After playing together for six years, Kat Wright and her band, the Indomitable Soul Band, are releasing their debut full-length album, By My Side.
The group first began playing soul covers at Radio Bean every Thursday for a series called “Soul Sessions.”
Eventually, they branched out from covers and started writing their own tunes. Over the years, they’ve become one of Vermont’s best-known bands.
VPR spoke with Kat Wright about the new album, what keeps her making music and why Vermont is the right place for her band.
VPR: How does it feel to go from singing soul covers at Radiobean to recording an album in Brooklyn and being one of the most popular bands in the state of Vermont?
Wright: “It's really cool. We're kind of an unusual band in that we didn't get started like as a group of friends who wanted to write songs. [It] that was kind of more random.
“Our unifying factor is soul music, and can we find some people who like to play that. Then the rest kind of happened organically.
“The fact that we have evolved to where we are is a little surprising even still and really wonderful.”
What does the album show about how you and your bandmates have grown during the six years you’ve been playing?
“This album is different, I guess, mostly in that it's really just much more mature. We released an EP in 2013 which we recorded locally. This [album] is kind of the result of us spending several years really crafting songs and really thinking about them in depth … thinking about longevity and thinking about things like radio play and kind of trimming the fat … from the music.”
Is it fair to say too that the production has been ramped up a bit too? Because you did recorded with a really seasoned well-known producer, Joel Hamilton.
“That's a huge part of what makes this different. We were able to go down to Brooklyn and work with someone [who has] … worked with everyone from Tom Waits to Elvis Costello to Norah Jones to Aaron Neville to Lettuce.
“It was really huge for us to have somebody who was so seasoned and experienced help us make our songs great.”
Did you grow up listening to soul music? Is it important for you to keep that sound alive also in the 21st century?
“I did grow up listening to a lot of that music. It is important to keep the kind of that vibe alive. I think what so many people today appreciate about that music is the realness, the grittiness, the rawness, the emotion and the imperfection.
“And it's so vastly different than today's popular music, [which is] it's auto-tuned, it's not written by the artist a lot of the time. In general, I think mainstream music now is just much more manufactured and much less real.”
I think what made some of those songs great is that they felt universal to people. Do you think this is an album that can help mend a broken heart, or at least make someone going through a rough time feel that they're not alone?
“I would hope so. When I reflect on why I am passionate about music it's because in my life … a lot of times, [the] moments that I was experiencing music … [were] in times of trouble or heartache or stress or sadness or growth or change. Music has always really been there for me.
“And so my greatest hope would be that even one song would change one person's day. That's definitely the goal ... Music is medicine.”
So as your band continues to grow, you may go other places, you may go on to bigger things. But will Vermont always be a part of who you are, your identity?
“Very much so. We love to travel but more than that we love coming home. That's really due to the very unique and beautiful character of the people and the history of Vermont.
“We were so proud this year to be from here when Bernie Sanders rose to the national stage and started saying things that actually made some sense, which is unfortunately the anomaly in politics these days.
“But we love the fact that Vermont has historically been a home for thinkers and artists and generally wonderful people. We very much identify with the character of fresh air, good local food, good conversation, freedom and in general just acceptance of other people. So we really will always call Vermont home.”