From the heart of the music department at the University of Indianapolis, a group of young men with music backgrounds united to form a trio during the first year in college.
Having only launched their group a year and a month ago, Soul Sauce Trio has quickly landed gigs as a group of friends pursuing successful music careers. Their rehearsals began during winter break of 2015 into 2016, and according to sophomore general studies major and percussionist Tony Myers, the first show Soul Sauce Trio played was on Jan. 22, 2016.
Soul Sauce Trio began after Myers and sophomore jazz studies major and group guitarist Evan Hawk became friends on campus at the beginning of a campus retreat.
“Evan and I were already playing together in a big band,” Myers said. “We have been playing together since the summer program [Threshold] that we had done last year before we started school.”
Bassist Peter LaMonaca studied classical guitar with adjunct faculty member Nemanja Ostojic during his freshman year at UIndy, before leaving the university, and found that together, he, Myers and Hawk gelled together in a unique way that no one else could achieve.
It was through his studies in classical guitar that LaMonaca met Hawk.
“I’d only heard him play classical guitar. But then I heard him actually play what he really likes to play. I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, what the heck?’ It was like he was disguising himself almost through classical guitar,” LaMonaca said.
The name of Soul Sauce Trio was a three-part collaboration that came out of fun and games between the group of young men.
“Evan and I were talking about the name [we wanted], and I came to him first because I was busy making playlists on Spotify. I told him I was going to name a playlist, ‘Supersauce,’ and thought it was awesome; anything with the word ‘sauce’ is awesome. I went up to Evan and said, ‘We should do Super Sauce Trio,’ and Evan said, ‘Sauce is cool, but what if we did ‘Soul Sauce’?’ We then went to Tony, and he said, ‘Dude, you gotta throw ‘trio’ in with all of that.’”
Myers continues to study percussion at UIndy with adjunct music faculty member Art Reiner and previously studied with Andre Rosa-Artis and his father Anthony J. Artis. Myers’ career began at the young age of two with his forceful play on hand drums. At the age of three, his grandparents supplied him with a drum set.
“I used to beat on lamp shades and stuff when I was younger, and my mom would pop my hand and say, ‘Don’t do that.’ It didn’t matter what I did, she could yell at me all she wanted, but I would still beat on lamp shades. I happened to break a lamp. She finally said, ‘OK, when it gets to this point, we need to find somebody who can do something about this kid.’ When I got into elementary school and junior high, when I was beating on desks, that’s when Mom was really pushing me. She would say, ‘You’re getting in trouble, and you have to do something about this.’
She found the best way that she could to make me cuddle up to the percussion director at my high school. That’s where I really learned a lot. It taught me a lot of different grooves and stuff, where at that time, high school really made me what I am now in terms of versatility. I feel like I’m comfortable enough to play in a lot of different settings. I can get a call from anybody, and I can probably go sit in wherever they are,” Myers said.
Hawk continues to study with Director of Jazz Studies Mark O’Connor and Ostojic at UIndy after having years of previous experience with personal bands and private lessons.
“I got [a] guitar for Christmas when I was five years old. I fiddled around on that, and my grandpa’s guitar that I used to play on my lap. I kind of got pushed into taking some lessons when I was eight years old…. But then my mom met this guy playing in a bar. He started teaching me for a few years when I was 9…. I started taking guitar seriously around 10 years old. Before that, my mom had to yell at me to practice before my lesson. But at the end of middle school and high school, I wasn’t allowed to play in the house and I would practice eight hours a day,” Hawk said.
LaMonaca did study at UIndy on a scholarship with Ostojic but now works on his own, writing music for himself. With his knowledge of guitar, from the young age of six, LaMonaca has been able to extend his skills further.
“I played guitar when I was 6 for two months when I was over the nursery rhyme stuff. I stopped playing until 8, when I got into fourth grade. First week I practiced, all I played was ‘Smoke on the Water’ all day, nonstop. There was a rule permitted, and I was not ever allowed to play that song ever again. I was 9, and my dad came to me and actually told all of his kids, ‘All right, guys, it’s time to play an instrument,’ and I was ready. I was so ready, because my friends and I would always talk about wanting to play. We would play, in recess, ‘Famous Rock Star Band.’ That was our game. We would just mess around. And eventually, we became ‘The Backstreet Friends,’ LaMonaca said.
After discovering their coordination with each other, Soul Sauce Trio took a shot at performing, but with the mindset that their career would be short-lived.
“I was told that we didn’t know if we would keep this going or not, but we had a gig in a couple of weeks following. I said, ‘Let’s do it,’ and after that, we had another rehearsal, so I said, ‘Let’s just keep going,’” Myers said.
