From left to right: Erik Graves, Taylor Hunt, Josh Lumsden, Brandon Street and Shawn Lumsden - Photos by Cameron Flaisch
Sound-/sound/noun 1.vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when they reach a person’s or animal’s ear.
cul·ture-/ˈkəlCHər/noun 1.the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.
Sound culture is defined as the auditory environment (or soundscape) located within its wider social and cultural context.
In more basic terms, we might describe it as a set of shared attitudes, values and goals that produce excellence when those characteristics work together to inspire people not only to do their best, but to do what is right, even when it is not in their best interests.
This is Sound Culture.
A band made up of five eclectic friends: Shawn Lumsden, Erik Graves, Josh Lumsden, Taylor Hunt and Brandon Street; these men work to bring the reggae genre of music to the masses, laced with touches they have coined as their own.
“When we all started jamming together as a band, we were just playing reggae covers. But as we progressed, we have developed in to so many different facets with each song; it is just one of the things I love about it,” says Brandon Street, bass player for group.
Classifying their music as rock with reggae influence, the musicians of Sound Culture didn’t want to simply be known as just another reggae band. They aim to be more of an assorted amalgam of who each band member is.
“Kind of what we wanted when we first formed the band was fluidity,” explains Shawn Lumsden, who plays rhythm on the six string. “We all love reggae so much, but the one thing we don’t like is the fact that most reggae bands don’t focus on the intense guitar solos, etc.
“We have Josh who is amazing at unique and intense guitar solos, and we really utilize his talent to make our sound unique,” continues Shawn. “It truly adds a whole dynamic to our sound instead of being just another reggae band.”
With each member growing up with a wide array of different musical backgrounds, you start to understand each song and its influences on a deeper level than before. Brandon grew up on the blues, but as V3 traveled to their practice room at Erik’s house in Alpharetta for a chat, it was obvious that Erik gets his roots from rock and roll.
“Taylor, believe it or not, loves country music,” laughs Street as he digs into each member’s own musical taste. “It really all differs between us. Shawn is the one who introduced us to the reggae music, and the rest is history.”
The guys of Sound Culture have all been friends for quite some time, but it wasn’t until October of 2016 at Shawn’s wedding, that they met Erik (lead singer) and asked him to jam with them during the upcoming holidays.
Along with the crew’s differing music tastes, each member comes from music-driven families.
Shawn and Josh, the two brothers of the band, grew up listening to their dad pick guitar on the front porch of their farm house in Talbotton, Ga. When they finally decided to pick up guitars themselves, it didn’t take long for them to get good enough to join in on the jam sessions.
“I started playing guitar when I was 13, but I grew up around my uncle who also played music,” explains Graves. Street defines himself as a closet-case guitarist for around 18 years because he was afraid to perform and would only play behind closed doors, and Taylor Hunt (drums) was playing guitar long before he ever picked up a drum stick.
“Not long after we started playing together, Chelsea (Shawn’s wife) and I moved into our new house. I knew that I wanted a jam room in my future home, so we made it happen. In January of 2017, we officially became a band,” says Shawn.
After officially establishing the band, the only thing left preventing the guys from playing music together live was a name.
“We came up with the name Sound Culture because I lied to the band,” laughs Graves as the other members of the band join in on the joke.
“I used to work at this brewery,” said Graves after a chuckle, “and we had a customer come in who talked about the fact that he was putting together this music festival (Alpha-palooza). I was like, ‘I wanna play.’ He told me to make a band and I could play. So, I went back to the guys and started making plans. At this time, we were just playing covers and a few new songs Josh had written and told them we had to have a name by tonight before they would release the flyers.
“We were so stressed out,’” Graves continues, “just looking around for inspiration in Shawn’s house. Chelsea was busy doing homework and she read us a sentence out of her anthropology book which said something like culture of sound or something along those lines. Shelby (Josh’s girlfriend) then piped up and said, ‘What about Sound Culture?’ and we went with it.”
Some of the other names the band considered before Sound Culture were Sundaze and Minty Fresh. They all agree the latter worked out in their favor.
“We see the name Sound Culture as like, the people you go to a show with, or your musical clique. It’s like having a steadfast culture,” says Graves.
“The thing I love about our name is the fact that you can hit so many different genres and we can expand upon it in so many different ways,” adds Street. “It doesn’t stick us in one category, we are free to smoothly delve into the different genres of music.”
This rings true as soon as one hears the beginning verse to “Voodoo Vixen.” It’s almost hard to stop yourself from dancing to the light-hearted guitar chords and Graves’ soothing vocals and is perhaps one of the songs that bends the traditional rules of reggae.
According to Sound Culture, the song writing and music making process is a collaborative effort among each individual band member. This is evident simply from the bond witnessed between friends.
Explaining their process, one person usually writes the rhythm or bare bones structure and then introduces it to the band. From there, they usually prefer to jam on it before they insert the lyrics.
“The very first song we wrote as a band, Erik played the chords for us and Josh added a really cool guitar solo on it,” says Shawn. “I added some funky keys in the background; Brandon added some real heavy bass lines that make the song and Erik’s vocals made it all flow so well.”
