Rafael Rodriguez (trumpet), Bobby Lee (bass, vocals), Hellman Escorcia (saxophone), Jacob Hemphill (lead vocals, guitar), Patrick O’Shea (keyboards), Ryan Berty (drums), Kenny Bongos (percussion), Trevor Young (lead guitar)
They’ve raised the bar with Strength To Survive, their fourth full-length album, an intoxicating mix of hot-rod reggae grooves and urgent, zeitgeist-capturing themes. The album, produced by John Alagia (Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, O.A.R.), is the band’s first for ATO Records, the label co-founded by Dave Matthews.
Hemphill says the album was greatly inspired by Bob Marley’s Survival. “That’s the greatest reggae album ever made,” he says. “It has the best basslines and the best lyrics ever heard on one record. Marley wrote it after he went to Africa. I was 13 or 14 when I listened to it for the first time and it triggered all these long-forgotten memories of when I lived in Africa as a kid. My dad was an IMF res rep in Liberia in the late 80’s. I remember when the coup first started- my family had to hide in these iron bathtubs for 3 days because the military was shooting at everything. I was 7 and that was one of my first memories. We made it out on the last flight. So Africa was always a big part of our lives- it defined our family, in a way. Music came right after that, so, for me, music was always tied to Africa and music was always something powerful.”
Shortly after returning from Africa, Hemphill met Bobby Lee (bass) in the first grade in Virginia. The two instantly became best friends, finding common ground through their love of hip hop, rock and reggae which they performed together at their middle school talent shows. Throughout high school, they met Ryan Berty (drums), Kenneth Brownell (percussion) and Patrick O’Shea (keyboards) and together formed SOJA. The band gigged locally in the D.C. area while a couple .......