“It’s one of the coolest venues in the country, and St. Pete is just a great place in general” said lead singer and guitarist Jacob Hemphill.
SOJA is currently touring as the opening act for reggae legends Steel Pulse, a band that got their start in the 1975 England punk scene, opening for bands like The Clash, The Police and XTC.
The band’s most recent release, Strength To Survive, is an album that taps on Bob Marley for influence.
“He’s my role model,” said Hemphill.
He was influenced by music, even at a young age, due to his father’s involvement in a church orchestra and choir and acquired his first instrument as a teen.
“When I was about 12 or 13, my dad got me a guitar, and that’s how I started,” said Hemphill.
As a kid, he traveled around the world with his father, who was a resident representative for the International Monetary Fund. He spent his formative years growing up in Africa, in countries like Nairobi and Nigeria.
As a reggae artist, Hemphill said he thinks that the genre as a whole understands unity better than other styles of music.
“I think reggae gets it better than most,” said Hemphill. “Reggae’s talking about how the human race is really one thing.”
And this summer, the band enjoys their first set at festivals like Wakarusa and Bonnaroo , where they’ll play alongside the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead and Phish.
“This is actually the first summer we’ve been playing these larger festivals,” said Hemphill.
And what can you expect to see if you’ve never taken in a live SOJA performance?
“Everyone loses it for an hour, we leave it all on the stage,” said Hemphill. “It’s super-high energy.”
Hemphill credits the internet, file sharing and social media with spreading the message of SOJA faster than perhaps traditional methods of publicity would have in the days before the Web.
“Without the internet, we wouldn’t be anywhere,” said Hemphill.
Hemphill acknowledged that the band is currently working on new material when not on tour, and encouraged fans to keep an ear to the ground for new music in the coming months.
“When you’re home, you have to focus on music,” he said.emphill acknowledged that the band is currently working on new material when not on tour, and encouraged fans to keep an ear to the ground for new music in the coming months.
Catch SOJA at Jannus Live Tuesday night in downtown St. Petersburg, Fla. Doors open at 6. $25