premiere: satchy balances soul-jazz and indie-rock

June 26, 2019
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At first, Satchy’s music sounds like a lovely anachronism, another textural throwback to a different part of our constantly repurposed past, this one to a moment in the 1970s and ’80s when soul-jazz mixed with rhythm and blues and a wonderfully adult Black pop came pouring out. But when guitarist Satchel “Satchy” Brown starts singing in a way that announces a love of classic alternative rock and indie-pop (think Beck or Pavement), the way-back machine breaks down. And as Ben Lindenburg’s saxophone, or Brown and Sean Tarpey’s Gibson guitars, begin to take an extended musical walk-about, what comes into focus is a wholly original vision.

You can hear it in full on “Balanced,” the first track from the Pasadena-raised artist and his quintet’s new album, Brown Lotus. Satchy opens like a garage band playing “Being With You”-era Smokey; but by the time the music comes up on the contemplative chorus (“Well, I don’t know what it is, that makes me feel so balanced with you”), it’s in another headspace entirely. And one strange enough, that AFROPUNK asked Satchel to help us understand how it came to be.

What is your musical background? The sound of Brown Lotus, your upcoming album, is a mix of soulful jazz and soft pop melodies, but also with this California indie songwriter attitude. Where does this mix come from?

Growing up I was always surrounded by Black music. My dad is a huge jazz head and would always be painting jazz artists, or doing some jazz musician’s album cover, and my mom was playing classic soul on the radio. So I took a lot of influence from that. Then, in high school, I started hanging out with a lot of musicians that loved rock and indie music, and I started little indie bands with these dudes and we would play gigs at little DIY venues around LA. But then around like junior year, my buddies and I started getting back into jazz, neo-soul, pretty much everything that was Black music. So I guess the mix is just from the different styles I was exposed to throughout my life, by my loved ones and friends.

Your guitar tone and style are very particular for a singer-guitarist. You could say more rhythm and texture-oriented, but you do play lead. Who are some of your guitar heroes?

I really love ’70s soul-jazz guitarists like Wah Wah Watson, George Benson, and David T. Walker. They all had some amazing rhythm and soul to their playing, and when they would play on other artist’s tracks, I loved how low-key but powerful they would sound. Those dudes got the best chops. More recent guys like Isaiah Sharkey and Morgan Burrs are huge inspirations as well.

If there is one core truth that you are trying to convey with your music, what is it?

Right now, it is authenticity. I want people to feel comfortable with themselves and their feelings when they listen to my music. I want people to feel relaxed and maybe let their soft side out a little bit. Especially with this record I really dug into my feelings and I let myself get extremely vulnerable, so that feeling could pass on to the listener and maybe bring some more positivity and love to their day.

Satchy’s new album, Brown Lotus, drops in late August.