Looking back on history, Soul Sauce Trio has been able to connect their style to issues that arose from racial tensions in Memphis, such as the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
“Now, the Stax sound, on the otherhand, was a lot different [in comparison to bubblegum-pop music]. It was dealing with a lot of racial tension when Martin Luther King was assassinated right there in Memphis by the Lorraine Motel. Within Memphis, there was a lot of music that they had, and that particular event was reflected in ‘Cloud Nine’ by The Temptations.”
Although Soul Sauce Trio has a particular sound that they want, they have found that a kind of bubble-gum pop production tags along in their music.
“When you break down pop, all it is is popular music. There is a reason why certain music is popular, and it’s because people like listening to music that they can connect to. The musicians who write the music leave their wording open-ended so that the listeners can connect with it in their own way,” LaMonaca said. “People are attracted to positivity. People like being happy. So when they hear someone singing a song about being happy about a relationship they have, or that they love somebody, it makes the listener feel like, ‘Hey, I can love somebody.’”
According to Hawk, the instrumentation within their group relies on Myers’ percussion skills.
“Particularly for this style of music, as far as the drums go, the drummer totally changes the sound of a band in every way. Every drummer has a different feel and could make or break [a] band,” Hawk said. “I wanted to play 60s and 70s music from the black radio stations. Tony was rooted in the black gospel, jazz and hip-hop, and [his style] really worked with the sound we wanted. A lot of the guys from around here are from country and rock bands. I, myself, have been in the blues country and rock bands as well, but I wanted to do everything basically from Motown and Stax Studio from the Memphis scene to capture the kind of mojo it would be. Our mojo is similar to the music coming out of Memphis. The Al Green, the Sam & Dave and Otis Redding and different things have all got a greasy thing going on,” Hawk said. “And Motown was basically a hit machine. It was meant to be bubblegum-pop production, and it produced really good music.”
All of the members in Soul Sauce Trio have things that they love about each other that are unique to the band. According to Myers, he wouldn’t trade Hawk or LaMonaca for the world.
“Evan is a complete dork. He’s a dork, and it’s what I love. Sometimes it is what it is, but I love him to death and wouldn’t change it for the world,” Myers said. “Peter is my dude. Evan’s my dude, too, but we [Peter and I] can joke around and nonsense…. He just touched my leg, my bare leg. That’s the stuff I’m talking about. You’ve got to be really good friends to let another man touch your bare leg.”
According to Hawk, Myers and LaMonaca have inspired him to be relaxed and able to goof off.
“I love that he [Tony] is reliable. I love that he’s one of my best friends and has a great groove. He’s all about the groove. There are a lot of good drummers around there that get a lot of good gigs, but they don’t have the talent, honestly, that he does. He doesn’t know a stranger, and I could say that about both of these guys,” Hawk said. “What I love about Peter, is that he basically inspires me to loosen up in a major way, to loosen up and to goof off. Our photo shoot could’ve been a lot better if they would’ve listened to me and not goofed off. We didn’t get one decent group picture, and that’s all I’m going to say.”
According to LaMonaca, Myers and Hawk picked him up to bring him back to a life he wanted all along, the life he considered valuable but couldn’t get to without them.
“Tony, rest assured, makes it clear that he gets it. He’ll understand you and will make the time to talk to you about things. He was the first person I had met who knew some of the bands that I was just getting into in college. Tony loves to have a fun time, so I’ll always just vibe right off of that,” LaMonaca said. “As Tony said, Evan is a big ole’ goofball, or dork, if you will. When Evan found me, I was, at that point, way more apathetic to the things that I had been wanting to put my life focus on than I should have been. When Evan swooped me out of the dorm at that time, he made it so that I felt that I had something and someone to work for, and I didn’t want to let anybody down. The progress that I have made since then wouldn’t have been possible…. I wasn’t doing that [practicing]. To me, I wasn’t in a band at that time, I was just doing classical music. It was such a breath of the freshest of air that you can’t replace with anything but music when we went into my basement to just play music for the first time.”
“There would be no band without Peter’s dad. His dad has a huge basement with PA, drums and amplifiers, and he would let us play till four o’clock in the morning with no problem. That’s where the band started up.”
Knowing that Soul Sauce Trio will not last forever, LaMonaca knows that there are other paths that his and his band’s musical careers will travel.
“We’re all going through the process, right now, of making our names known. A lot of people will think that you’ve got to hurry, but when people try to hurry, they end up going backwards. Musicians need to take their time. They need to take one step at a time and be slow about it [the branding process]. You’re never going to get to the point you want to be, ever. So at the point that you know that, you have to accept the rate you can increase at,” LaMonaca said. “I wouldn’t be where I am right now if I hadn’t met Evan or Tony. I wouldn’t be nearly as good. My skill level would not be nearly as high as I would want it to be.”
Soul Sauce Trio will be a memory of a family that came together through their appreciation of music.
“When you spend a lot of time with a band, it becomes a family. My dad understands that the world is just a happier place when music is playing,” LaMonaca said. “It’s easier for people to think with music on, and it’s so much easier to make sense of life while it’s playing.”