Victory Soul Orchestra: Quality Musicians in Quantity
Written by Rob Smittix on July 30, 2020
I have been spinning Victory Soul Orchestra on my show at RadioradioX since I started here. The music is fun and undoubtedly danceable. I hate comparing groups to others but I certainly intend this to be a compliment, VSO has the talent of The Roots with more brass instrumentation. And… to top it off bringing in JB aka Dirty Moses on vocals was genius. So I am grateful to be speaking today with Joel Yannuzzi of VSO.
RRX: VSO has quickly become a favorite for me. For those who are just now discovering your music, tell us about yourselves… Who is Victory Soul Orchestra? Introduce us.
JY: First off, thanks for the kind words! It’s cool to know that we’ve reeled some people in over the years. Now onto, “Who is Victory Soul Orchestra?” The easy answer is that we are a group of Capital District musicians who won’t stop going to the club to play music. We have jazz heads, a classically trained singer, a rapper, jam band vets and Albany rock staples. I started writing music for this band and realized I’d need a ton of great players. I was listening to a lot of afrobeat and soul and wanted to bring a full band into tiny little places. When we started, our regular shows were at The Lowbeat and Pauly’s. The lineup that we could fit on those stages was Sarah Clark, Justin Fuld, Ben Fedak, Joe Paparone, Ryan (Devo) Devine and myself. Eventually, we added conga/percussionist Nick Palazeke, tenor player Chris Russell, trombonist Dave Paul and rapper JB!! aka Dirty Moses. I know… this is an absurd amount of musicians on stage, but it’s insanely fun to play arrangements that a big group can rip on.
RRX: With the state of everything still so very up in the air. How has the band been keeping busy?
JY: To no one’s surprise, this has been a stressful time. We all have our struggles, but know that we are really lucky to be healthy and relatively sane. We tried our best to stay active this spring with writing. We did a collaboration with Josh Mirksy of Foster House Studios and Jamel Mosely of Mel E Media to record a studio session called Live @ Foster House w/ Victory Soul Orchestra and JB!!, right before quarantine. So getting this out to people was a high priority. I also had some new songs that I wrote for a singer and it wasn’t until we met Dali Soto-Carruzzi that we were able to get them rolling. When we do get back to the stage (glass half full) you are going to love her.
RRX: So very few of us (musicians) have had the chance to do any real live performances in months, VSO however, had the opportunity to perform at Lark Hall on Juneteenth. How did it feel to be at the groundbreaking for our brand new holiday? How does it feel to be a part of something bigger than just the music?
JY: Juneteenth came together so quickly that I barely had time to think about it. We loved playing in that huge old room on that beautiful evening. I think we were all feeling in love with the idea of playing a show too. At the same time, that holiday didn’t feel celebratory. It was really close to George Floyd’s and Breonna Taylor’s murders and we had marched with our friends that week. My hope was that we were respectful of that holiday and maybe gave our friends on Lark Street an hour to dance and enjoy themselves.
RRX: So how many pieces do you have in your group? Ha-ha clearly doing it for the love of music. I respect that. When I was in a 4-piece band it was hard enough to get everyone to a rehearsal, how do you do it?
JY: Organization my friend! There are sometimes 11 members working to put on a show. These guys have day jobs, kids, dogs and turtles, so efficiency is key. Charts have to be written before rehearsals because there’s not enough time to figure it out on the spot. Don’t get me wrong, there are some talented mf’s in this town that can play any song top to bottom after hearing it once. Personally, I have to have it written to be able to manage and fine tune during that time. We all love playing to a packed house, so we’re going to put in the time to earn those listeners. If we don’t work on a set, it’ll feel unnatural and audiences don’t want that. Playing a bad show is a letdown for us. We’re doing it for the experience too and want to milk a room for that good stuff… that sweet spot where listeners are happy and moving with you. We live for it!
RRX: So anything on the horizon?
JY: We’re all in with putting a new set together which will hopefully lead to recording some more. With the timeline as murky as it is, maybe it will be the reverse. Record first then play shows? What I can say is that we love the Capital District and plan on playing as long as there are audiences who still enjoy live bands. Don’t get me wrong though, we want everyone to mask the hell up and keep their distance so we can do this the real way again someday. Dancing six feet apart just doesn’t feel right.
RRX: It really doesn’t feel right. It feels surreal if you ask me. Well one thing I am sure we can all agree on musicians are writing like crazy. This world has given us so much inspiration and I can’t wait to finally hear what everyone is working on. Thanks again for speaking with me today and we (as in everyone) are anxious to see VSO live again.
For more on Victory Soul Orchestra: www.victorysoulorchestra.com
@victorysoulorchestra on instagram
firstname.lastname@example.org for booking