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Interview Soldiers Of Solace

Soldiers of Solace

Soldiers of Solace is an original heavy rock band from the Hartford, CT area consisting of Jason Longo (vocals), Ron Terrien (bass), Jeff Fahy (lead guitar),

Francesco Daniele (drums), and Luis Cubille (rhythm guitar).  The guys came to visit me in my small town of Westerly for some coffee and a chat at Perks and Corks.
By: Nina McCarthy, Music Journalist

(L-R) Luis, Jason, Ron, Francesco
Jeff was unable to join us for the interview.

BRR:  Can you explain the band history and name, Soldiers of Solace?

Jason:  I’ll probably go into a couple of your questions from here, but when we all got together, we all came from a history of music.  Luis and I met many years ago when he played for a band called Lost and I played for a band called Not For Nothing.  This was maybe 10 or 15 years ago.  We always sort of knew that we’d eventually get into a project together, just not when or how.  Through the years we were in many different projects.  Years went by I got together with Ron.  We met at our gym in the sauna.

BRR:  With our without towels?

Jason:  I’m not answering that!  But we started talking about forming a band together and we got together and formed a band.  This is two bands ago.  I think over the course of time those bands dissolved and we decided to come back together and try to do something again.  We put a lot of work into it. We thought about the idea of creating something and we wanted to make sure we had the right members to really come together for the right product.  From there, I went online and I had an ad out for a drummer and Francesco just came from Italy a couple months before this, right?

Francesco:  About a month and a half in the country.

Jason:  He had an ad on Craigslist, “an Italian drummer looking for an American Rock band”.  I thought it was kismet.  It was absolutely just perfect and I responded to him.  He came in and auditioned for Ron and I and a couple other members that aren’t with us anymore.  It worked out really well immediately.  Then we got a hold of Luis and our other guitarist, Jeff, who actually came from Luis’ past.  Luis brought Jeff on and it was a perfect match for us.  As far as the name of the band goes, that was a collective effort.  I personally always loved the word solace.  I had set off in my life to find solace in talking to people and I’ve always been an advocate for people with special needs, an advocate for the underdog always.  I’ve always run group homes for people with special needs, so the word solace always meant a lot to me. And the Soldiers of Solace because we wanted to move forward and fight the good fight.  There’s a lot of negativity out there and we wanted to be that one band out there that is actually willing to get their hands dirty for the right reasons.  We kind of went around and got ideas for the name and I pitched the name Soldiers of Solace and the guys liked it and we adopted it.

BRR:  When did you initially form?

Jason:  We formed officially back in September-ish.  We all come from a deep history of music so we have some established connections and friends out there in the industry, local as well as not so local industry, that sort of advocate for us and believe in our mission.  Not to say that it was easy, because it’s never easy.  But the bridges that we built in the past have enabled us to kind of cross waters that a lot of people may not have the opportunity for because we don’t burn bridges.

BRR: Yes, that’s very important.

Jason:  Today you see a lot of people out there who aren’t willing to work and sweat.  We are all kind of old school guys and we know you need to sweat and make your name and gain respect.  You just can’t expect it when you walk into a room.

BRR:  Can I ask each of you your musical backgrounds?

Luis:  I played for my previous first band.  I gave up music after high school, got married, had kids and 20 years later got back into it.  I was in a cover band for 5 years.  That started it off now that I’m older, then I took some time off and went through a divorce and things like that then I was like, “I have all this equipment, I have to start doing something”.  I got into another band playing bass.  I’m not a bass player but I learned it and did it for the past 4 years and I got to the point where we weren’t going anywhere and all of us pretty much separated and then I wanted to go back to guitar.  Guitar is my passion.  I’ve been playing guitar for a good 15 years now and now I’m doing what I want to do and a lot of doors have been opening up so I’m shocked and thankful at the same time.

