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Photo By James Moses
Sol 17

Sol 17

Agenda: Music World Domination

By David Lilly. Photos by James Moses

When the atmosphere is just right and the humidity is either way up or way down in Louisville's Highlands, you can hear it; ghostly rock n roll echoes of a verbal exchange. Bandmates Ray Wegimont and Drew Duvall can be heard posing the musical question to their other bandmate, "So, Melissa, what are we going to do at the next gig?" Melissa Gaddie determinedly and fiendishly responds, "The same thing we do at every gig, guys...try to take over the world!"

Thus, with the welcome mat laid out we are now entering the world of Sol 17. Hang on every word and note (metaphorically speaking) as we travel the band's domain and tackle realms of the simple, the ample and the metaphysical.

It Ain't Arbitrarily So

At this point, it's safe to say you've probably noticed something fishy about the word "Sol." There seems to be something missing, such as the letter "e" or perhaps you feel strongly that it's the letter "u." When I whipped out my three pairs of handcuffs and shone a bright light into the faces of the members of this band, giving them the first degree (I can be easygoing) about the origins of the band's name, Wegimont responded quickly, almost suspiciously that, "The name was arbitrarily chosen by Melissa, I believe." I pressured Gaddie for the straight dope, especially about that ambiguous and mysterious number "17." Caving in to the winking pressure, she replied, "I don't know." I turned on the pressure and she capitulated, saying, "What it was like...way back when there were five of us and we got together at Ray's place," which was the practice locale all those years ago, "the deal was, they were going to drink and try to come up with a name. So, Ray and Angie are trying to match each other drink for drink and Angie out-drank him." Smiling and humble, Wegimont added, "I was a lightweight...still am." Gaddie continued, "We were just tossing out names and The Dirty Muffins was one and we really liked that, but someone else didn't, so we let it go." Personally, I would have made the band's boat one person lighter and kept that name, but are we here to talk about my preferences? Not at all, so let's move on with our femme raconteur hero's next comment. "So, we had that and it didn't happen and then we were thinking at one point that it just got to where we couldn't think of anything in English so I suggested we look at Spanish because I started learning and speaking Spanish when I was in first grade and took it all the way up to my senior year. So, we played around with some Spanish words...the Spanish word for "star" is "astraya," which is really pretty, but it was one of those words we knew would be misspelled or misspoken repeatedly." Gaddie and Duvall were in another band whose name was constantly misspelled: Madusa 580, also mistakenly known as Mad USA. Gaddie continued, "Yeah, Mad USA." She reiterates that the correct spelling was indeed Madusa 580 and further expounded, "That was going to be way too difficult so then we're thinking, Spanish for `sun' is `sol.'" Tossing numbers in the air, they thought, "What number sounds good with Sol? 17?, okay. We're Sol 17."

Drew Duvall

I had thought the "17" might have some relevance to the spirit of youth, which I expressed to these kind and informative musicians; however, Gaddie replied, "Well, no...then at one point we joked around with people and said it meant you're s**t out of luck, she's only 17." Wegimont, like a class clown with dry humor, seems to enjoy keeping people a little off balance and uncertain as to whether he's serious or putting them on (in this case, yours truly; and I admit I enjoyed it). However and apparently in all honesty, he added, "That was because of an actual incident. A friend of ours was checking out someone who was underage, because he's kind of lecherous and another friend said, `you're s**t out of luck, she's only 17, not thinking..." Wegimont also likes to have and provide options, which at that moment meant providing another origin of the band's name. He explained, "This is slightly esoteric...'Sol' is another representation of the solar Gods like Jesus, who is a representative of the Piscean Age...he has the Ichthus that is a representation of the Piscean Age where all the gods die and are resurrected in the spring like the Egyptian Osiras...then 17 in Tarot, the 17th card of a major arcana is a star that is governed by Aquarius...it is like a transition because we're in the middle of the transition of the Piscean Age going into the Age of Aquarius. So, I think our band is a perfect representation of the transition between those two ages." Believe whichever version of the origin of the name you prefer and let me know; we'll do lunch and discuss it.

By the Light of Day...or Night

When bands start out, it can be an uphill struggle against the wind involving much frustration and aggravation. Like any business (being a unit that provides live entertainment is definitely a business) where those involved are determined to succeed, there is going to be sacrifice and minimal free time; especially when you consider that most musicians have to maintain regular (or as regular as possible) jobs to support themselves while getting their band/music business off the ground. Since all of the members of Sol 17 are pretty sharp north of the eyebrows, I was curious (which is a sign of similar sharpness, y'know...as is your reading this) about how these talented people are supporting themselves, without a pair of suspenders in sight, as they struggle up that steep hill to musical success.

