‘Sweet’ band mixes unique styles

With melodic beats that rip through the stale club air, Sweet Ray Laurel is quickly becoming one of the most talked about bands in Cincinnati. The group, which consists of three Northern Kentucky University and one University of Kentucky student, features a convergence of many musical styles combing rock, jazz, blues and reggae to form a distinctive sound all their own.

“Our music, it’s like the best sex you ever had. Sometimes it gets rough and dirty, but only minutes later it’s soft and passionate,” said lead singer Jimmy “Jims” Snowden with a sly smile creeping across his face.

Since forming two and a half years ago, Sweet Ray Laurel has torn through the local music scene, leaving to the sweet sound of standing ovations at local hotspots Top Cats, the York Street Cafe, the Mad Hatter and the Poison Room.

Lead singer Snowden, lead guitarist Eric Boehmker, bassist/backup vocalist Kenny Potter and drummer/backup vocalist Dane Dickman have come from very different musical places to form the distinctive sound that is Sweet Ray Laurel.

“We’ve traveled down four different musical roads to get where we are. But the drive of making the absolute best music has made the band come together as one,” Boehmker said.

With hooks similar to At the Drive-In and a mix of funk and rock similar to The Red Hot Chili Peppers, the band has a unique sound all its own.

“Playing live, it’s simply the best thing I’ve ever done. Being on stage, it’s the biggest high I’ve ever experienced,” Snowden said.

“There’s nothing like being on stage, looking out into the crowd, seeing a sea of Sweet Ray Laurel fans. The feeling is indescribable,” Potter said.

The crowds Sweet Ray Laurel attracts are a major compliment to the band. It isn’t a niche band, playing a specialized type of music before one certain fan base. Any Sweet Ray Laurel show features a diverse crowd, everything from hardcore indie rock fans to college students just looking to have a good time.

“One of the greatest things about our shows is the crowd itself. It’s one of the things I’m the most proud of. Look out into our crowd, and you see a mix of all types of people. That means we’re appealing to music fans across the board,” Snowden said.

Playing live is not only responsible for the rush of performing, but also for the band members all becoming roundabout fathers of children.

“After being at one of our performances this one couple was inspired to go home and have sex. A couple of weeks later they found out she was pregnant. I guess in a roundabout way that makes all of us fathers,” Snowden said with a smile.

From partying on the roof of a club to nearly being kicked out of a hotel in Hilton Head, S.C., life on the road has been a rush into exuberance and a jaunt out of the mundane for the band.

“Being on the road, the best thing is just playing in different clubs, different cities and in front of new people. The alcohol and partying isn’t bad either,” Boehmker said.

“Being on the road definitely gives all of us an adrenaline rush. The ability to play in front of different crowds in different cities is important. It helps spread our music,” Potter said.

But the band’s favorite show wasn’t across the country or on the road at all. The members all agree that their favorite gig was the Emergenza Music Festival, held at the Blue Note. The festival is a nationwide competition for bands and promotes music and performers.

The Emergenza Music Festival features rounds of competition where only the best bands advance. Sweet Ray Laurel was one of the final two bands in the competition and just one step away from a trip to Germany.

“Even though we didn’t win, the Emergenza Music Festival had to be our favorite show. We were so close, but that just makes the drive to succeed stronger,” Snowden said.

One show that could quickly become one of the band’s favorites is the upcoming Art and Music Festival later this summer.

Sweet Ray Laurel will be performing at Top Cats Feb. 26. For more information on the band, visit www.myspace.com/sweetraylaurel.