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Taken from The Bulletin (Feb 08, 2018)

Solillaquists of Sound to engage Bend audience

Conscious hip-hop group closes Oregon tour at Domino Room

by Brian McElhiney, The Bulletin

Orlando, Florida, hip-hop group Solillaquists of Sound will make its Bend debut at the Domino Room on Saturday. Marv Ellis & We Tribe and local MC/artist Mosley Wotta open the show. (Submitted photo)

It’s not easy to be a passive fan of Solillaquists of Sound.

Since its formation in 2002, the Orlando, Florida-based, four-piece hip-hop group has emphasized community and family over being typical musicians. This is reflected in its membership: Tonya Combs, in her role as “the listener,” serves as a representative of the audience onstage. And, of course, it’s reflected in the music, especially the three-album “Listener’s Trilogy,” an entire concept cycle dedicated to breaking down barriers between artist and audience.

That album cycle took nearly a decade to complete, and the double-album conclusion, “The 4th Wall,” was released on the group’s own Second Subject label with a hardcover book of related artwork and a 22-page guide filled with band notes and Easter eggs. It’s a lot to ask fans to dig through, especially as the music industry continues to cater to short attention spans with streaming.

“It is a challenge and has been a challenge from when we first started to now,” producer and composer DiViNCi (born Glen Valencia Jr.) said recently from Orlando during a joint call with bandmate and rapper Swamburger (born Asaan Brooks). They spoke with GO! the day before leaving for a four-date Oregon tour that wraps up at the Domino Room on Saturday.

“As the participants, as I will call them — as fans realize that they can be more aloof and not be as active — because that’s just what’s advertised. I don’t blame anyone for it. It’s just what’s advertised all the time is the fact that, ‘Oh, this is just a one-sided thing; they put stuff out; I get to listen to it or I can choose not to or whatever.’ But again, what I’ve always maintained is that this is a conversation, and I don’t want to be the only one doing the talking.”

For the group, maintaining that connection comes down to consistency.

“I think there is a target audience that we shoot for all the time, and that’s the truest version of anybody — the truest self of anybody and everybody,” DiViNCi continued. “I don’t think that you can reach that goal by playing by all the rules that people play just to reach a wide number of people. … Once people see, oh, it doesn’t change when it’s in this topic or that topic or this topic, well then maybe this is actually a wall I can lean on, not just somebody talking.’”

“The Listener’s Trilogy” — also encompassing the band’s two ANTI- Records releases, 2006’s “As If We Existed” and 2008’s “No More Heroes” — is certainly a defining statement for the band. Along with setting out the band’s mission statement, it makes up the bulk of its studio-album output, excepting 2002’s debut album, “4 Student Counsol: Running from Precedence.”

The group’s Oregon run is its first in the U.S. in some time — the band’s most recent tours have been in France, DiViNCi and Swamburger said. A new single, “Let it Burn,” dropped in anticipation of the shows; it’s the group’s first official release since the trilogy.

But again, release schedules and even tours don’t convey the whole picture. Since the trilogy, the group members have dedicated themselves to giving like-minded artists a leg up through Second Subject (DiViNCi produces all of the label’s acts). They’ve also performed solo and in different permutations (DiViNCi and vocalist Alexandrah — born Alexandra Sarton — together as Chakra Khan; Swamburger and DiViNCi as a duo). On the personal side, DiViNCi and Combs have a 2-year-old daughter; Combs will sit this tour out to stay home with the kid.

“It’s no longer just a music format; it’s actually in the action,” Swamburger said. “… I’m now a promoter in this town. Because of stuff like (the trilogy), I’m able to connect with audiences even more by way of grabbing other folks who are still doing this and bringing them to town. … This music thing, if you will, it grew some legs and became an actual movement, so now we’re managing that movement as opposed to just talking about starting one.”

DiViNCi and Swamburger are unsure what the next Solillaquists of Sound album or release will look like. For now, the group is glad to be back on the road in its home country, delivering its messages of unity and community.

“Especially with what the world’s kind of asking for today and what it faces, we’re relevant again, you know what I’m saying?” Swamburger said. “Not necessarily just Solillaquists of Sound, but the actual message — it doesn’t seem like it’s just us talking about these things.

“It kind of feels to me as if the floodgates have been opened, and the world’s like, ‘Hey, where are the warriors at?’” he added. “And it’s like, all right, it’s our turn.”

What: Solillaquists of Sound, with Marv Ellis & We Tribe, Mosley Wotta
When: 9 p.m. Saturday, doors open at 8 p.m.
Where: Domino Room, 51 NW Greenwood Ave. Bend
Cost: $12 plus fees in advance
Contact: midtownballroom.com or 541-408-4329


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