Ray Wegimont

At one time she supported herself by building personal computers, but the 26-year-old Gaddie also has several years' experience at mixing drinks. That's right, gang; when she isn't playing bass, singing, writing, networking or booking gigs, Ms. Gaddie now earns her keep mainly by tending bar at the Palace Theater. If she serves you, be sure to generously tip this ambitious, creative and hard-workingwoman.

Wegimont, this band's 32-year-old guitarist, slaves - probably sans a drop of sweat - in the Accounts Payable department at Kindred Health Care. At least that is what he told me. Now that we all know he can count way beyond four, perhaps we can expect more complicated time signatures for new Sol 17 songs, yes?

Ironically, the band member with the deepest and most resounding voice, 30-year-old Drew Duvall, the band's percussionist, sat patiently and quietly through most of the interview, allowing his animated cohorts to deal with the media. You see, Drew is the drummer, or as he prefers to say, "the percussionist and an artist," and has no fear of his bandmates stealing his, ahem, thunder. As Duvall put it, "I guess in my spare time I work as a Program Coordinator for Trillium Industries...and I work for companies like Dell, Hewlett Packard, Compaq and those nice people. I'm into graphic design and art; really anything artistic." Just so you know, Duvall is wholly devoid of ADHD symptoms and does not look the part of computer geek, but loves it.

You May Ask Yourself, Well, How Did They Get Here?

Only a few years ago there was a particular musical egg in Louisville. It hatched and this is no yoke. As Gaddie explains, she and Duvall, "played in a band together for about two and a-half years. Then he and our old guitar player, Brent dumped me and Kelly McCarty to go off and do their own thing, so at that point that was the second band I'd been in and we had a lot of success (locally). Kelly played guitar in Madusa 580 and Sol 17." As yet more local music history is revealed, McCarty and Wegimont founded Sol 17. Gaddie carried on, "Once you split up, it's like breaking up with somebody and like I say, they dumped us; we didn't even have a say in it. I was really upset." So upset that she was ready to give up playing music altogether. The gods of music, however, had other things in store.

Geography and Fate

As the story goes:

Wegimont was at a party and wondered aloud, "Does anyone want to play music?" and everyone kept mentioning McCarty, who was also there. Wegimont has just emigrated here from Virginia Beach and that story would be a good, brief interlude right about now.

The member of Sol 17 most likely to be mistaken for Robin Hood, though there is no evidence he has stolen anything or given it away to the less fortunate, Wegimont was born in Goshen, New York and spent time there and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While in the military and stationed in Iceland, he met a girl from Louisville. They both got stationed in Virginia Beach. Wegimont picks it up there, explaining, "A friend of hers from Louisville moved to Virginia Beach and she and I hooked up. I got out of the military, moved here and then we broke up. And here I am." Indeed he is and we are glad. Let the media blitz continue.

Melissa Gaddie

Meanwhile, McCarty and Wegimont played music at the aforementioned party. McCarty encouraged her friend Gaddie to meet this new ax wizard she had played with. Gaddie wandered to McCarty's house one Saturday, found them playing together and, as she tells it, "really liked what they were doing...so we started practicing together.

Coming and Going

Others to come on board at first included a flute player named Michelle, as well as a drummer named Mick and cello player named Angie (reliable rumor has it that their last names are not Phillips, Jagger or Bowie). Gaddie mentioned, "Angie just kind of fell into it. She played cello, so we had cello for a while for every song, which was kind of weird. She left the band right before our first show." Former drummer Donnie Arbuckle and former guitarist McCarty appear on the eponymous, debut full-length CD, but jumped ship along the way, as did the cello and flute players and, of course, the first drummer prior to that recording.

If Sting can do it, she can do it

Once the eleventyseventh bass player left the band, long-time violinist Gaddie determined that she would fill that gap. "Really, guys, I'm going to rent a bass from Doo Wop and we're going to try this," she insisted and continued that for her, "The bass was just a natural...you can play chords, but I don't because I'm singing at the same time and that's really, really, really hard. Especially when I play a lot of off-rhythm, my vocal and bass are on two different patterns. So, I started learning bass, which is a violin backwards, meaning the high string on a violin is the low string on a bass, so it was really easy to learn because I'd played violin for a long time. I can read treble cleft, but not bass cleft, so I can't read any of Ray's music; I just play by ear."

Nuts and Bolts

or

It is the Way of Our People

Ever wonder how many of your favorite artist's songs came from some painful situation they've turned into music and lyrics? Gaddie admits that most of the material on the band's debut is about "being dumped." According to her, "I think I've finally outgrown that because graduating from college became an obsession more than me being sad about being dumped. I've milked that one for all it's worth," so now she'll write about a newer dilemma and, as she mentioned, "It's cheaper than therapy."

