The newly formed uPhonic Soundsystem debuted an album before it became a band and started performing on stage. That's due, in part, to the man behind the musical madness, Peter Gross, and his drive to compose.
"Technically, it's all my music, and at some level I'm sort of the dictator," said Gross, who plays guitar and keyboards and sings. Influenced by Pink Floyd and Phish, Gross describes uPhonic's sound as dark, sexy, moody and heavy.
Joining him is Shawn Freedman on guitar, Eric Jones on bass, Aaron Cook on drums and Calysta Cheyenne on vocals. Most of their songs come from Gross, who has been writing music since he was 17, but they have a few unexpected cover tunes by British bands up their sleeves as well.
"We do 'Sour Times,' which is by Portishead, and a few tunes by Morcheeba, and we do 'Clint Eastwood' by Gorillaz," said Gross.
With the help of friend Vincent Bierbach, Gross released an EP of his compositions called "Bella Danger" in 2012. Since then, he and his new bandmates have been preparing to perform the songs for a live audience.
"It made the first rehearsals easy," said Jones.
"I was able to be very clear from the start, because a lot of this is about me and my musical process in terms of making music," Gross said. "I just had to make music that I wanted to hear for the purest reasons — for music's sake."
The band will perform at 9:30 p.m. Friday, May 3, at Taroko, 62 E. Main St., Ashland. The cover is $10.
"I like that place because it's dark and clubby and has a non-Ashlandy feel," said Gross.
uPhonic Soundsystem also will perform May 18 at Apple Jam in Provolt.
For the Tidings Cafe, the Daily Tidings' online music video gallery, uPhonic Soundsystem played an original tune called "Dream Sequence" at Gross' home in Ashland. To see the video, go to www.dailytidings.com/tidingscafe.
The band's songs have a down-tempo, funk, rhythm and blues feel, leaving lots of room for improvisation within the structure of Gross' compositions.
"A human has to make it interesting for himself. Everybody is being creative within the structure," Gross said.
"I like being able to have my own space where I can create," said Jones.
Everyone in the ensemble has been a part of Ashland's musical community for some time and gravitated to each other through different arrangements. Together they practice once a week.
"Like marathon sessions, we go for hours," said Freedman.
"I've locked the door and put the key around the cat's neck," said Gross.
"This is what I do for release," Cook said. "I just want to have fun doing it. It's not about anything else. Pete did a really good job of putting some really good people together."
For vocalist Cheyenne, it's a departure from her weekly jazz gig with the Paul Schmeling Trio. When she's not performing or practicing with uPhonic Soundsystem, she's busy working on her own soon-to-be released solo album.
Described by the musicians as perfect for 2 or 3 a.m., when you've been dancing all night and you want to kick back, Gross describes the music as very "chillax."
"My whole experience is that, everybody here is super professional and has really dedicated themselves to the music," he said. "My main requirement is that they like it.
"As long as they like it, then there's nothing that we can't accomplish, and if we get positive feedback, then we'll keep doing it."
Reach Mandy Valencia at 541-776-4486 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.