BY STEPHANIE MIRANDA
Sōk, pronounced “soak”, is a four piece band, originally started by Alexis Plain on vocals and Nick Bilski on guitar, in St. Paul, Minnesota, where they met at McNally Smith College of Music. After an unfortunate and unexpected closing of the school, the two ultimately met back up in Chicago. There they would meet classmate and future drummer Cameron Carlson, and after putting out a Facebook ad, got their bassist Jonah Nink. These members have a cosmic connection, with their songs often coming from a jam session, there’s no denying the powerful and captivating collaboration that gives us far out rockin’ tunes. We at Woozy got the chance to get to know them better and talk about their debut ep and latest single, “Jawbreaker”, as well as other plans they have in store for us.
[This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity]
First things first, how did you all get into the world of music? I don’t just mean together as a band, but your own personal music journey?
Cameron: Well, I started doing band when you could in middle school, around the fourth or fifth grade. I started on a different instrument, the trombone, and then I did percussion after that, but the program wasn’t very good. Later in high school, that’s when I really started learning music, like terms and such. I started actually working hard at it, and it was one of the first things I really worked hard at and saw improvement from. I was like, “Oh, I got better at this,” I can read rhythms now, stuff like that. I felt really good about it. That was the development of me learning rock music and different genres. It made me want to play drums for a living somehow. So I eventually went to Columbia College and met these people. Hopefully, that’s what happens for my life.
Nick: For me, it was a kind of a little similar, kind of different. Around the same age though, like fifth grade, my friend started taking guitar lessons at this place like down the street. We grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, which had more music than you’d expect, it was a big music town. So, within a few months, I was in lessons there. Just learning the music I grew up on, like rock music, and since then I’ve expanded out and really now listen to everything. I just started out listening to rock and in mind to do it because my friends were and then yeah, after more and more of lessons, I kind of just started playing in bands from there and just kept going more and more
Jonah: I was also about middle school aged when I started playing. I had a pretty tight knit group of friends back then, and I noticed that they were all playing instruments. They were in this little middle school band and they had this bass player who was flaky. They were kind of looking for somebody else, and I really wanted to hang out with friends more. So I asked him, “ Hey, do you need a new guy, a new bass player?” They were like, “Yeah, can you play?” I just said, oh, give me a week or two. I’ll figure it out. Then I joined and stuck with them, thankfully. We all had fun. After that, I just stuck with playing bass and played a little bit of guitar too. I played with a bunch of other bands throughout high school and then got to college and now here I am.
Alexis: I always loved to sing when I was little and I remember in kindergarten, I knew I wanted to be a singer. I just wasn’t sure how to go about that. I wrote my first song in second grade, I started writing pretty young, and I always had that need to do it. I was really fortunate to have supportive parents, you know, that were like, yeah, you’re interested in music, let’s help you get into that! In fourth grade, I got to begin taking guitar lessons and started learning that as a means to accompany myself for my songs I was writing. I always had that fire and that need, you know, to be creating something. Then, in middle school I got a dabble with a bunch of other instruments. I realized that songwriting was my main passion at that point. So, again, I had incredibly supportive parents, I’m so grateful for them. They helped me get like a little iPad set up with GarageBand and stuff. I started messing around with that in middle school and releasing some music in like eighth grade, which is quite cringey. There’s no need to hear it. Then I started doing like a school of rock style thing in high school, which got me a lot of performing experience. I started doing actual vocal lessons at that time. I’ve kind of always known, thankfully, what I’ve wanted to do, and I’ve just had a lot of support around me to encourage that. To feed that need. Then I met Nick at McNally, and we started playing together actually through a mutual friend that I met at the School of Rock thing. It was almost great that the school closed, I was majoring in songwriting and composition previously. At first, I was disappointed because the school that we’re going to now doesn’t have that program. It was good though, because I’m able to focus more on the formalities of vocal technique and everything, which has been good for me and I’ve grown a lot from that. It’s pushed me, which has been needed. But yes, we met Cameron in class and found Jonah on the internet. We love the internet.
In another interview you all did, you briefly mentioned having different styles that you bring into the band. What kind of sounds do you all like to make?
Nick: I think, as far as the guitar, I don’t know. I feel like my style comes from all over the place like you might think. It’s mainly from rock, but I listen to metal, pop, R&B, and gospel. I really tried to listen to literally everything and want all that to come in a little bit, but, I think specifically for Jawbreaker, it was influenced by a lot of modern rock guys like Royal Blood, Highly Suspect, the Black Keys, stuff like that.
Cameron: I guess a lot of the drum sounds that have inspired the parts I play specifically is a lot of new metal and rock, heavy metal, and metal core. But then, I also like funk and some other things like that, just some kind of random things, but mostly metal and rock.
Jonah: I take a lot of inspiration, playing wise, from older players like James Jamison and John Entwistle and Roger Waters, lots of the old guys. I’m very big on the old guard. I listened to lots of Pink Floyd and the Eagles, all that, Rolling Stones. Something about them has always really clicked for me, and you’d think that bass sound with new metal drums and just fucking wild guitar is a weird combo, but it actually works really well, and I think that’s what makes the sound so unique.
