Celebrating Cultures, Promoting Integration
Following their sold out show in Dublin last year SOJA return to the city to the stage of The Academy for a show on the 19th August. Together they blend a mixture of reggae, go-go, hip-hop, rock, latin, D.C hardcore all flavoured with a powerful positive message. Here is a recent chat I had with Jacob Hemphill ahead of their highly anticipated Dublin date.
The Band formed in D.C in 1997. What is the background with regards to the forming of SOJA forming in high school?
Yeah, me and Bob have been together since first grade and Ryan Berty since middle school and the rest of the guys since high school after that and we have been close for all our lives.
Some serious music has and is coming out of D.C, home of D.C hardcore and local funk genre go- go and both are a huge part of the music of SOJA, as is the message you put out there.
Yeah, that is a lot of what we try to do; it’s the roots-reggae with the funk and the hardcore and the funk and the go-go and that is the whole idea. The message is the main part and the energy of the music is the other main part of the thing and you get half of that from me and the other half from the band.
The new album Amid the Noise and Haste was eighteen months in the making. There were some impressive collaborations on the album, for example Damian Marley and Michael Franti, how did you choose who to feature on the album?
I think for us when writing a song it was a matter of choosing what was missing. We hear a song and we hear that it is almost done, we add some instruments and when it’s almost done I maybe change a verse and by that time it is almost done and there was a lot of time with Amid the Noise and Haste when we said “you know what..you know what this needs” and that is how we came across all of it.
With regards to the upcoming show is Dublin will you be playing mostly from the new album or can we expect a mixed bag with regards to work from previous albums?
Well, we have five records that people know well. What we normally do is we say we have an hour and a bit and we do five songs from the new record and then we work from the other four records, so it ends up being twenty one songs and it goes four, four, four, four and five.
With regards to writing and your own personal process of penning lyrics, do you have a set formula or are you always “on”, so to speak?
Yeah, I write twenty four hours a day. I have voice memos on my phone and the notes on my phone are really long and the book in my backpack is really full. It is always full with lyrics and chords and songs.
Before we spoke I was listening to “I Believe” and the message is so powerful. Do you believe as an artist it is very important to have a social conscience and put out powerful messages through your creativity and art?
You know, I think it is the fans are missing from music these days. Most bands these days are really, really bad and most musicians are very bad musicians. They learn how to computer program and so now they are musicians. So I think the fans are ready for music that doesn’t, like.. suck. And I think that has made our job really easy, because we are one of those few bands that doesn’t suck. It kinda makes it really easy for SOJA.
Music wise, what are you listening to today and what are your musical influences, historically speaking?
I think that what Lana Del Rey is doing is really cool, I think that what is going on in reggae right now is really cool. I think that what Catherine Lamar is doing is incredible. But I am just all over the genres, all I am really looking for is amazing musicians and if they are that, then I will listen to their record and have a good time. As far as the old stuff goes, Bob Marley.
We touched on something earlier and I wanted to ask you a bit more about it. It’s about go- go music and it has controversy associated with it, what is your take on this and the genre?
Well, go- go music has had a problem getting out of DC because go- go relies on playing other people’s music and making a go-go version of it, which is kind of like reggae. But go- go is gonna move, it going to get out of DC. People are going to know what go -go is in my lifetime. It’s a mission.
Could you could describe, Jacob, what music means to you in a couple of sentences?
I think music is the ultimate expression of art and your voice being the same thing. And I think that is what music does that nothing else really does, it is art with the words and with the voice all at the same time.
SOJA is coming to Dublin 19th of August, following a sold out show from last year. Do you any message for the fans here in Ireland?
We are very excited. We all have Jameson so we will be there soon! I think that love is the most important thing in the world. It is the thing that can change everything around us and it’s the one thing that nobody really cares about. A lot of the point of our stuff is to get that back to the way it is supposed to be. We get one day off in Dublin, which we are really, really excited about and then we do the rest of Europe. Dublin is closer to the end and then we do some festivals and some club dates and then we get ready for a five week US tour.