Welcome to the first installment of our newest feature: Sunday Spotlight. Each week we’ll feature something that our readers may be interested in checking out. It may be a band, like today’s feature, a venue, a business, etc. Our goal is always to find things that are unifying, enjoyable, inspiring, etc. Today we’re talking to Elga Lyle and Keith Angel of the band Urbana, a local band with a great and original sound. Enjoy the interview and be sure to check them out. And if there are any places or bands you’d like to see featured in the future on One Unified Project, feel free to send us a message!
When and how did Urbana begin?
Keith: “Urbana began by accident. Elga and I were already friends via photography, we’re both photographers and have our own photography businesses. We also roller bladed together. She came over to the house one day to pick me up to go roller blading and she put a CD on of music I had never heard before and I said “This is pretty good. Who is it?” She said “It’s me”. I’m like “Get the hell out of here”. Next thing I know she starts singing to it and I said “Wow! What a beautiful voice! I had no idea.” I reached behind the couch and pulled out my acoustic guitar. She had no idea I played. I started playing something and she grabbed a pencil and paper and we had our first song in ten minutes. That was in 2001. I was happy just to sit on the couch and play my guitar. I had no aspirations to be in a band or anything like that. After that first tune popped out, it just lit a fire under my ass. Next thing I know we’ve got a band. Next thing I know we’re playing out. Next thing I know we have a CD. Pretty awesome.”
Is it just the two of you in the band?
Keith: “Well we are definitely Urbana. We write all the music. All the other players constantly come and go. We wouldn’t want it to be that way because you get friendly with these people and it’s like a little family and then something always comes up or someone’s gotta quit or whatever. The bass player and the drummer has been ever-changing. I’d say we’ve had like five formulations now.”
How would you describe your music? What inspires the type of music you play and write?
Keith: “Indescribable (laughter). Different. It’s a mixture of all the music that we grew up with; rock and soul. I was raised on everything from Jimi Hendrix to Van Halen to Rush and Iron Maiden. Elga was Stevie Wonder, Motown, stuff like that; harmony and gospel. It was odd that it blended together so well. I love her lyrics. They’re very soulful. They don’t talk about titties and beer. Actual topics, stuff to make people feel good. We can do anything from an acoustic duet to a full size six piece band. Some songs are totally acoustic, some songs are rock your face off. I really don’t know how to describe it. I do realize that people from all different walks of life get it, the young and the old. You know how Pink Floyd can reach out to so many people because there’s something real about it? I don’t know how to put my finger on it, but I feel like we kind of have that same thing.”
Elga: “I would describe our music as an epic mix of rock and soul fusion but so much more. Music that is sent out to move and to heal people. It’s ever evolving because you never know what’s coming up with Urbana with each song. One song could be totally rocking your face off and one song could really sound jazzy. That takes me to my inspirations. My number one being Stevie Wonder. He’s a phenomenal songwriter. He’s got an awesome voice with great control. And more importantly, his music is timeless, it’s a language, as most music is, all of its own that everyone can understand and interpret differently. I like that about Stevie Wonder and I think that’s one of the things that I brought into my own songwriting, my vocals and everything else. I’m not comparing myself to be as great as him, but I aspire to be the type of musician that he is. He appears to be a very genuine, loving and compassionate person to the world. That’s what he puts across to me. He has the opportunity to be in front of millions and he chooses to talk about something that may actually make someone change or enjoy their life or love someone or forget something. Healing, there’s all types of different healing. It makes you feel, it makes you move. That’s the type of musician that I always want to be. Real, genuine. I don’t want to sing about just anything. I want to sing about things that people can relate to. And sure thee are songs that can be just like, skip down the street and clap our hands, and that’s fine too because sometimes we need to be distracted from our every day life and music can do that. Whatever the need is, I like to fulfill needs. All of the R&B and gospel that has come out before the last couple generations have moved and inspired me. As we’ve moved forward, some of that has really changed, and I’m not necessarily liking a lot of hip-hop and some of the things that are out there right now. I’m very picky with it. Keith is the one that introduced me to Santana believe it or not. I fell in love with them. Keith, himself, represented that Santana vibe. And that was what I had been looking for because I want fusion music. I don’t want to be labeled. I don’t want to have to say, “I am rock and roll. I am soul. I am R&B”, because then only one set of people are going to listen to me. I want everyone to have a chance to, not experience me, but to experience our music. I know that in this world to sell CDs, make it big, usually you have to be able to be labeled. They want to know who you are going to sell your music to. I want to be able to go full circle to everyone. The energy goes all the way around back to you.”
You said you had a CD. When did you release that? Any more in the future planned?