Alexis: For me, it’s a bit weird. My main thing I loved listening to growing up was classic rock and Aerosmith was the first band that I really connected with, especially because I love the gritty blues kind of thing, but also his range struck me. I was like, wait, I sing like that too! I haven’t heard people sing in that style like before, so that opened a whole new world of classic rock for me. That was my main thing, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Heart for vocalists are some of my favorites. I actually work for 101 WKQX in the city, and so, they are exposed to a lot of alternative music. But I definitely try to listen to as much as I can, I like the melodic structure of a lot of pop hooks and things so I pull a lot of inspiration from those as well. As far as actual vocal singing, it would be Freddie Mercury and Ann Wilson of Heart, you know, Robert Plant. I do love a lot of that, it’s very fun.
How would you all describe your debut EP, as well as your latest single, “Jawbreaker?”
Cameron: I’m not sure, I’d say maybe like avant-garde rock, alternative, something like that.
Nick: I was told our EP sounds like alternative prog rock and I’ve always liked that.
Alexis: Yeah, I like the idea of like art rock, too, or like art alternative, you know, but it kind of sounds pretentious, but like, I mean, I think we like to get into some of the like conceptual kind of stuff and also Some things are going to be more popular but we do like to play with because three of us our music students, you know, we like to bring in some of the technical side of that and some of the theory and play with some of the things you’ve learned. So I think that’s where the frog comes from. For sure.
Jonah: I always imagined us as this three way car crash between Rush, Paramore and Soundgarden. Just a massive collision of that.
*This was the most poetic description I had ever heard.
What was the vision behind the “Jawbreaker” lyric video? There’s lots of action and colors that pop, it’s pretty gnarly.
Alexis: I don’t know, I wanted it to be a lot of fun. Like we’re saying, we like really colorful things. But, also, it’s such a badass tune that I wanted it to be almost nightmare-ish in certain parts, you know? Kind of unsettling but also fun! I want you to be a little intimidated, but also having fun with it. I definitely did get inspired by cartoon kind of elements, with the lightning bolts you know, and flame, things like that. So that that was definitely an idea. I just wanted it to be fun, colorful, animated, playing off of the artwork with it too, which is done by the wonderful Claudia Lubas, who we’re so excited to collaborate with. I think the results were pretty fun. I guess I’ve been, in the past year or so, getting into cartoons. I think it’s such an underrated and interesting medium for storytelling because you can cover really heavy topics in it. But people aren’t gonna be expecting that, you know, so you can kind of address things in like a lighter way that you normally wouldn’t be able to, like the Midnight Gospel on Netflix. I’m gonna mention that because that’s a really cool one. But that’s partially the inspiration, that I’ve been really into animated works right now.
What’s the biggest issue you guys have when making music? I know they’re heavily based on collaboration from all of you, many of them starting from jam sessions. How do you guys work with that?
Jonah: I think we all do a good job of not overstepping each other or our boundaries. We’re all responsible for our own parts, essentially, just making those work. We might suggest stuff and maybe provide some collaborations and suggestions and all that, but we don’t do it to the extent where it becomes intrusive. Like, I played in bands before where the guy looks me in the eyes and says, you’re gonna play this, this and this and that sucks, because it’s like, there’s no room for me to kind of explore and experiment a little bit.
Alexis: I like to think, in part because my previous major was songwriting and composition, that a lot of those classes really sunk in with me, you know? I tried to bring that to the group. I mean, again, we don’t really step on each other’s toes very much. We all kind of let each other do what we want to do, but like we have to pull it back with other people’s time to shine. I think, definitely, having a good grip on songwriting is really important when you’re having a lot of busy elements together, you know? Picking and choosing how to incorporate them.
Nick: It’s pretty simple to me, like we listen to each other. I think, not to get deep here, that the world needs more of that right now, of people listening to each other. I think and hope that we generally do a good job of it, no one’s perfect, but it helps, we all are experienced at what we do. We all listen to a lot of different stuff and listen to other good examples of how it’s done, that definitely helps too.
Cameron: Yeah, I was gonna say respect. If you want to be successful you know, communication between your band at a basic level is important. Just respect or communicate with anyone. If that’s not in play, then there’s a weird control dynamic and that just sounds icky, you know?
Alexis, I know you’re the vocals, but, are all of you guys going to add some vocals too?
Cameron: Yeah I definitely hope so if it works with the tune!
Alexis: Yeah, we’re actually hoping to incorporate more backup vocals live, Jonah’s gonna be hopping on that. So you’re hopefully gonna be working some of those out. I know, Cam said for some songs potentially of doing some backups, too. So we definitely want to incorporate more of that into our live setup for sure. Then, studio wise, I would totally be open to it. I think it depends. I have a weird voice to blend to tone wise. That’s what my ensemble teachers have told me before. I’m like, thank you? But, if we can get ourselves to blend good then I’m so for it.
Nick: It’s hard to do it right now because of everything going on. There aren’t many rehearsal places or times right now, but once there are definitely for sure.
Sok’s members definitely assure us that they’re trying to get what they can out for us amid all the chaos. We hope everyone rides the rockin’ wave of their latest release, “Jawbreaker” and other shows they have in store for us. Remember to stream their music and buy their merch! 50% of the proceeds will be going to the Chicago Bail Fund! Keep rocking on!