Sarah Reagan’s voice is to dream-pop sextet Solo Sol what Helen of Troy’s face was to the Trojan War, but instead of a thousand ships, Reagan’s languid, willowy pipes have launched a thousand songs.
Co-frontman Robert Bray writes most of the band’s material, and to say he’s prolific would be a gross understatement. “I’ll trash most of them,” he said, sitting with his five bandmates at Avoca Coffee on the Near Southside recently.
But not all of them. A music teacher in Denton with a music degree, Bray does most of his impromptu writing with the help of his iPhone’s recording application. At last count, he had uploaded 153 songs. On Wednesday, Oct. 17, for example, he wrote three songs in the span of an hour. The first was labeled “One Chord”; the other two both “Another Song.”
“If I name it, that means I thought it was OK,” he said.
His bandmates are given digital copies of the songs or song snippets and decide where to go from there.
The band has come a long way since its debut about four years ago, when the husband-and-wife team of veteran musos Robby and Jennifer Rux, who had taken a little time-out from music, got the itch to play again. They brought together Reagan and Bray, an old bandmate, for a jam.
“It was going horribly,” Robby said. “I thought, ‘This isn’t going to work.’ ”
Just as they were on the verge of abandoning the idea of forming a group with Reagan, the musicians decided to ask her to sing Mazzy Star’s huge early-’90s hit “Fade Into You.”
“She sang it great,” Robby said. “And I was like, ‘We got something here.’ And we kept working at it.”
The end result is a serious and hard-working outfit purveying what Robby calls “space-folk,” drawing from the mid-1960s San Francisco scene, with a foot in densely layered, shoegazey noise art. Their walls of sound are draped in Reagan’s and Bray’s ethereal vocals. The quartet convinced Reagan’s husband, Ryan Reagan, into playing bass, and guitarist Brian Smith, who started out as a fan, was added to the roster to give Bray more freedom to add in other instruments.
The affable, easy-going folks of Solo Sol now find themselves the senior statesmen of a scene within a scene, with a span that reaches so many different bands, musicians, and recordings, they’ve become the Kevin Bacon of Fort Worth music.
Jennifer plays in girl-punk trio Bitch Bricks and sonic gut-punchers Year of the Bear. Robby also plays in Year of the Bear and drums for Mailman, and he is the uncle and drum teacher of Fungi Girls’ Skyler Salinas.
Fungi recorded their ground-breaking album Some Easy Magic at Dreamy Soundz, an analog studio and record label owned by the Ruxes and located in the Near Southside’s oh-so hip Fairmount District. Jennifer, who recently quit her job as a middle-school sound engineering teacher for the Arlington school district, has recorded about a dozen bands, including The Longshots, Skeleton Coast, War Party, Jake Paleschic & Patriot, Slumberbuzz, and Fibbs. “I don’t like to record people unless I really believe in what they are doing,” she said.
The sudden popularity of Dreamy Soundz has taken a small toll on Solo Sol’s own recording ambitions. “It’s hard on our personal projects,” Robby said. “We have to get in line.”
The Solo Sol folks still gig regularly. One of their most recent shows was at a Mid-Cities coffeehouse where Rick Perry was supposed to make an appearance. Perry never showed, but the band still has the distinction of headlining over the Texas governor.
Solo Sol has released one LP, Chocolate Shavings, and a 7-inch vinyl recording last year. The band hopes to release a full-length album on Dreamy Soundz by early next year.