In Pound for the Sound, Phoenix New Times get technical with local musicians about what "gear" they use to create their signature "tones" in our community.
Carly Bates is truly a homegrown Phoenician and musician, with the ability to slide into so many different, active roles within the community, and the chops to boast. When you listen to her play and sing, you can understand why her presence is constantly growing stronger locally.
Born in central Phoenix, Bates has been a Phoenician all of her life. Her musical journey began at the age of 7, when she started taking lessons in classical piano. She also grew up playing clarinet, and played the woodwind in her high school "jazz band". And clarinet was exciting to her, but she was seeking more opportunities as she graduated from high school, she sought other opportunities in music.
Bates began attending Arizona State University with a concentration in music, and began to expand her chops on piano, by joining improv and jazz ensembles to strengthen her skills. She also began getting a lot of experience accompanying choirs, vocalists, and ballet and dance companies, but she was still hungry to develop further.
Bates is a huge advocate and supporter of intermedia crossover. In addition to performing regularly with her bands The Solomon Trio and Hyperbella (who recently recorded some tracks with no set release date at 513 Recording), she is also has also collaborated with poets, and worked with Rising Youth Theater as a member of "Light Rail Plays," among other groups.
This Sunday, Carly, and the rest of the Solomon Trio will be performing in the debut of the newly formed JAVA Magazine FUSE Sessions at Valley Bar. Phoenix New Times was able to catch up with Bates via phone and email to talk with her about her gear, her view on her landscape of the Phoenix scene, and her band's upcoming performance.
Phoenix New Times: What's the secret weapon of your sound? And how did that help you find your "signature" tone?
Carly Bates: Having listened to lots of R&B and soul, I definitely gravitate towards a classic Rhodes sound. For the styles I practice and try to emulate, it’s a solid place to start and lends itself to effects easily.
What's your favorite piece of gear in your collection and why?
I’ve been playing on a Korg KROME for about seven months. I love it mainly for a lot of practical reasons (like it being a manageable size/weight to transport), but I don’t think I was prepared for its breadth of capabilities. It’s a music workstation, so it has a lot more to offer than I’m currently utilizing because many of my projects involve live performance (as opposed to creating and recording my own sounds). If and when my curiosities lead me in that direction, I’ll be very grateful to have the tools to take me there.
Any special pieces of gear acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection of tools?
Right now, I’m at a point of deep appreciation for my body in terms of how, I would argue, it is the mechanism that makes music happen; it’s the most vital piece of gear. In one sense, the technique that I’ve been fortunate to build over years of study has been an integral way of how I react to my instrument. The more I teach technique to my students, the deeper I remember that the music isn’t necessarily the instrument itself; it’s the moment I make contact. In another sense, after hauling my gear with such frequency, and over a certain period of time, I’ve begun to feel it take a toll on my body. Things like lifting an amp and carrying lots of weight on one side of my body has resulted in pain and imbalances that affect me when I play. That’s been a real wake-up call, one that has asked that I make some changes about how I care for my body as both the mechanism for making music and the vehicle for transporting gear.
Just listened to a snippet of your cover of “Lonnie’s Lament” from The Solomon Trio. Great stuff here. How did you go about composing your parts for this piece? And can we listen the whole piece anywhere online?
I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to make music with Israel Solomon and Armando Salas in The Solomon Trio. The very first time I played with them, we fell into an almost entirely improvised set. Since then, we’ve been trying to push our practice of improvisational forms and melodies. “Lonnie’s Lament” is a John Coltrane tune, so we keep fairly faithful to jazz conventions and form here. Because we come from fairly different backgrounds and draw from various influences, we have righteously funked up this tune, mainly drawing from R&B, funk, and hip-hop.
We don’t currently have plans to release full-length songs, but folks can follow The Solomon Trio on Facebook and Instagram for updates and content.
You had said when we talked over the phone that you kind of fell into the Phoenix music scene and that you have started to really harbor a sense of responsibility being a musician in this community. Could you expand upon your thoughts?
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I came into the Phoenix music scene from a very particular framework and experience having graduated from ASU with a music degree a couple years ago. At that juncture, I was interested in collaboration and deepening my connections within my community, but I didn’t have much of a sense of who was doing what in the Phoenix music scene. Since then, joining projects like The Solomon Trio and Hyperbella have kindly ushered me into the community and allowed me to begin to navigate, not only the music community itself, but also some larger questions, like: Now that I’ve begun to make these connections, what are my responsibilities? What are my responsibilities as an artist, and what does continuing a disciplined practice look like for me? What are my responsibilities to the music community, in terms of opportunity, etiquette, and equity? What are my responsibilities to the greater Phoenix community? For example, how can I use music — something that I’ve chosen to pursue — to give back to a city that fostered my education and growth? In what ways can I use music to be political? What are meaningful ways of using this medium to say what can’t be spoken?
Solomon Trio has a show at Valley Bar this Sunday [July 8] as part of a new series called FUSE presented by JAVA Magazine. Any words you wish to share about your upcoming performance?
We’re immensely grateful to share a bill with House of Stairs and The Geibral Elisha Movement, both of whom are huge influences. Our improvisation can sometimes be spontaneous and free-form, creating something like soundscapes; at other times, it has more structure and tends to be more groove-based. Whatever we do, we’re having a great time and we’ll let you know it.