The story of Black Caesar Soul Club began, oddly enough, with a T-shirt.
"I tell this story all the time," says singer-guitarist Aaron Allblack. "I was leaving a bar and Marty [Goldmill, drummer] was going into the bar. I had on a Thin Lizzy shirt ... and Marty said, 'Hey, nice shirt.' I'll be honest, with two black men, Thin Lizzy is usually not the topic of conversation."
Allblack was overjoyed to hear Goldmill mention that he played drums (and not the guitar, as he'd feared). The pair immediately built a partnership around a shared love of old-school soul, funk, and rock 'n' roll.
"You could make an interesting Venn diagram of our interests," Goldmill says. "There's some that are Aaron's alone, and some that are mine alone. But most overlap, and it makes something special." You'll instantly hear echoes of their multi-faceted influences, which include Jimi Hendrix, Curtis Mayfield, the aforementioned Thin Lizzy, Motown, and Stax Records.
As Allblack added, "Marty's more '60s rock, and I'm more '70s rock. Regardless, it's most definitely rooted in the past."
But that shared appreciation of retro music, or even a similar love of band tees, isn't the most interesting part of their story. No, it's that while Goldmill has played in various bands before, this was Allblack's first "serious" project. That fact may have had almost everything to do with his tendencies as a songwriter.
"I was writing songs myself, and I guess I was making them a little hard to play for a drummer," Allblack says. "The drummers I was playing with, it was kind of hard for them to fall in place."
But once the pair actually got to playing, something magical happened.
"The first time we played together, it was just lock and key," Allblack says. "We just found the rhythm and found that groove. Like, wait, was this already written?"
Goldmill felt the exact same way from note one.
"A friend of mine said Aaron and I must be musical soulmates," he says. "It's definitely right."
Allblack says that the pair continue to experience this profoundness every time they play together.
"You see it in documentaries, and hear about it in interviews, these musical love affairs," he says. "I totally believe that's what we have. Because we'll be practicing, and it always seems to find the right place."
Things are so good, in fact, that there are rarely any creative tensions to be found.
"Surprisingly, we haven’t really had any disagreements when it comes to making music," Allblack says. "As wild as it sounds, that’s how much we click when it comes to this. We’ve definitely become good friends through our 'musical journey' together."
You can readily hear this sonic connection across the band's live shows and recorded efforts, including their new Propers EP. Whether it's the sweltering intensity of "Can't Sleep," or the boundless swagger of "Solution," BCSC have forged something spectacular with ideas and sounds of the past, blurring genres into something deeply that scintillates mind, body, and soul. They proudly wear these colors of the past as they find new ways to bring these energies and ideas ever forward.
"We have a lot of love for our influences," Goldmill says. "And a lot of love for this music. It might sound cliché, but we're passionate about this music."
Allblack says much of the same when he declares, "We play rock 'n' roll that has a lot of soul."
But from that simplicity comes a focus on the bounty of emotion and pure humanity that exemplifies the respectively rich musical canons the pair are mining.
"Like Marty said, what comes through is the passion," Allblack says. "It comes through in the playing. It comes through in my singing. It's like James Brown, where he's just dragging those notes across the floor. That is the crux of our music, especially our live shows. Whether it's having a good time, or your lady has done you wrong ... I want you to feel it. Feel it deep."
That's a feat made all the more impressive given that they're just a duo — something that folks seem to have a hard enough time reconciling.
"I did not know until we started playing out just how many people are stuck on the power trio," Allblack says. "It's just wild to see how many people are like, 'When can I fill in?' Like, we're loud; really loud. We can fill up a space quite nicely."
They're not adverse to, say, adding a bassist or other backup, but Allblack says that such a decision "would have to be natural. But things are rocking now."
Yet that two-man approach is also part of the band's larger campaign for success. Beyond the music itself, it's part of how they set themselves apart in the scene.
"There are a few bands out there that I wouldn't say are similar, but have similar vibes," Allblack says. "The scene here [Phoenix] is very, very understated. We run into cats all the time that say, 'You're really good. How do I not know you yet?' There's a lot going on here."
And, as Allblack mentioned, standing out has never been an issue for either man.
"You're talking to black men in Phoenix that do rock 'n' roll," he says. "We can't help it. But you want to set yourself apart, to stand out and grab people's attention. Not with shock value, but in a way that says, 'I dig those cats. I want to hear more of what they got to say.'"
Folks will have plenty more chances to hear BCSC in the coming months. They've booked regular shows all over the Valley, and they're hoping to line up more outings elsewhere, including festival dates. Meanwhile, they've got some new releases in the work, including a collection of "slower songs" for late summer/early fall. These plans don't mean they'd have to relocate, either, with Allblack mentioning, "If we did have to go to L.A. or something, how long is that flight?"
For two guys who met some five years ago because of an old band tee, BCSC have already accomplished enough, and there's still plenty more that they'd like to get done. Because aside from the cutesy stories, the musical brotherhood, and the great rock parties they throw at every concert, BCSC are only really concerned with one thing: changing other people's lives through their art.
"I want to make sure that we have something that people will never mind listening to," Allblack says. "You're not going to find anybody else like this. I'm going to be honest — you're not. If you love soul and rock 'n' roll music, you're going to love us."
Black Caesar Soul Club. With Saturn III and The Joeys. 5:30 p.m. doors, 6 p.m. show, Saturday, June 18, at The Rebel Lounge, 2303 East Indian School Road. Tickets are $12 and are available via See Tickets.
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Chris Coplan has been a professional writer since the 2010s, having started his professional career at Consequence of Sound. Since then, he's also been published with TIME, Complex, and other outlets. He lives in Central Phoenix with his fiancee, a dumb but lovable dog, and two bossy cats.