Francesco:  I’ve toured for the last 15, almost 20 years in Europe and Italy as a musician, drum tech, tour manager, so music was always my life.  It was my dream since I was in High School to do something in music.  After 15 years I got stuck, trying to make that big step, something better, so I thought I’d come here and find my dream with American bands trying to do something maybe different to continue my passion.  So, I came here and found Jason after a couple weird people called me.  I thought I’d try something different because I’m a Thrash Metal guy.  My favorite bands growing up were Metallica, Pantera, Simple Tour...I remember buying my first couple of records when I was 12 was Kill ‘Em All from Metallica and the first record from Simple Tour.  I tried to put my influence into different kind of rock by adding a little Thrash Metal into the Modern Hard Rock so it sounds a little different.  Now I’m here doing the best that I can.

Ron:  I was 16 or 17 when I started playing bass in a rock band.  Actually their bass player went into the Navy and I said, “I can play bass.”  We jammed, I bought a bass and my mother hated it.  I kind of muddled my way through but then I decided to go in the Air Force.  In the Air Force I played with as many people as I could and learned as much as I could and jammed all 4 years of the Service.  Then I got out and I got married.  Then all of sudden playing music and being married became a big issue and how to raise our kids, so I stopped playing music for 12 years.  About 5 or 6 years ago I hooked up with this Open Mic night with my bass and a bunch of musicians playing classic rock.  I was playing a lot and I hooked up with Jason in the sauna.

Jason:  We did not hook up in the sauna, although he is a very good looking guy.  (everyone laughs)  For me I have always believed that you don’t choose music, it chooses you, like any other art.  I’ve always been an artist with visual arts and fine arts.  The first time I really realized that I wanted to sing on stage I was 14 years old.  My brother was 3 years older than me and he brought me to a bar and they had a Blues band playing and he insisted that I get up onstage and sing with this Blues band in front of all these adults.  I sang a Blues song that made up myself and everybody loved it.

BRR:  Were you ever singing before that in front of people?

Jason:  No.  My brother was a huge inspiration for me because he always believed in me and he always knew that I had a talent and he pushed me to do something with it. When he saw the opportunity for me to sing onstage he said I needed to get up there and do something, so I did it.  I felt that fire that I had never felt before during the song that people were actually listening and we're connecting with what I was singing.  From that moment, I always wanted to be onstage and write music and sing.  I liked the idea of writing and composing and creating.  A few years later, I was a typical teenage that did a lot of partying and a lot of stuff I shouldn’t have been doing, and in my young 20s I got involved with a group of guys just hanging out and one night got into a bar fight.  The bar fight went bad and I ended up hurting someone pretty badly in the bar fight and went to prison for about a year and a half.  While I was in prison, this was in my late 20s now, I remember thinking to myself that I needed to do something to keep myself occupied besides pushups and pullups, so I started to write music and I started to sing.  I was a cook in prison and I was pushing the cart around the block delivering food and I was singing a song out loud (there were really good acoustics in prison) and there was 70 yo African-American gentleman who was in prison for like 3 consecutive life terms and he stopped me one day and said, “Boy, you better do something with that when you get out.” and I said, “What?” and he said, “Your voice, because I can’t.”  He was a singer and will never see the light of day again.  At that moment it hit me that just because I have the opportunity, that when I get out I need to do something with this.  Further into the story, I remember hearing that Johnny Cash died and he was one of my idols growing up and I remember thinking to myself that this was a sign.  When I got home, the first thing I did was start my own band called Not For Nothing.  It was named that meaning that the time I did was “not for nothing”, there was reason for it.  Since then it’s been a serious of trial and error, us doing what I think works the best as a business person.  I own two small businesses.  Trying to make the right connections for the right reasons and doing things for the right reasons.  We try to make sure we’re not writing for the sake of selling.  We’re writing for the sake of writing great music, but it happens to be something people really want all of a sudden.  It seems like we found our sweet spot together.  I hope that answers your question, 20 minutes later. (laughs)

BRR: Yes. We’re only going on question 3!  What are your musical influences?

