For Charleston-based “world-groove” band Sol Driven Train, 2005 proved to be a defining year. Energized and inspired by a series of personal and full-band road trips and side projects, singer-guitarist Joel Timmons, drummer/keys player Phill Eason, percussionist Philip Antman, bassist and tuba player Davis “Dirty D” Buckheister, guitarist and horn player Ward Buckheister, and sax player/percussionist Russell Clarke reinforced their musical foundation (a blend of classic Allmans-style rock, acoustic pop-folk, and reggae), and steadily reestablished themselves as one of the mainstays in the Southeastern jam club scene.
In December, 2005, the septet released a “children’s album” titled Tajar Tracks — their first official full-length since 2003’s Churning Burlward disc. Recorded over the summer at Camp Gwynn Valley in Brevard, N.C., where most of the band worked as counselors, the album featured vocal performances from camp kids as well as piano work from longtime camp staffer Debbie Debord.
Joel Timmons reveals more:
Tell us how Sol Driven Train’s sound and live set has changed and evolved since your travels and experiences in N.C. last year.
JOEL TIMMONS: Since working together at camp Gwynn Valley last summer, we’ve taken the band full-time, meaning we’re not working any side jobs. At camp, we lived a simple lifestyle, where all our needs were taken care of, and we worked hard doing what we love. Our jobs at camp required a sacrifice of time, privacy, and pocket money from everyone in the band, and this helped prepare us for our current communal lifestyle. We’re living in two houses on Folly Beach, and playing between 12-20 shows per month around the southeast. We’re devoting all our energy to touring, networking, and honing our sound, and the results of this extra effort have been instantly fulfilling. Our set has come leaps and bounds as far as tightness and our comfort level on stage. Our extra familiarity with each other and the songs lends to a more polished and high-energy set, enabling us to really inhabit the songs rather than just worry about hitting changes and notes. The addition of Rusty Cole as our full-time sound engineer has also added to our comfort and confidence on stage, as he brings his great ear and vibe to every show.
How have things changed the most for Sol Driven Train as far as where the band stands in the current band scene?
JOEL TIMMONS: As far as the southeastern scene goes, we’ve been building a lot of momentum. Taking a break to travel and go to camp certainly slowed us down a bit, but since then we’ve been breaking into new markets and playing more shows out of town than in Charleston [across the Carolinas, Virginia, Tenn., and Georgia.]
Is the lineup still basically the same, or have things shifted around a bit with who’s doing what?
JOEL TIMMONS: The lineup is the same that we’ve had since we recorded Churning Burlward in 2002.
Have you been able to work in any full-band versions of songs off of the Tajar Tracks album you did with Debbie Debord?
JOEL TIMMONS: Yes. Occasionally, “Don Gato,” “It’s a Circle,” “Simple Joys,” and “Inch by Inch” will come out in a live set. We’ve been lucky to be able to play a few children’s events, as well, where we can pull deep into Tajar Tracks material.
Have you been able to record any newer band material for a forthcoming CD release?
JOEL TIMMONS: We are planning on recording some of our new material in May at our home studio on Folly Beach. These may be demos, or if we’re happy with the product, we’ll release it as our next studio project.
What happened with the plans to officially relocate to N.C. last fall?
JOEL TIMMONS: Our plan in August was to return to Charleston for a few weeks before heading back to western N.C. to live. While we were in Charleston, we found out that our drummer and his girlfriend will be having a baby in April. We also realized that Charleston is a great base for a band, because there are so many diverse venues around town. These two factors, along with the lure of salty Folly kept us here, for the time being at least.
With all the road trip gigs in the Carolinas and the opening slots at various clubs here, it seems like the band has really put an effort into networking and connecting with others on the circuit. Is there a game plan along those lines for 2006?
JOEL TIMMONS: For sure. At this point we are focusing on the Southeast, playing cities, college towns, small towns, and just about everything in between in order to build our fan base on a grass-roots level. We’ve been using the internet [www.soldriventrain.com
] to spread our music to a larger audience and boost attendance at our shows. Our plan is to continue to work the southeast circuit through the summer, and we’re working on a New England tour for next fall. Beyond that, we’re currently exploring management and booking agency possibilities to help us tour on a national level.
After several years of performing, writing, recording, and jamming in town, what would you say are the band’s greatest accomplishments?
JOEL TIMMONS: I think our greatest accomplishments have all come in the last year. First of all, we have rebuilt our live show after my year abroad and grave illness [while traveling in India in 2004, he contracted Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system]. Going to camp together and strengthening our bonds and friendships within the band rank high on the list as well. And most recently, taking our music beyond the Charleston scene and building our hobby and passion into a small business feels like a great accomplishment.