Music Features

How New Phoenix Band Goldwax Revival Is Bringing Fresh Energy to Vintage Soul

Goldwax Revival has been promoting its debut with a series of photos.
Goldwax Revival has been promoting its debut with a series of photos. Goldwax Revival

In the annals of music history, certain record labels are revered by generations of fans. Stax. Motown. Blue Note.

Goldwax Records may not have the same reputation, but Phoenix bassist Pete Gonzales is on a mission to change that.

He's the founder of Goldwax Revival, a new 12-piece band that's having its debut show on Friday, March 4, at Crescent Ballroom.

As he tells it, Gonzales, a member of Jim Bachmann and the Day Drinkers, was poking around looking for vintage soul music to understand how songs from that era influenced modern artists.

"And I found this little pocket of music that was cool, and I started compiling a playlist of all these old soul songs," he says.

Goldwax Records was a short-lived label out of Memphis, Tennessee. Quinton Claunch and Rudolph "Doc" Russell founded it in 1963. Before it shut down in 1970, the label produced singles by underappreciated soul singers like James Carr ("Love Attack," "Pouring Water on a Drowning Man," "Dark End of the Street"), Spencer Wiggins ("Lonely Man," "Power of a Woman"), and The Ovations ("I'm Living Good," "Recipe for Love").

Gonzales wanted to try to put together a group to play the music of Goldwax.

"I tried to plant the seed here and there and try to get different people to play with me, but I knew it was going to be a huge band. It had to have a full horn section and all that," he says.

That was seven years ago.

Last year, he was able to put things in motion when was able to get local guitarist Ryan Probst interested in the project.

"I turned him on [to the idea], and once you turn that dude on, a bunch of shit happens," Gonzales says. "Not long after, we had a six-piece band, and then an eight-piece band, and now we’re up to 12."

Yes, 12. Goldwax Revival is composed of: lead singer BalJit Soul; the Liquid Gold Singers, Ryleigh Jensen, Lianna Kissinger Virizlay, and Jessica Magee; and the Gold Pack Players, David Cosme (trumpet), Tyler Flowers (saxophone), Frank Gonzales (drums), Pete Gonzales (bass), Ryan Probst (guitar), J.P. Montalvo, (guitar), Lonze Reynolds Jr. (saxophone), and Charlie Smith (keyboard).

Though she was raised by musicians, Kissinger Virizlay hadn't heard of Goldwax Records before she was approached by Probst to join the band.

"I met Ryan out in Tempe one day. He made an open invitation for anyone who could sing, and I kind of raised my hand," she says. "I think the coolest thing about this band is how many different pockets of the music scene the band members come from, and how we all just kind of showed up one day and we kept showing up."

As a saxophonist, Flowers, a veteran musician, music teacher, and band director, is well-versed in the soul sound of the mid-20th century. Even he wasn't familiar with Goldwax.

"All that soul music from the late '50s, '60s, the doo-wop era into the R&B era, it’s quintessentially vocals and horns, and I’m a saxophone player by trade, so it’s one of the genres of music I’ve always listened to and been involved with."

Flowers has known Probst for years, and when he returned to town after moving away for a year, Probst approached him about joining the band.

"Pretty much the second I moved back, he was like, 'Hey, we’re starting this group, do you want to spearhead what we’re doing with the horn section?'" Flowers says.

Goldwax found its members in a variety of ways. Frank Gonzales is Pete's older brother. Ryleigh Jensen got involved to help with the backup singers' choreography, but "it just also worked out that her voice blended beautifully with ours, too," Kissinger Virizlay says.

BalJit Soul, a member of the musical Sledge family, was an inspired find, Gonzales says.

"Frank knows BalJit’s family," he says. "When we were looking for a singer, that was the big thing. This soul stuff is vocal-based. I thought, 'There’s no way we’re going to find someone who can sing like that.' But Ryan assured me that if we put the band together, we’ll find somebody, and sure enough, he showed up and he sings like an angel."

Probst and Gonzales went recruiting for the band in late summer/early fall last year, and for a while, it was essentially just a jam.

"I’ve never experienced a musical endeavor that felt so organic and had this amount of talent all in one," Kissinger Virizlay says, "where every week, with no real end goal (obviously, we have a great show booked now), we were getting together just for the sake of this music. Pete has discovered some excellent tracks, and I’m just so grateful to be involved in a group of people that is bringing it to life."

The Crescent show will be the band's introduction to the world. Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra is the headliner, and Lady Staliet and Prime Society are also on the bill.

To get the word out and build buzz around the band and the show, Probst has been making the rounds of the Phoenix music scene for weeks with a cardboard Goldwax Revival sign, asking musicians, bar patrons, and random strangers to pose with it. He's amassed more than 100 photos.

"I love the idea of things being inclusive," Probst says. "Making people who might not normally be creative a part of the artistic process is so much fun. We're using it as publicity because Goldwax Revival is bigger than just the people in it. It's not all about us — it's about everyone."

Being in the band is certainly fun, Flowers says, but also a big undertaking.

"I’m not going to say that it wasn’t very hard work, because it was," he says. "But when you’re working hard with people who are also willing to work hard, it feels kind of organic the whole way through."

For concertgoers who aren't familiar with the Goldwax sound (so, pretty much everyone), the show will be an education of sorts, Gonzales says — but a fun one.

"They’re going to get knocked out by BalJit and the full sound. We’ve been putting in a lot of work, so it’s going to be a good time."

You could make the case that obscure tracks from a long-defunct, relatively unknown label don't have a lot to do with modern music, but you'd be wrong, he says.

"Not only did it influence rock 'n' roll and everything after that, but it influenced hip-hop, too" Gonzales says. "We're going to show 'em where it came from."

Flowers agrees.

"I think a lot of the music we’re playing next weekend is underplayed and I think it’s a really cool opportunity to try and do it justice," he says. "The sound is rooted in the past, but the joy behind the music is not."

Goldwax Revival. In support of Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra, with Prime Society and Lady Staliet. 7 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show, Friday, March 4. Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue. Tickets are $15 plus fees. Find Goldwax Revival on Facebook and Instagram.
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Jennifer Goldberg is the culture editor and Best of Phoenix editor for Phoenix New Times.