Owl Eyes met up with Wallis Grant, President of SoulSoc this week to discuss Otis, Aretha and Marvin…and what they’ve got coming up for On The Rocks…
As you’re SoulSoc President, I suppose what I should be asking you is, what is it all about?
WG: Basically we are an appreciation group for soul music. So Motown, 70s soul, 80s soul, anything like that. We have a really broad, encompassing span because there’s Jazz Society, but there’s not really anything else that covers that genre here.
Yeah, the music scene in St Andrews isn’t really that diverse. Do you have any examples of what you listen to?
WG: Yeah, there’s Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross…
And if you had to choose one favourite track?
WG: One favourite track… umm… I’d probably go with 'Come Get to This' by Marvin Gaye
How did it get started? Who’s involved and how old is it?
WG: It is about four or five years old, I think. Basically the fourth years that left this year, a guy called Greg O’Connor, he started it in his first year; so it’s quite old. They started doing it more among their friends because he is really involved with Northern Soul, which is a branch of it. And then, I joined last year and I have quite a broad taste in it whereas there’s was quite specific; and a lot of people only listen to Motown and stuff. But they were great and ran it for four years and did quite a lot of different things…
WG: Nurtured it, yeah. I think they were quite sad to give it up to me last year. But it was good – it’s nice, I was always planning on getting involved with something when I came to uni.
Has this always been something you’ve been interested in?
WG: My parents are into the Northern soul scene, so I’ve grown up with my whole family listening to it. So as a child I didn’t really listen to any “white” music until I was about ten, seriously, in my house, it wasn’t allowed. And I kind of strayed away when I was about fifteen and became a little indie kid and then came back to it. So I think I appreciate it more than I used to, knowing that I do actually really like it, not just because my parents do. I genuinely have an interest.
So how do people get involved?
WG: We generally have Monday meetings with me and a few others who come along. We’re trying to do collaborations with other societies, because we are quite a small society. We did a sixties night called Audio 60 which was with SwingSoc, which was really fun. Unfortunately the night we did it was Welly Ball night, so we didn’t get as many people as we thought we would. But it was quite a small crowd which was still really good. And we will also be doing Soul-Kitchen at the end of the year. Basically Sam (a founding member) was a fantastic cook – and still is – so he did this night where he cooked Southern Food like jambalaya and we just eat good food, chill and listen to good music. We will hopefully do that after the holidays.
Is that in collaboration with any foodie societies?
WG: Maybe, because I don’t cook at all…
But anyone is welcome to join, we have a facebook page where we post music and talk between us. And obviously we have the radio show, which is probably our main thing.
What happens on that?
WG: We just play music, usually with a different theme each week. And I usually try to bring different people along because there’s myself and our radio officer, Aaron Cunningham who oversees stuff, but it’s mostly just me and whoever wants to come on. So we’ve had Erik Svanberg on, who is really into modern soul and a few other people to create a nice diverse mix. I try to incorporate stuff about the background of soul music into the radio too because a lot of people don’t know about it.
When is the radio show?
WG: It’s on Wednesday 7 ‘til 8.
Seems like an appropriate time for soul music.
WG: Yeah, quite a lot of people listen to it before they go out or for pre-drinking.
If someone were going to get into Soul, where would they start?
WG: There are so many different branches, but I think it would have to be Aretha Franklin and then Motown definitely, and from there just make your way through. I mean, there are so many cross-references because 70s soul can go quite far into disco and modern stuff encroaches into R&B. But we just embrace everything!
Have you got anything else coming up?
WG: Yes! We are doing an On The Rocks thing with RockSoc and TradSoc, which is just a diverse open-mic night. It is the 12th April, free entry open-mic night for people to just get up and it’s just going to be a diverse mix of music in Venue 2 as part of On The Rocks. Come along!