Tom Heuckendorff is spending a lot of time alone these days. Not what you’d expect from a charismatic sideman-about-town in Vancouver. Especially curious, considering Heuckendorff created and fronts Soatoa, a rock/reggae/soul project involving loads of musician friends from around the city.
But there he is, when BeatRoute reaches him at his home studio in East Van, sitting at the piano, eating asparagus.
“Not exactly at the same time,” Heuckendorff laughs over the phone, later admitting to practicing classical music 10 hours a day. Still, the vegetables-and-solitary-artist vision makes for a good story. Heuckendorff, as it turns out, is full of them.
Even the name Soatoa (pronounced So-ah Toe-ah) came from a story, a book from Heuckendorff’s childhood he can’t remember the title of now.
“Soatoa was a character in the book,” he says. “I think it was this little rat sort of thing. It was a weird word that just stuck in my mind.” For Heuckendorff’s unique blend of saucy guitar jams, traditional reggae bass lines and organ-based soul, it works.
Indeed, the Soatoa debut full-length album Latent is a surefire cocktail of tunes, more a Jesus Juice concoction than a straightforward martini. Its 10 lush tracks slide from greasy rock riffs to bright Bob-Marley-influenced rhythms. Surprises abound, especially on chilled-out indie track “Swinging Trees,” a product of late night experimentation in Heuckendorff’s home studio, where Latent was engineered and produced over the course of two years.
“That was the best part of being able to record in my own home studio,” says Heuckendorff. “I’d be in there for hours and hours, editing, re-recording, messing around with the sets. It was the best experience ever.”
Fruitful, but did Heuckendorff have much of a social life while he was bringing Soatoa together?
“Uh, no,” he laughs. “My ex-girlfriend will attest to that!”
Catch Soatoa’s album release show with Hot Panda and Buckman Coe at the Fox Cabaret June 12.
By Sarah Bauer