There are a lot of retro soul bands that troll record stores for old, obscure soul gems to cover. Harry and the Hitmen do a little of that, but mostly they stick to the popular, crowd-pleasing Motown classics. They distinguish themselves in a completely different way; by adding a little jam-band flair.
“I think we’re all experimental rockers at heart. We all have a little more background in that—at least when the band started,” says drummer Harry Murphy. “We didn’t want to just cover the songs, because it’s hard enough to do those songs justice, like an Otis Redding or Diana Ross. That was definitely the idea of experimenting and improvising with each other.”
The band stays true to the essence of these popular tunes with some minor alterations, like with the harmonies or tempo. Where they really depart is at the end of the song—those can turn into full-on jam sessions, and their other influences like King Crimson and the Grateful Dead come into play.
They also write original tunes. Their originals though are pure retro-soul-style tunes, not jams. In fact, they are much less likely to jam out on one of their originals than on a popular old soul cover.
“We really want to write a hit, where all the songs sound like hit songs, a little more than a psychedelic jammy record—we want poppy, danceable soul songs,” Murphy says. “We’re trying to get the songs to where we feel good about them. Once we get more comfortable we can always add some more of those [jam] sections.”
There is an album of originals in the works. They haven’t had a chance to go in the studio and record them yet, but they will definitely play a lot of the songs at their New Year’s Eve dance party.
INFO: 9 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 31. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $20. 429-6994.