Super 400 breaks the rock stigma and comes out as modern day soul music

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:: Super 400 :: Realm of Music Festival ::
 :: August 8 ::

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By Cornelia Kane

Super 400 could be a couple of things, depending on who you ask. It could be an extremely valuable vintage Gibson jazz guitar, circa 1934. Or it could be the hardest rocking trio to come out of upstate New York in a long, long time. As you might have already guessed, the focus of this article will be (mainly) on the latter.

The band formed in 1996, in Troy, New York, when long-time friends Kenny Hohman (guitar and vocals) and Joe Daley (drums) played a local musicians’ showcase in front of bassist Lori Friday. The three instantly clicked and in 1998 they were signed to Island Records and released their self-titled debut. But things weren’t all they were cracked up to be. In late 1998, due to shakeups at the label, Super 400 were released from their contract and ever since have been doing it on their own, releasing two studio albums, including their most recent, 2007’s rock and roll-fueled fire starter, 3 And The Beast, and one live album on their own imprint, Electric Mombie.

The Marquee caught up with bassist Lori Friday recently for an interview as the band rolled out of their hometown to kick off their summer tour. While many people might be quick to label the band’s sound as rock and roll, since their live show is one of the loudest around, Friday has a different opinion. “I think that we’re a soul band. Of course, you might not feel that way, but I think that we’ve always considered our music as soul music. We might not hold it out to Stax or Motown and say, ‘Yes, these are gold albums,’ because we’re apples and oranges. We live in a different place than those guys did, and a different time, but if you were going to describe our music, I think it would be safe to say that it’s soul music,” Friday said.

Whether you call it soul for a new generation or just good old rock and roll, this band knows how to bring it live. They are known for their raucous live shows (bring earplugs), but it is interesting to note that more thought goes into it than one might think. “When we’re making our records, we don’t record songs unless we feel that the song is good enough to stand on its own if you just played it on an acoustic guitar and sang it quietly,” she said, adding that they take that same mentality with live material. “If we decide not to play a song live, it’s generally because we want to keep the energy level up. A great rock band doesn’t play, you know, 120 beats per minute every song. That’s not what we’re all about. Every night is different and it depends on the crowd that we’re playing for. The more energy the crowd gives us, the more outrageous a show we’re going to give them, every time. There’s no exception to that rule. We’re going to give it up if there are five people or 5,000 people there, but we’re certainly going to give a different performance depending on the energy we get.”

When it comes to writing songs, the band divides the task up equally. “We’re all involved in creating the songs,” said Friday. “One of the strengths of our band is that we take every idea that we feel strongly about and try to bring it to fruition. All three of us are in this together, and we try to do the best we can with every idea that we believe in. That’s something that we’re very grateful for, that we’re able to do that as a band.”

The collaboration of all three members adds a distinct quality to the band’s sound, but Friday said that one major element that is incorporated into all of their material is something that they get from fans. “Our sound now is a direct reflection of the energy that we’ve gotten from the audiences that we’ve played for,” she said. “The way it sounds to me isn’t going to be the same as the way it sounds to you. I mean, to me, it sounds like love. But to you at home, it might sound like soul music, or rock music, or a kick in the balls. I think it’s an individual thing. That’s the great thing about music.”

And, in fact, all of those descriptions fit perfectly with the band’s name and how it came to be. Friday explained that Daley’s brother is a vintage guitar dealer and one day he heard his brother talking about the Super 400 with a potential customer and had the thought that it’d be a great band name. “We still feel that way, years later. We love the name, it’s a name that kind of can mean a lot of different things, but it does come from that old Gibson guitar,” Friday said. “It’s a beautiful guitar. It’s a hollow-bodied guitar, mainly used for jazz. If one of us did have one of those guitars, we could probably temporarily retire, because it’s a very valuable vintage instrument, and definitely a much sought-after piece at this point in time. But we love vintage instruments and a lot of our gear is vintage.”

She also joked that if any representatives from Gibson happen to read this article and are in a generous mood, they definitely wouldn’t turn one down.

:: Super 400 ::
:: Realm of Music Festival ::
:: August 8 ::

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