Smile Politely

Sitrus Sol shines bright with old sounds and new

Two musicians are present on stage; one appears to be playing the keyboard and the other, with long curly hair, is playing the guitar. Behind them, a large screen displays warm-toned floral visuals.
Sitrus Sol by Derrick Philips

Friends and bandmates Adam Brown and Matt Harsh from Sitrus Sol don’t shy away from their influences, even when those influences came from their parents’ music collection. Remember when that was an uncool thing to say? Sitrus Sol is unapologetic about giving a nod to the music they heard growing up, and their music is somewhat of a reflection of the sonic landscapes established by those “older” bands. However, that nod is partnered with a sense of exploration, and a genuine desire to make something entirely new, putting their own spin on semi-familiar grooves. These two young musicians are gearing up for some exciting gigs in the coming weeks (opening for Stay Outside at The Space May 17th, and the Solshine Reverie Festival in Chillicothe, Memorial Day weekend), but they made some time to sit down and discuss what makes them tick.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Smile Politely: I see that you are playing Solshine Reverie over Memorial Day Weekend. How did that come about?

Adam Brown: We won the Canopy Battle of the Bands competition back in February along with Half House. Solshine did a traveling competition around the US selecting bands to play at the festival. 

SP: Looking at this year’s amazing Solshine Reverie lineup, are there any particular acts you are looking forward to seeing?

Brown: We don’t have any set plan as of now but we’d like to catch John Summit and some of the other headliners as well as Half House. Mostly we want to go around and see new bands and try to meet people as well. 

SP: What initially inspired each of you to pursue music, and how did Sitrus Sol come together as a band?

Brown: We grew up playing music together and had the chance to record a song a few years ago. We just decided to keep pursuing it because we liked it so much. It’s nice to be able to perform and record as a means of self-expression.

SP: You have a unique sound that blends several genres. Who are your major musical influences and how have they shaped your music?

Matt Harsh: We both grew up listening to older music from the 70s and 80s that our parents liked. We love bands from around then like the Beatles, the Smiths, and Fleetwood Mac.

Brown: We also take inspiration from newer artists like Beach House, Mac Demarco, Her’s, and boy pablo. 

SP: If you could invent a brand new genre to describe your music, what would you call it?

Harsh and Brown: Psychedelic Indie Dream Glitter Wave.

SP: How has the Champaign-Urbana music scene influenced your development as a band?

Brown: We’ve loved being able to meet a lot of people and perform with them as well as learn from them and pick up performance tips, musical knowledge, etc. We also loved hosting shows as well and being a part of that community. Being surrounded by musicians and music lovers is great because they’re mostly all really accepting, caring and passionate people.

SP: Are there any non-musical influences that inspire your music?

Harsh: Physical places and strong emotional experiences are a significant influence on our writing. It’s easy to think of a certain time or place and use that as a starting point for a song.

Brown: I agree, things like the mountains and the outdoors are also big influences for me. I also draw some inspiration from painters as well. Monet, for example. 

A guitarist with long, curly hair is making a lively facial expression while playing an electric guitar. The musician is wearing a t-shirt and appears to be in a moment of joyful performance, contributing to the lively atmosphere of the concert.
Sitrus Sol by Anh-Khoi Pham (@photographypun on IG)

SP: “Next to Me” is a song you dedicated to “all the ‘sad people'” at a recent gig at Canopy Club. Can you discuss the theme and personal story behind this song?

Harsh: I was actually trying to make something for one of our friends to rap over that sounded kind of emo, but it eventually just became the song it is now over time. We kept jamming it and eventually decided to incorporate it into our set and record it. We’ve been working on it for a while and hope to release it as a single soon. 

Brown: I would say it’s one of our favorites to perform.

SP: You used pre-recorded backing tracks at your most recent gig, but I know you’ve played with a backing band before. Are there plans to add more band members again?

Brown: We are open to the idea of organically working with people in the future but for now we are focused on our duo set. We love playing with a live band and we also love using the tracks — they make for two different experiences.

SP: How do you ensure your performances create an intimate experience for your audience, despite the digital elements?

Brown: We definitely try to engage with the audience in between songs and try to make it a welcoming, relaxing, and entertaining experience for everyone. We just try to have fun playing the songs and then people will pick up on that and have fun themselves.

Harsh: We also take a lot of influence from Mac Demarco’s stage presence after we saw him live in 2019. He’s great at being able to make the crowd feel at home.

SP: How do you prepare for a live show, and what challenges do you face when translating your studio work to the stage?

Brown: We mostly just practice a lot in the days leading up to the show and make sure we sound tight and feel comfortable with the set. It can be challenging to make sure all of our backing tracks sound ready for each specific venue and figuring out the sound requirements with the venue beforehand but we’ve managed to make it work. Our pre-show ritual is some Jimmy John’s and making sure we’re warmed up for the stage.

SP: Are there any artists or bands you would dream of ever collaborating with?

Brown and Harsh: John Lennon and Green Day. 

SP: What are your long-term goals for Sitrus Sol, and how do you plan to achieve them?

Harsh: We plan on continuing to perform and record and develop our sound. Eventually, we want to move to a bigger city and keep making music there.

Brown: We’d love to plan out a longer tour and release an album or bigger project in the future as well.

Stay Outside, Emily How and Sitrus Sol
The Space
1 E Main St
Champaign
F May 17th, 8 p.m.
$12

Solshine Reverie Festival
Three Sisters Park
17189 IL 29
Chillicothe
May 24-26
$84.50 to $999.50

Music Editor

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