Travis Atria always wanted to be Otis Redding, but sadly that was not to be. He physically couldn’t do it. Instead, the lead singer and songwriter for the Gainesville, Fla., soul band Morningbell — which plays tonight Tues. June 4 at the Tattooed Moose — had to find inspiration elsewhere. Fortunately, he discovered the supafly falsetto of Curtis Mayfield.
“Listening to Curtis Mayfield really opened my eyes and showed me another way that I could be soulful,” Atria says. “I’ve always used falsetto, the trick was to make it sound sexy rather than pretty, so I worked on that for a while. I respect singers based on how high they can sing — male ones, anyway.”
Atria put that falsetto to good use on Morningbell’s 2011 release Basso Profundo, a genre-bending nü-soul mash-up a la Fitz and the Tantrums, the Heavy, and the Daptones gang. And while we haven’t gotten a chance to listen to Morningbell’s brand new disc, Bôa Noite, we can’t wait to. Morningbell bassist Eric Atria, Travis’ brother, says that the new disc is tackles classical music, African field recordings, Hungarian folk music, Charles Mingus, Paul Simon, and the poems of Jorge Luis Borges.
“It’s definitely our most ambitious album to date,” Eric says. “We wanted an orchestra for this album. Without access to one, however, we pieced it together during half a dozen sessions with multiple classical musicians. The result is a grand, sweeping, ambitious sound with songs that often contain upwards of 150 tracks of instruments.” Impressive.
As for the enduring appeal of soul, the bassist says, “Soul music is incredible. The tones, the emotions, the focus on drums and bass as the driving force. We know that we’re four white people trying to make music that is rooted in black culture and tradition, so we hope that it’s seen as an homage and not a cheap knock off.”
He adds, “There isn’t any sex in today’s music. Soul music is all about sex. And that’s a good thing.”
Morningbell will play two sets tonight at the Tattooed Moose. The first starts at 10 p.m., the second at midnight.