With a burst of southern charm and kindness, Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics took the stage at Rockwood Music Hall. In no time, they took the crowd as well. They didn’t do it with charm alone: Substance permeates their all-inclusive sounds, which run the gamut from Classic Rock to Blues to R&B to even a dash of Disco. Velle describes the band’s new album, “The State of All Things” as “seeing the human condition as a loving condition, first and finally.”
This 7-piece from Atlanta are no newcomers — they’ve been at it since 2005. They released their first singles in 2010, and their first full-length, “It’s About Time,” in 2012. Velle said the title track of that album “was really critical for us, and ended up on Ray Donovan Season 3. That was a catalyst for me to understand what my words could do in the world.”
After realizing some success, the band went through, as Velle called it, “all these forms of tiny separations:” The band left its old label, and began restructuring. They found parallels with what was happening to them personally and what was happening in the U.S. “It became clear that we as a collective are going through a period of separation, and it’s up to us as artists to write about that, and express that,” Velle said. “Things might be shitty right now, but we’re gonna get through this.”
This philosophy paved the way for “The State of All Things.” “We’re just trying to create a snapshot of Now, and what that looks like,” Velle said. “I believe that things are cyclical, but I also believe that we can empower ourselves as humans, as a woman race as well, to not only solve these problems, but to go beyond them to create the unification that we want to see in the world.”
“I believe that we can do something. It’s that belief that it is possible, but if we don’t try, if we don’t say, if we don’t do, if we don’t act, then it won’t happen,” Velle said. “We can change it – we have the power to change it – we just don’t think we do because of the current setup of the system. It’s not going to stop us from getting families back together, because that’s the loving condition.”
Despite the gravity of these themes, the band’s sound and content feel quite diverse. “We really do love the balance of shake your hips and use your brain – you know, use it all like we are,” Velle said.
Velle isn’t a soapbox preacher in any means: She’s the real deal. In addition to fronting the Soulphonics, Velle is also an advocate and board member of a group called Girls Rock Camp in Atlanta. She said the group advocates for women and those who identify as women to “express themselves through music, and hopefully in turn, will encourage them to become freedom fighters as well.” Velle said she’s come to realize that the people at the top of the (music) industry aren’t concerned with freedom fighting, but that is her mission as an artist.
To further that mission, on June 23, Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics will perform at the America Now event outside the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian, in Washington, D.C. Velle said the event features “freedom fighters who are also immigrant children that have grown up in America and what are they doing in America.” They’ll be featuring the band in a spotlight as well as DC Hip Hop artist, Oddisee, and DJ Ayes Cold. To Velle, this means more than a Grammy: “When we found out we got it, I just hit the floor and started crying because I thought, wow, somebody’s recognizing this legacy that I’m trying to build,” she said.
Catch Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics on their upcoming tour dates:
June 21st | 9th Ward, Buffalo NY
June 23rd | Smithsonian Institute America Now: Unites; DC
July 7th | Festival for the Eno – Durham NC
July 8th | Sunday Exchange Concert Series, Aberdeen, NC
July 28th | Bragg Jam, Macon GA
August 31st | Mauch Chunk Opera House, Jim Thorpe PA
September 2nd | Blues Views & BBQ Festival, Westport, CT
September 9th | Sellersville Theatre 1894, Sellersville PA
Make sure to check out their new critically acclaimed album ‘The State of All Things‘