We have come so far, through the sands of time.
This line begins a fan-favorite Sound Culture original. About a minute through the song, Caribbean-inspired cool vibes transport your mind to the aquamarine ocean-lapped shores of Jamaica. Notes and harmonies combine, invoking the strong smell of salt water mixed with coconut-scented suntan oil until the shock of Josh’s lead guitar chords bring you back to reality.
“We wrote “Up to Me” acoustically. But when we began working on “Sands of Time” we all gathered at Josh’s place one night and we all collectively wrote a couple more verses, just piecing everyone’s ideas together to make the perfect song,” says Graves.
“Each one of our songs that we have written now, which is about seven or eight originals, they started out with one person who brought it to the band, and we all add our own effects throughout the process,” explains Shawn.
These originals came together and the band produced an Extended Playlist (EP) titled “Sound Culture” which dropped on August 25, 2018.
“It took about a year and a half to write the songs that we knew we wanted on the EP,” says Shawn. But the band was performing shows way before the release of the EP.
“Our first big show we played was Alpha-palooza,” says Graves. “That was pretty awesome. Just getting to play on a huge stage, in front of hundreds of people was incredible.”
That didn’t come without nerves, however, as Street remembers how nervous he was because he had never performed on stage until joining his mates in Sound Culture.
“I roomed with Erik in college and we always played together,” says Street. “That made me more comfortable with performing.”
“It really does takes guts, man. You kind of just have to be willing to throw it all out there in hopes of people liking your sound,” Graves chimes in as Street reminisces on the beginnings of playing live.
Since becoming Sound Culture, the band frequents venues like Smith’s Olde Bar (1578 Piedmont Ave NE, Atlanta) and the Masquerade (50 Lower Alabama Street, Atlanta).
“As a band, our philosophy has been to make all of our money playing shows,” says Shawn. “We all collectively agreed that any money we make goes back into our band fund so that we can continue to record these EP’s and albums, expand our merch line and do more together as a band.”
Street agrees saying that, “We don’t take any money out for ourselves; it all gets reinvested into the band.”
“I think that approach is pretty unique. We don’t see this as a job where we were going to bring in a little extra money,” adds Graves. “We treat Sound Culture as a business. We reinvest our earnings back into the pot so that we can be more successful.”
The brotherhood and friendships are undeniable between these musicians, especially as they continue to climb up the ranks as a reggae/rock band in the Atlanta music scene. In fact, just recently the guys were surprised as they were added to a list of bands with the potential to perform at SweetWater’s 420 Fest.
“When we heard that we were on the ballot to play at SweetWater’s 420 Fest, we were so stoked! It seriously came out of nowhere,” says Graves. “If we get to play there, that will be the biggest thing we have done so far.”
The Fest then announced that Sound Culture made it in the top five for Atlanta’s 99X Talent Tap Contest where they will go head-to-head against four other bands to fight for the top three spots and a chance to play on SweetWater’s stage.
“This year has proved to us that we are moving up, especially because we are getting to play with bigger bands. Some of these bands we have been listening to for forever, which makes it that much more surreal,” says Street.
The overall support the band has been getting from their families and friends, as well as others who just simply love their music, adds the fuel to their fire to keep creating and doing what they love.
“Recently, I had an instance while I was out to eat in Atlanta. We walked into a restaurant and the first person I saw was wearing a Sound Culture shirt. That was cool, for sure,” says Graves.
A rise in devotees (according to Sound Culture) can be attributed to the specific space in the music industry that the band chose to call home, which is reggae music.
“I think it is important to find a niche in the music industry and try to use that niche to get your foot in the door,” explains Shawn. “So, reggae is a genre that has been on the rise recently, so we wanted to infiltrate the market that way and so far, it has gone really well.”
“The people who come out to reggae shows are really supportive, too,” adds Graves. “When we first played on a reggae bill, we realized that these were our people. It was baffling. But I think we fill a really cool spot in the scene that is reggae music.”
When asked how big the band wanted to eventually become, all of the members laughed and sighed as if this was not the first time they had been asked this question.
“Of course, we want everyone to hear our music and to make it big. But the thing that keeps driving us so much is that we all are extremely passionate about what we do,” says Street. “I joke around with them all the time saying, ‘I will quit my job if it gets in the way of the band.’ It’s funny, but I am 100 percent serious, because music is my passion.”
“We are taking it all in stride and having a good time,” adds Shawn. Which is evident no matter what the guys are doing, either in their spare time, during rehearsals or shows.
“We always do this thing before our shows. We tell ourselves we are going play this show like it is our last,” explains Graves. “Even when we know it isn’t our last, we still do that because you never know what tomorrow will bring. We all have things that are going to eventually force our direction of choices, but we just try and take everything in stride.”
As for Sound Culture’s fans, they will continue to show support and love as the band continues on their journey to distinction.
“The support system we have is above and beyond anything we could have ever imagined,” smiles Shawn. “That is the most humbling thing about having this band, in my opinion.”
Sound Culture is currently streaming on Spotify, Amazon and Apple Music. For more information on their upcoming shows as well as their social media accounts, visit their website at www.wearesoundculture.com