Nashville harpist Timbre Cieprke on her summer '09 tour, the Soil & the Sun has grown from original members Ben and Alex into the 8 piece community of music-makers that it is today. It looks like this:

Ben plays drums, melodica, bells, and sings.
Alex plays guitar, drums, flute, and sings.
Ashley plays piano, accordion, oboe, and sings.
Michael plays bass, recorder, mandolin, and sings.
Jacki plays bells, keyboard, and sings.
William plays guitar and sings.
Joanna plays violin and sings.
Heather plays cello and sings.

the Soil & the Sun creates a gentle yet powerful sound of layered melodies, intricate harmonies, and intentional instrumentation, home-grown in Grand Rapids, Michigan.