After more than a decade of playing music, itâ€™s hard to believe Santa Cruz soul act Harry and the Hitmen hasnâ€™t made a studio album until now.
â€œWe did a little bit of studio recording in the past, but that was a long time ago and it was more of a demo,â€ explains drummer Harry Murphy. â€œUp until the last couple of years, we were pretty much a cover band.â€
The soulful sextet began in Santa Cruz roughly a decade agoâ€”although Murphy canâ€™t remember the exact yearâ€”while the musicians were all in college. Originally, Harry wasnâ€™t their drummer. Rolf Sandmeyer, Nick Gyorkos, Ryan Morgan, Scott Makson and Jesse Toews â€œalmost had a band,â€ before their original drummer moved. Murphy had been working with one of the guysâ€™ girlfriends at the time, and mentioned he played drums. Soon, Murphy would find his soul mates.
â€œWe all grew up on [soul music] in one way or another, and we all agreed they were some of the best songs ever written,â€ he says. â€œPlus, we all wanted to make people dance.â€
After years of exploring the original Motown soundâ€”from Marvin Gaye to the Four Topsâ€”the six-piece crew decided to branch out. Through the years they mapped an expedition through the music of Stax and Chess Records, Al Green, Kool & the Gang, Curtis Mayfield, Aretha Franklin and everything in between.
One of things that makes the group special is that the lineup has stayed togetherâ€”most bands have a hard time keeping three or four members together for a couple years, let alone six people for a dozen years.
â€œThe guys in the band are salt-of-the-Earth kind of people,â€ Murphy says with sincerity in his voice. â€œYou canâ€™t really find better people than that.â€
As Harry and the Hitmen continued to play their souls out over the years, one goal eluded them: writing and recording an album of originals.
â€œWe kept saying to ourselves, â€˜We really need to buckle down and write our own stuff,â€™â€ Murphy remembers. â€œSo thatâ€™s what we did.â€
The result is their 10-song debut, Deep In Your Soul, which features new music from the seasoned band. While the CD release party was Dec. 9 in Big Sur at the Fernwood Resort, the Hitmen plan to celebrate it in Santa Cruz, too.
â€œWeâ€™re waiting for the vinyl for an official Santa Cruz release party,â€ says Murphy. â€œWeâ€™re hoping it will be sometime in March.â€
While Deep In Your Soul features all original music written by Harry and the Hitmen, some of the songs may sound familiar to hardcore fans.
â€œWe debuted some of the music on New Yearâ€™s Eves past,â€ he states.
Which brings us to their three-night New Yearâ€™s Eve Extravaganza at the Crepe Place. Beginning on Thursday, Dec. 29, HAHM will play the midtown spot with special guests the first two nights (the Vitamins and Ginger and Juice, respectively). On Dec. 31, they will play a show that spans their past and future sounds, possibly with some special covers thrown in the mix, if past NYE shows are any indication.
â€œThis might be the seventh, eighth or even 10th time weâ€™ve played New Yearâ€™s Eve at the Crepe,â€ Murphy reminisces. â€œWe try to make it better and bigger each time.â€
Info: 9 p.m. at the Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $10, $15, $20/door. 429-6994.