Luis:  Musically, it starts way back as a kid, listening to Elvis and Johnny Cash. I stand in front of the TV with my stupid little plastic guitar and make believe I was playing.  As I got older I went straight to the rock, you know, Metallica and Black Sabbath right from the start and Iron Maiden too. There are a lot of other old school bands out there that were my foundation from the start.  I’ve played a whole variety of music from Southern Rock to Heavy Metal.  I think all our different styles makes us who we are now.

BRR:  Francesco, we kind of covered yours.

Francesco:  Yeah, Thrash Metal.  I like a lot of modern music too, probably because I'm the younger one here.  I really love Machine Head and I like Five Finger Death Punch.  I’m pretty much a metal head.  Led Zeppelin is my favorite old band of all.

Ron:  For me, Black Sabbath for influence.  I was really into Rush.  I also like a lot of bass lines in Paul McCartney’s stuff that he writes.  For me it’s a little bit different.  My first influences were Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, The Rat Pack.  I think one of the reasons I loved Frank Sinatra so much is because he never wrote any of his old music, his own lyrics, but he was the ultimate frontman.  One thing he said was, “You don’t sing the notes, you sing the space between the notes.”  I sort of feel that way.  We watch a lot of bands play and there are a lot of talented people out there, but it's like having nice jewelry and wearing everything you have at the same time.  It’s important to have empty space.  But, I would say Sinatra, Johnny Cash and even in the past I liked Engelbert Humperdinck, and Neil Diamond was one of the greatest performers I’ve ever seen and Barry Manilow.  For newer stuff, I love Shinedown.  Pearl Jam was always a big influence of mine and Bon Jovi, great huge hooks on an 80s kid.  I love the book hooks and choruses on his songs and Metallica.

BRR:  You haven’t been playing out that long as SOS but you have already opened for some big names like Nonpoint, Jasta, Scott Stapp.  What do you think has contributed to your quick success?

Jason:  Like I mentioned earlier, a lot of the connections we have were established throughout all of our careers even though we have only been playing together for a limited time.  We all have been playing out for 10-15 years.  We all have a long history in music and performing.  I also think it has a lot to do with our professionalism and the way we handle ourselves.  We conduct ourselves in a manner that’s conducive to moving forward, not just staying complacent.  We realize we have a great product and we are thankful and humble for that, but we take that product and try to put it in the right hands as opposed to play the same county bars over and over again.  We would rather play a few shows a year that are strategically placed as opposed to playing the same bars every night.  I think that’s what contributes to it a lot as well.

BRR:  I agree with that.

Jason:  And if you could please put this in the interview I’d appreciate it.  We owe a huge thanks to the engineer and recording engineer, Chris Harris aka Zeus, from Massachusetts.  He typically doesn’t record local bands.  I met him through a past band and he really likes us and supports us and records and engineers us.  He’s a big name for us to be connected with with, but more than that, he’s a great talent and great friend and he has really helped us sort of get to our next level with our music.  I’ll even throw names out there like Mike Karolyi from irockradio.  I know it’s a different station but he has been a supporter of mine and ours for many, many years. When opportunities pop up and they look at our name I think they are appreciative of it so I think they give us opportunities that might now be available for most people.

BRR:  That’s true.  I meet a lot of bands and some are really good, but I don’t care how good your music is if you don’t treat me decent, then I’m not going to deal with you.  You released the new single “Rude Awakening” in May, is that the name of the album as well?

Jason:  Right now we just released the single.  We’ve actually done a bunch of recording since then but right now we’re trying to decide if we are going to use the recordings that we’ve done for a full album in about a year, or next Spring.

BRR:  Can you tell me about the song “Rude Awakening”...the meaning and writing process?

Jason:  Musically, it’s more of these guys since they are the ones who wrote the music for it.

