Big Stone Soup is a brand new band, but its members go way back together.
Keyboardist Steve Sofranko met guitarist Jerry Brown back in 1988 at a Grateful Dead concert in Maine. Both of them had been following the Dead around and hit it off, and drove back to the Bay Area together. Once there, Brown helped Sofranko get his keyboard out of storage, and they have been playing music together off and on ever since.
As for guitarist Matt Hartle, he’s been in the mix for well over a decade. So even though they didn’t have a lot of time to practice for their first show last April, it didn’t really matter.
“Musically, we can all just finish each other’s sentences,” says Sofranko.
Hartle and Sofranko, for instance, are also in the Grateful Dead tribute band The China Cats, as well as Spirit of ’76 (another Dead tribute band), so they make a point not to cover Dead songs in Big Stone Soup. Their originals fall into the category of blues-psychedelic rock and complex jam-band tunes penned by Hartle and Brown. Their covers are an eclectic array of rock, reggae and soul tunes by artists such as Talking Heads, Derek and the Dominos, Traffic, Eric Clapton, Chuck Berry, Peter Tosh and Ray Charles. Whatever the song, they have their own approach to it.
“We like doing covers, but they’re not note for note reproductions of any songs—not even close to that. We definitely have our own interpretation—a very funky, loose, danceable, grooveable interpretation of a lot of these classic tunes. It’s not a real modern style. It’s a throwback to the ’70s kind of vibe,” says Sofranko.
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