Richmond, Va rock band The Sort formed early in 2006, starting as an intimate musical exchange of ideas between guitarist Clark Fraley and vocalist Lauralam Thomas, both formerly of Richmond's lovable "Atari-rock" band, Rockbot (project of Jack's Mannequin bassist, Jon Sullivan). Songs began to fall together as effortlessly as teenagers in love, and the two created a string of demo tracks in Clark's home studio. It wasn't long before the itch to share these songs with every smoky bar in the world struck the pair, and the search for an eager rhythm section began. It didn't take long to recruit bassist Jon Bone (ex Lazycain), and drummer Briant Murphy (ex Sau, The Tori). By late spring, the foursome had begun to play shows in and around the area. The group completed its lineup in Fall 2006 with the addition of second guitarist Steve Burner, also formerly of Rockbot.
The Sort's sound is both melodic and brutal. Razor sharp guitars take turns with urgent, exacting lyrics to keep the songs just intense enough to raise your blood pressure a bit without sending you into a full on rock seizure. Vocally, Lauralam's grasp of the joys of both control and abandon sail the rock ship home. She can employ Belinda Carlisle-meets-a-Theramin-like vibrato or play it straight ala Anna Waronker of That Dog.
The Sort's live show demonstrates the height of the band's energy, without jeopardizing the subtle idiosycrasies of their songcraft. Crushing drums make love to driving bass while guitars squeal merrily and Lauralam shakes her head around as if she is the only one in the room. "Being on stage singing these songs that we wrote is really a life-affirming experience for me", Lauralam says, "I don't like to speak much between songs because public speaking is really a terrifying thing, but the songs kind of have little lives of their own, and the energy from them really takes over any fear I might have of performing them. When the music starts, I kind of become it, and am no longer thinking about what the audience might be thinking of me." The band is excited to play just about anywhere and are happily making their local rounds, playing at almost every allowable venue in Richmond, including Alleykatz and The Canal Club, and venturing up I-95 to play at old favorites such as popular DC rock dive, The Velvet Lounge. A tour is planned for late April/early May which will take them as far north as NYC and as far West as Dayton, Ohio.
In the Summer of 2006, The Sort was approached and asked to be the subject of a HDTV show episode in a series featuring local bands. This series was sponsored by and released through Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in December 2006. It has aired several times each month on PBS since its premiere. The episode includes live show footage, practice footage, and studio footage, as well as group and individual interviews.
The Sort self-released their debut full length album, "Resentment, Despair, and Other Amusements", in April of 2008. "We did most of the recording and all of the production ourselves", Lauralam states, "It was no easy task, so when I tore open the box to see the final product, I nearly cried with joy."
Did you grow up in Hampton Roads? If so, what cities?
JON: I was born and raised on the banks of the Lafayette in Norfolk. Laura and Steve are both Richmond natives and Clark is from Lynchburg. Briant grew up in the northeast outside of a little town called Boston. We all met and currently reside in Richmond.
Describe your music to someone who has never heard it.
JON:Hmm, never an easy one so I will break it down into components.
Vocals with a strong pop sensibility, lots of hooks. Words and melodies that stick with you. The guitars range from metallic and riffy to textural and saturated, setting each other up andharmonizing effortlessly. Two words for you, son: guitar solos. A heavy handed rhythm section anchors it all while maintaining the groove and delivering the goods. I think we have a pretty big sound overall.
What's the writing process for your music? Do the lyrics come first? Does the music come first? Who does what?
JON: Clark will demo some ideas on the Mac with guitar and these over the top sounding programmed drums. He lays down the basic idea and filters it through Laura. Laura gives a nod to the tunes that strike her and we take them and start to flesh them out. Sometimes there are vocal lines written when the music is starting take shape, sometimes they come later. Once the process is complete we usually have to play a song live a few times before it really unfolds like it should.
Do you have an albums / demos / merch / releases available to purchase? Where can you buy them?
LAURALAM: Our new full length album is called "Resentment, Despair, and Other Amusements" and you can buy it at cdbaby.com, itunes, or amazon.com. T- shirts are coming very soon!
What is your most crazy show story? (Any naked women running around? Drunk bar fights?)