Francesco:  It just came out one day.  For some reason not everyone could play and we had the practice room so Luis and I were jamming and we started playing for like an hour and that’s how it happened.  Then the week after when we had everybody we played it, added bass lines, and Jason started singing almost immediately.  We started working on it together and it was kind of cool because this kind of magic happened.  We only had one guitar then because Jeff wasn’t in the band.  The week after Jeff came for an audition and he slotted it right away. 

Ron:  We were practicing that song when he came in and I was trying to figure it out.  We were going to scrap that song because I wasn’t happy with.  When everyone did it together, I was like “Wow!”

Francesco:  With Jeff it was a different way of how we approached it and it was cool.  Usually the guitar starts and I get their riffs.

BRR:  It all started with the drums?

Francesco:  Yes, I had something in my mind that was really heavy and fast and right away there was just chemistry between us.

Jason:  It’s going to sound crazy, but my favorite sculptor is Michelangelo and I was going to college for art and I remember a story about him in art history.  When Michelangelo was a little boy and he was on his father’s rock quarry and he saw this huge chunk of marble and he asked his father to save it for him for when he got older.  His father asked him why and he told his father that there was a man trapped inside of it that he had to be released.  This was the statue of David that he later carved out of that chunk of marble.  So he always said, “I don't create things, I release them.  They are already there.”  I feel that when we play together, for the first time ever, that there is this sort of kismet that the song is already in existence and we are just sort of chipping away at the extraneous to find it, to release it.  When I heard these guys play it, the lyrics just came to me immediately.  Like the definition of insanity, it's repeating the same behavior over and over again but expecting a different outcome, then being surprised when you don't get a different outcome.  That's really what the lyrics are about.  I know myself, personally, that I've been in situations in my life and get negative consequences and not really understand why I'm getting negative consequences.  So, I think at this age, I've gained a little bit of wisdom and now I sort of understand that that nothing comes from nothing and if you put negativity in, you're going to get negativity out.  I'll say, ironically, and it wasn't really a public thing, but I don't mind the world knowing, but about 2 weeks after we recorded the song I wasn't sleeping right, I was up late going to CD release parties, you name it. I woke up the next day and had a pain in my chest and my heart went into Atrial Fibrillation.  I had to go to the hospital and they had to shock my heart and restart my heart and this was about a week after we recorded the song,  I remember laying on the bed and the doctor told me I had to change some of the things in my lifestyle or else I was going to have a negative outcome.  I remember thinking to myself that the lyrics to the song were a premonition to what I went through the week after in the hospital.  It really was a rude awakening in that I've had to adopt a healthier lifestyle, because I already had a pretty healthy lifestyle.  I think lyrically it's just about the idea of insanity, and repeating the same bad behavior over and over again. 

BRR:  Does that Atrial Fib affect your performing now?

Jason:  No, it was a fluke thing.  The doctor said I'm fine now and everything is good.  I remember when he told me that they were going to have to stop my heart and reset it to get it back into a normal rhythm, people say you see your life pass before you, and I have a 14 yo daughter and a wife that I love more than anything in the world.  I remember thinking to myself that if they put me out and I don't wake back up again, none of that stuff is worth it and it means nothing.  That was a big rude awakening for me.

BRR:  So true.  I almost died in 2006,  I had a blood clot in my leg and 3 in my lungs.  I went through the same thing and re-evaluated my life.  I was always doing everything for everybody but I learned I had to take care of myself first.

Jason:  My father is a farmer in Italy.  I'm the first generation here.  We had a big garden and I wanted to take everything and give it to my friends.  My father said, You have to leave something here or the garden is going to die and we won't be able to eat and plant food for other people.  You have to sustain yourself first to be able to give to other people.  I think as artists we tend to express and give, give, give but you need to realize you need to feed and nourish your soul.

BRR:  Exactly  I read in your bio that your music is about self advocacy and empowerment.  Can you explain that further?