Keith: “Probably around 2005. It was called “Urbana- Together as One”. Before that, we made a four song acoustic release. Basically since the band members have been changing and rearranging, the songs have too. One of the reasons we sound the way we do is because I don’t set out to write a particular song. I write a piece of music and whatever the other people add to that is what the song becomes whether it becomes country, rock or folk. As long as I’m getting to play my little piece of music, I’m happy. That’s the part that I created. I want my music to make the other musicians feel something and they interpret that. So because of that, we haven’t had the chance to put out the new disk. Because like I said, people keep coming and going. And when the new guys come, I have to teach them the songs all over again. It’s a process. We do have some new songs and we’re ready to go but the problem is players. We’re borrowing some players, like Gino Pini (of Chowder), he’s our bass player right now. And it can cause problems because when Chowder has a gig, that takes precedence over Gino playing with us.”
That must be frustrating.
Keith: “It can be but like I said Urbana is me and Elga. We played out all over the place, just the two of us. People love it and we do too but there’s nothing like having the power of the whole band behind you. It totally changes everything.”
How long have each of you been involved in music?
Keith: “Elga has probably been singing ever since she could. Her father was a musician, singer, pretty popular. She’s had it her whole life. I played the baseball bat of a broomstick at the end of my bed as a kid all the time. Air guitar jamming to whatever music I was listening to (Laughter). My parents would not buy me a guitar. It wasn’t until I was completely on my own, at 20 years old, that I was able to get my first guitar. It cost me $58. I got it from Sears. It was enough to get me started. I’ve never taken any lessons. I just feel it and hope for the best. Every time I play it’s always going to be a little bit different because I’m just trying to feel what I’m feeling that night. It’s the same with Elga. The lyrics may stay the same. How she sings them will change depending on the way she feels. I’ve been teaching Elga how to play the guitar and she’s getting really, really good. She can sing and play the same time which I cannot do.”
What would you like to see for the future for Urbana?
Keith: “For me, it’s never been about the money. I want to reach out to people and help people. We think that music is a powerful source of change and love and lots of things. So, I guess the ultimate thing would be to play to larger amounts of people and to unite them because everyone’s really separated. Being PC and race issues; it’s all separation, separation, separation. We just want to share a message and make people feel good. People think that were supplying the audience with all this energy but really it’s the audience supplying it right back to us too. It’s a circle. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been to shows where it moves you. You can’t help it. Songs may make you cry. Songs make you dance and you can’t help yourself. Laughter, all that. So, again, to just be able to play in front of more people…
Also, to have players that are in the band and that’s it, they’re not leaving, would be nice. I would like to have a live-in sound engineer that we can wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning or whenever we want, and be like “hey we have an idea. We want you to record us.” (Laughter) I really enjoy playing with other people, which I haven’t really been able to do much since I don’t really know what I’m doing. So I’ve actually been sticking my head in a book and learning some theory. On a personal note, I just want to be able to get better so I can jam with anybody. World touring and all sounds glamorous but it would probably be a pain in the butt. I want to rely heavily on the Internet and start making our own videos and just posting stuff all the time. Try to get a song to go viral and all that. I’d love to have an amazing seven-piece band with keyboards and percussion and background singers. I’m a big fan of what the Beatles did as far as using so many different instruments in their music. Oboes and flutes and whatever.
I guess to be able to reach the point to play with some of my music heroes would be the ultimate goal for me. To have Santana call us and say “Hey, we want you guys to open for us.” Something like that would be a great goal.”
Elga: “Obviously, I would love to have a real committed full band that I could jam with. I miss that. I don’t want to have to worry about someone finding a gig at the last-minute and cancel with us. You get together, you practice, you’re ready to go and then they have to cancel…it’s disheartening. I’d love to have players that come in and can stick with us. My main goal and my dream would be to put that together, complete different projects and play at more places. I love what Keith and I do together, but the power of a full band is just amazing.”
If there was one place that you could play, in your wildest dreams, where would it be?
Keith: “I guess it wouldn’t necessarily be a venue. I would just want to play in front of like 100,000 or more. Can you imagine, if you were a lyricist or wrote poems or something, and you have 100,000 people who know your lyrics and are screaming them back at you at the top of their lungs? And then on top of that, they could be quality, meaningful lyrics that are spreading a good energy throughout the whole crowd of 100,000 people! I guess it’s like musical prayer maybe? Yeah, that would be awesome.”
Elga: “The type of venue I’d like to play would be like a Live Aid type of thing where people are getting together for a purpose. Those concerts are usually really amazing because the artists that play at those are usually genuine people that you actually want to be around. Not the stuck up musicians. More so that they really want to help people. That’s the kind of concert I would love to play. It would be packed and that would be great but more important… what is the cause? That’s the kind of person I am. If it’s for a really good cause, I’d like to be involved.”
To see and hear more about Urbana, check out these websites:
Urbana 99 on Facebook