LAURALAM: Luckily, we haven't anything too terribly trashy transpire, although we did play a local redneck bar at the request of some friends and a couple of rather large redneck men kept harassing me and the other band members' girlfriends while we were playing. I can take it all it stride, but it must have been a sight to see us playing with the rest of the band looking like they were ready to kill someone.
JON:Aw man, we're all lovers not fighters. I would much rather have the naked women running around than dudes trying to kill each other. I probably saw enough violence in the parkinglot of the Kings Head after hardcore shows as a kid to last me a lifetime.
How much do you think hype affects the public perception of what good music is?
LAURALAM: It is both fortunate and unfortunate that "hype" affects the listener's perception. On one hand, it's nice to see many deserving bands who went unrecognized for long period of time finally get the recognition they deserve. On the flipside, many major labels are selling the same cookie cutter crap, and music becomes nothing more than a product and a trend. It's depressing.
JON:The digital age has brought so many new forms of marketing, we are being force fed media from everywhere. Thankfully there are always smart kids who are sharp enough to cut through all of the BS. You have to hope that people will see past the 700th Panic at the Disco ad or whatever and seek out sites like yours or Pitchfork or something.
How would you like to see the local music scene change? (venues, fans, other bands)
JON: More sites and labels that support local music is absolutely the key. Oh, and more people need to come see our band.
What's up for the band in 2008? ( a tour, album?)
LAURALAM: Well, we've already toured some this year following the release of our album, so we'll probably just be playing many out-of-town weekend shows. We're shooting a video in a few days, and writing a lot of new material.
JON: New material!
What local bands and artists do you recommend?
LAURALAM: My personal favorites are Ki:Theory, One Friend, and Eons.
JON: Keep in mind these are all RVA bands. Dead Goats, Mermaid Skeletons, RPG and anything with our friend Mikey Bryant in it. Denali is back (sort of), keep an eye out for them as well.
What are your favorite venues to play at? How would you like to see the available venues to change when booking shows? (better sound / lights/ pay/ promotions)
JON: We play downtown alot at a place called Wonderland. Its a great room, cool staff and good crowds, but the location kills us. Shockoe Bottom is worse than the VB Oceanfront in the summer. It's literally a police state every weekend. I can't wait to play the National here, its run by the NorVa people and is the best looking room in the area. Better pay is always good, and maybe revision of our state laws in regards to alcohol and licensing. There are clubs thriving in DC that couldn't survive Virginia's archaic laws and regulations.
How do you market your music to the public? What seems to work best for you for letting people know about your shows? (Myspace/ the paper / word of mouth)
LAURALAM: I do use myspace to market and get the word out about shows; however, with the overload of (mostly bad) bands on myspace, the great majority of people won't take the time to listen. I try to keep our page attractive, professional, and up-to-date. I offer free downloads and little contests for free cds. People love free stuff! Still, if you only market on myspace, you're isolating a huge portion of the music-loving population. We are currently played on several radio stations around town and up and down the east coast, have had write ups in local and regional magazines, have played acoustic radio sets, and were even featured in our very own documentary put out by VCU and shown on PBS every few weeks.
What is your current favorite song?
LAURALAM: According to my itunes, the song I play the most is Imogen Heap - Hide and Seek.
JON: Blood and Thunder by Mastodon. Writing a concept record about a whale is awesome, and its so well mixed.
LAURALAM: Portishead –"Third"
JON: Beach House – "Devotion" TwoBaltimore kids with a definite 4AD vibe.
Quote us your favorite song lyrics. (please include who it is by)
JON:"Now I stand here waiting" from Blue Monday by New Order. The line by itself doesn't make much sense but in context it's clever. Bernard Sumner sings it and then does exactly that, he waits.
What came first, the music or the misery? Explain.
LAURALAM: The sex?
JON: All the musicians I know are a little off, if you know what I mean. I know that playing live definitely helps me exercise a few demons, but is music the chicken or the egg?
What do you think of what MC7C does? How would you make it better? Have you been to any of our events?
JON: Its imperative that we have sites like yours as part of local communities. Keep spreading the word and getting links out there, the more readers the better the arts will do. We haven caught an event yet because of that 90 mile stretch of I-64but we would love to be part of something in the near future. Cheers!
The Sort @ Myspace