Jason:  As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always been involved with kids with special needs to a certain extent.  When I was a kid, I was always a bigger kid and was never pushed around, but I witnessed people being pushed around.  I remember seeing a young boy who was mentally challenged get on the bus, and when I was a kid there was no real classification or diagnosis.  When he got on the bus everyone moved over so he couldn't sit down.  I remember thinking to myself that somebody needs to do something here and I stood up and said,  “If you are going to mess with him, you are going to mess with me.”  Nobody messed with him after that and I let him sit with me and he became a friend of mine.  That's when I first realized I wanted to get involved with people with special needs and advocate for people.  I think through the lyrics, yes there are problems in the world and a lot of things to complain about, but if all you do is identify them and complain about them, nothing gets solved.  We, as a band, try to conduct ourselves in a professional way so we can infiltrate and put ourselves in a position of power so we can actually change things, not just sit around and complain about it.  I think as human beings we have immense power.  We are doers and deciders.  Once our decision becomes clear, the doing becomes effortless.  If you truly decide to change something about yourself, you have the power to do it, if you believe in yourself.  When I was in prison, I was at the lowest point in my life.  I remember looking at my calendar and saying, “Man, I have 437 more days, how am I going to do this?”  I had a little picture of my daughter  (she was 6 months old when I went away) on my bunk and every day I would look at that and that's what got me through everyday.  When I came out she was 2 years old.  But, I survived and I thrived and I have a great relationship with her now.  In general, I think the idea of our music is to just reach that part of you that is the warrior within.  You might not even realize you have that ability to throw one more punch, take one more breath, to not give in.  I've had friends commit suicide over the years, and it's an unfortunate reality that we face in society.  I feel like there is always hope that things will get better.  I think that our music makes people realize that they always have hope for more than they feel at the moment.

BRR:  Are they any plans in the works for a video for “Rude Awakening”?

Jason:  I would love to make a video for it.  We're looking for the right person to record it.

BRR:  I did see you live at Webster Theater and you are very lively, very animated. The music is amazing, but the live show was even more incredible

Ron:  We're not just musicians, we are also performers. 

BRR: .  I enjoyed it, so tell me why you think others should see you live.

Jason:  I'm going to say this point blank.  If you want to listen to a CD, there's jukeboxes in bars for that.  I personally feel that when someone listens to your music and they connect with it, when they come to a show they want to feel engaged or a part of the song.  They're not there to witness the song.  I feel that when you're onstage and engage the crowd, they feel like they are now part of the song.  When they hear that song later when they are driving their car, they get it and it's a part of their soul.

BRR:  They re-live that moment.

Jason:  Exactly.  When you go to a show, you are going for the show, not just for the music.  I think when you see a band perform the music, you're getting that face to face interaction and I think 93% of communication is nonverbal.  Scientifically, only 7% is verbal, believe it or not.  That 93% of nonverbal communication happens when you're onstage and people get what you were feeling when you wrote that song.  Francesco is an animal on drums.  He’s awesome, and everyone has their own way of expressing themselves.  On stage, my way is very animated.  I leave it all on the stage, all my rage, all my happiness, all my love for the songs that I write lyrically.  The worst someone can say is that they didn't like it and that doesn't bother me.  Its ok.

BRR:  You can't please everybody.

Francesco:  It's the same.  I have big tattoos on my arms and it explains my theory about how you look and what people think about you.  You are not inked the way you are inside.  If you meet me outside the stage, I am kind of quiet.  On stage something happens to me like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  People ask if I'm always angry like that.  I'm not angry, it's just my style.

BRR:  I find that with a lot of musicians.  They're kind of quiet and reserved until they are onstage.

Francesco:  When I started playing drums I was about 11.  My big hero of all time was always David Grohl from Nirvana and Foo Fighters.  I'd sit in front of the TV and play drums with Nirvana videos watching David Grohl and my mom would be like,  “ What are you doing?"  I like to watch the crowd when onstage.  As a musician I think you have to bring the show and give 100% to the people in front of you.  They pay to see your shows, they deserve it.

