This week I caught up with Ian MacCarthy from the Australian band Soar (short for Somerset Oh & Rhode). The band, composed of MacCarthy ("Experiment Rhode"), David Llewellyn ("Bright Oh") and Charles Nicholls ("Charles Somerset"), create spirited acoustic music on Second Life. They've also done some shows for charities, including autism research.
When did you start getting together and making music?
We formed way back in 1989 and recorded our first album around then. For most of this century we have been apart because we all moved away from each other ... hundreds of miles in fact so performing music together just couldn't be done anymore. We dabbled in recording music over the convening years by sending files to each other which each one of us would then add our instruments/vocals to until a song was finished.
Then Second Life came along. Bright joined first in around 2007 and told me all about this wonderful 3D world. It took me a good year and a better computer before I was willing to "risk" Second Life. Late in 2008, after having absorbed this new world, I started to check out the music scene in SL and thought "heck our music is much better than a lot of these performers." So I approached Bright and suggested maybe we could "perform" in here. It took a bit of convincing as well as getting Charles set up in SL as well ... he'd been on the sidelines the whole time.
Eventually, after we had completely set ourselves up as a SL band and got a manager and were thoroughly rehearsed etc, we debuted in March 2009 after having written and performed a tribute song, "Too Many Tears," for the victims of the terrible bushfires in Victoria, Australia in early 2009. This song was the perfect vehicle to launch us in SL and we garnered a number of interviews including one with CNN. We performed the song on SL TV as well and even got our tribute song played on Sydney radio!
Very cool! For those who aren't familiar with it, what is Second Life? How does it help you as performers?
Second Life is a free 3D virtual world where users can socialize, connect and create using free voice and text chat. It was launched in 2006. For Soar it is the only way we can perform live because of the distances we live from one another. We had never really performed live previously so we had no idea whether we had an audience out there who would like our music. This was the easiest way for us to find out and we were amazed we had a following almost immediately.
The comments from SL residents over the last year about our music have been incredible. Other people have built (virtual) venues just so we could perform at them! We also perform regular gigs for charity - our number one charity being for autism. We even performed live to the soldiers in the Gulf last year!
My time in SL has definitely been one of the highlights of my life, as it has for Bright and Charles!
What style of music do you play?
Well, it is predominately acoustic-based and if the songs need "producing" we add drums, electric guitars, bass and keyboards. No matter what form the song is in it will always have our harmonies, courtesy of our love of The Beatles, Beach Boys, America etc. Most of our songs are usually slower ballads/love songs but once in awhile we will do more uptempo material. We have also done a few guitar Instrumentals in the style of The Shadows, Ventures etc.
Some of our songs have very Australian themes to them like "Brindabella" (which is a small range of mountains); "Cry The Lucky Country" (about how artists vs. politicians see our land); and "Camvilla" (about a pioneering family in the gold fields). The majority of all the songs we write are about love, gained and lost. We hope that we have a style that is timeless. It has worked for quite a few years already.
What's your process of writing and recording like?
Well, because of the distances between us, all our music is recorded and performed over the net. Because today's technology has come so far the quality is still very high even when we convert our recorded wave files to MP3 so we can e-mail tracks to each other. We all have home studios so the quality is fairly high to start with. When we perform in Second Life, as it's impossible to stream 3 people all at once, we pre-record all the backing tracks for our songs without the lead vocals and acoustic guitars and then Bright and Charles sing and play live over them in Second Life. This gives us a very professional sound that seems to be appreciated by most people.
When do you plan to release your CDs?
We have just finished mixing our first real CD which contains all of our earliest songs. This should be available next month (April) sometime. No title at present. It will be available in Second Life and through our website: Brightoh.com.
Following this we will dive straight into our next CD which will contain some of our more recent songs. Hopefully this will be available before September. After this there will be at least another two CDs. We have a backlog of over 70 songs in all stages of completion and we are writing new ones almost daily it seems!
Thanks for Ian for the interview! You can find more of Soar's music at BrightOh.com, ReverbNation, and Soundclick.