Wegimont added, "It's cathartic."

Is Gaddie a lyrics-first or a music-first kind of gal? As she tells it, "A lot of people write lyrics first, which I've never been able to do. That's the way I've always worked and I thought it was backward until I heard on the World Café that Billy Joel writes the same way I do, so I feel a lot better about it now." Let's hear it for validation.

Wegimont writes most of the music. According to Gaddie, "He tries to write songs as difficult as he possibly can," meaning that if he comes up with an easy guitar part, he dismisses it because it isn't hard - perhaps challenging - enough to satisfy him. Want to hear an example of that? Listen to the song Wegimont named "Scratch," which is actually a veiled reference to human anatomy.

Drew interjected, "Ray has some signature guitar. His breakdowns are what stand out to me. He does play rhythm, but he's got a lot of extra little picking breakdown parts that he does, which makes a big difference." Wegimont explained, "I think the reason I play that way is because I spent ten years playing by myself because I didn't have the confidence to join a band and it would get boring just strumming chords...I tried to do some extra stuff so it would be more pleasing to me and then it just kind of carried over."

Gaddie has a theory that "all the music that's popular these days, like what's on mainstream radio, it's all the same and it's all so simple...older bands like Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Queen, all those and other bands actually knew how to play an instrument. You don't have that much anymore, but that's how Ray plays."

Structure

At one point, when McCarty left, Gaddie explained, "It wasn't really an argument between Ray and me, but he wanted to try it as a trio and I was worried about that." She pleaded to have a fourth person waiting in the wings, but Wegimont took material home, played it and figured out how to make it sound fuller.

Backing up just a little, during the recording of the CD, though Duvall was not a member of the band, he was present in the studio. When Wegimont asked how he thought they'd do as a trio, Duvall's response was positive. At a pivotal point, Arbuckle departed and Duvall took the drummer's seat. The trio carried on with no one waiting in the wings. Gaddie initially really missed McCarty's rhythm-guitar presence, about which she was philosophical: "It's like any other big change; you have to get used to it. I don't deal with change very well. Maybe it's the control freak in me."

Wegimont interjected, "Structure."

Having adjusted, Gaddie's take on being a trio now is, "really cool because when you split up the money you make more and there's fewer people to argue with." Wegimont added, "And my ego is kept at bay." Was he being sincere or sarcastic? We'll likely never know.

The Agony of Success

Have you heard the one about when Sol 17 played O'Shea's (not a stadium in New York)? As the resident raconteur, let's have Gaddie tell it. Ms. G? "O'Shea's has a little platform stage. Drew put his drums there and we put our amps there. We were all excited because it was a new bar we hadn't played. It falls in line with the goal of complete and total world domination; first you dominate Louisville and then you spread outward. But I was sick and all congested and couldn't sing really loud." Wegimont called her at home and suggested she bring the vocal amp along. She continued, "I'm like `what?' And he's telling me there's no sound system. Evidently they only bring out their sound system on weekends for the cover bands or something. We have this little, dinky vocal amp that we use for practice and I told Ray, I'm sick, I can't breathe, I'm blowing my nose and coughing things up all day." Sounds pretty grim, but how did things turn out? They put the amp on a chair between Wegimont and Gaddie, turned it up as far as it would go without producing feedback and, Gaddie said, "What's really, really sad is I sounded as nasally as all get out," and a couple of people in attendance said it was one of the best shows they'd played.

Another Sol 17 anecdote involved Gaddie having wisdom teeth removed just after Christmas, resulting in dry sockets. As she recalled, "My pain wasn't deep throbbing pain, like what the dentist's pamphlet said. It just hurt like hell and the pain killers weren't working. I'd take one and an hour later I would be in pain again. I was trying to space them every six hours because I don't like taking pain killers anyway." Several days later, her dentist told her she had dry sockets and gave her medicine to put in them. Gaddie concluded, "My boyfriend didn't want me to push myself, but we had this show set up so I was going to play," and she let the audience know what she was enduring.

Now That You Know Them Better

Where does Sol 17 go from here? Forward. Members of LMIA, they're a determined lot, working hard for both today and down the road, which is where they're interested in heading; taking it one step at a time towards many miles between this gig and that gig. The real agenda? Work, work and work. Their website is a work-in-progress. When it is up and running, the address will be

www.sol17.com

. Meanwhile, keep up with the band by joining the mailing list, easily accomplished by emailing

sol17@rearthlink.net

with a request to join the aforementioned mailing list, as well as checking the LMN calendar, LEO, perhaps the calendar at

www.lmiacentral.com

, the Weekend and The Scene sections of the C-J and even the entertainment section of Snitch. Buy their CD at their gigs, at Ear X-tacy, Better Days and other local record stores.