Jason:  It's a conversation you're having with the audience.  You feed off of them and they feed off of you.  We’re very blessed, like when we played with Jasta and Nonpoint, we are playing for crowds that are along our genre, which is great.  I remember when I was younger and I played a show where there was maybe 10 people in the crowd and I was really depressed after.  I didn't perform well.  I learned a long time ago when my wife told me I shouldn't perform based on the amount of people that are there and that I should perform the same for 10 or 3,000 people and be me.  That's how I perform every show now.  I give it everything that I have.  It's the same thing with these guys and that's why I love being with them onstage.  We feed off of each other.

BRR:  Those 10 people can be your next 10 biggest fans.

Jason:  Plus, they deserve that.  It's insulting to your fans when you're telling them blatantly that I'm not going to give you my all because it's not worth it to me because there's not enough people here.  If there's one person I can reach with a song, that's ok.  They are going to get everything I have and hopefully go home and tell people.  Many years ago, I had a guy come up to me onstage and tell me that one of my songs kept him from killing himself.  What if I didn't perform that night?  That 1 guy wouldn't have heard it.

BRR:  Do you think an online presence is important?

Jason:  Yes!  We are in the digital age.  Anyone with a lawnmower can be a landscaper.  Anybody with a recording device can be a producer.  That's the downfall of the digital age.  The upside of is it is, people like you and like us that are striving to try to get out there and get our music heard, it's the medium of being able to be out there and get heard, and like with this interview, have many countries understand what your band is about.  We don't get involved in the drama and all that online because it's way too easy to get sucked into that.  We try to stay positive in every aspect.  The radio stations that have been supporting us online have been great, including Boston Rock Radio.  On that note, this year we hope to get out into Massachusetts and play on a regular basis because we think our music would resignate well with people in this area.  We really appreciate being on Boston Rock Radio.

Ron:  Very much so.  Most of the radio stations are just playing classic rock and not the new stuff.  Internet stations are playing all the new stuff.  It's a very important tool for us.  Internet radio can be listened to anywhere.  Otherwise, nobody would ever hear us.

BRR:  Were listened to in over 90 countries right now in just a little over a year.

Jason:  It's not like it was years ago where there are scouts going club to club and when they see a great band they will discover you and sign you.  Bands need to create a brand.  Right now we are interested in having record labels notice us and we are trying to find legitimate management to help guide us to the next step and introduce us to the right people and put us in front of some showcases for labels.  It doesn't have to be a major label, but a label that will help us and support us.  Along those lines, that's kind of what is in our future in the next year or so.  We want to play as many strategically placed shows as possible and again, I stress Mass.  I think that is an important direction for us, to get out of our state and play some more venues in front of more people. Like the Jasta show that we played, it put us in front of a couple thousand people that were immediate fans because they liked what we were playing.  We feel confident enough that if we get in front of a larger crowd, or any crowd, that we are going to bring something that people are going to go home liking.

BRR:  I met a girl that night named Tammy that was there to see Nonpoint.  She commented on a video you posted on how animated you were.  She loved you guys.

Luis:  There was a kid that night that came up to talk to me.  It was his first rock show and he said he was in the front row and loved us.  I told him we had a CD coming out with a single and he messaged me his address so I could mail it to him.

Jason:  When we look for opportunities, it's never with our hand out.  It's always a mutual thing where I think we have just as much to give that someone is willing to give us.  I think we have a lot to give back to a lot of people.

BRR: I've really enjoyed getting to know you guys and look forward to seeing what the future holds for you.

(Since this interview, SOS has released a new single, “Freedom's Children”, “an inspirational, American, heavy rock anthem” available on all major digital distribution sites.  Make sure to check it out!  It will be available soon for request on BRR!)

The first five people who read this and email me will receive a free download code for “Rude Awakening”.

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