People want to slap a "soul" label on the Sh-Booms, but anyone who's seen them drench the stage of Will's Pub in whiskey and sweat can attest to the fact that their blood is pumping with so much more than that.
"We have punk underneath our skin and all of this music comes from our soul," bandleader and bassist Al Ruiz tells Orlando Weekly. "When I go to a show I want to be stimulated with my ears and my eyes, and the vibe. ... It's not about playing the right notes at the right time, it's about what you're feeling. That's my definition of 'soul' music."
That sound has not only pricked the ears of Limited Fanfare Records, who are putting out their debut album, The Blurred Odyssey, on March 22, but of tastemaker and Bruce Springsteen guitarist Little Steven Van Zandt, who caught wind of the band's track "Leon the Hustler" and featured it on his "Underground Garage" show on SiriusXM as the "Coolest Song in the World." The band was thrilled to have been chosen, but maintain a humble approach to navigating this new world of notoriety: "You do all this stuff, but you don't know what's gonna happen. You just have to believe in what you're doing."
Part of that means believing in where you came from, and the local breakouts did just that in the video for the album's lead single, "Audible." The video is a love letter to Orlando spilling over with Easter eggs that will make local scenesters smile with recognition.
Ruiz explains the genesis of the video: "The guy who does our content, he's a buddy, and we were hanging out at Lil Indies while DJ BMF was spinning. He does projections on the wall behind him. This old Aretha Franklin video came on and she's just walking the streets and we were like 'that's it!' ... Because the first lyrics of the song are 'I've been walking and talking about you for years.' The song is about a person's life, these are the places she goes.
"We go out to bars and hang out with our friends a lot so you see Wally's and Will's, Redlight Redlight, downtown. ... We even got Nadeem [Khan] in there, with his car!"
For those unfamiliar with their backstory, Ruiz initially formed the Sh-Booms in 2011 with a different frontwoman, but it wasn't until 2015 when Brenda Radney (or "the Supreme Queen Mizz Bren," if you're nasty) came into the picture that the group truly found their sound. Radney, fresh from her own music business adventures with Justin Timberlake's Tennman label, brought a sultry power to the vocals that quickly transformed the Sh-Booms into the kind of band that makes beer-drinkers walk away from the bar and gravitate toward the stage. The Sh-Booms started selling out local shows, getting handpicked to open shows for the B-52s, KRS-One and Big Freedia. In short, everything started to fall into place and it's all culminating now with a record deal, a record release and the biggest headlining tour yet – a tour that will also feature visual spectacle courtesy of Man ... or Astro-Man?'s former projectionist Troy Durrett, who now works with the band.
"We've never been out for this long at one time, so it's kinda scary, trying to figure it all out with so many people," says Ruiz. "We've had some really great shows, opening for other people, but the next chapter is about building ourselves from the ground up. It's a slow burn, baby, and we're just gonna keep grinding."