Here at YHS we love a good beat. That’s probably why we took such a liking to Windsor, ON producer Soul Brother Stef.
I recently caught up with Stef after his latest monthly performance at La Casa Cigar Lounge in Harmonie Park. This was my first time at the lounge, located in Harmonie Park. Most patrons were smoking loud cigars, which played into the speakeasy vibe.
Before his performance, Stef begins soundcheck, testing his MIDI controllers as they light up on stage. He goes in the office behind the bar to shut off the Pandora station playing over the PA. Enter the expressive beats of Soul Brother Stef. With an old school bite, chopped break beats create the perfect rhythm with every down stroke. A velvety sample suddenly adds a layer of complexity and everyone, puffing their cigars, nods in acceptance.
“I realized I could trigger my samples and play my beats live.” Stef expressed when detailing his preference of live performance over DJ-style sets.
From performing folk pop to touring with an eleven-piece southern rock revival band, Stef gained over a decade of experience playing drums and providing backup vocals.
“I was living in London, ON, going to school for audio engineering. I wasn’t allowed a drum set in my apartment, so my girlfriend bought me trigger finger. I essentially learned to play drums on the pad.”
He found drum machines helped fill the void left by his trusted kit.
“It was also the same time I started listening to more Hip Hop and beat- based music. After my last band broke up it’s all I did.”
Effortlessly, Stef moves back and forth between singing melodies and choruses to freestyle his beats on the drum pad. Playing to the lounge atmosphere, he keeps things feeling good with a relaxed attention to detail. He brings an element of soul to an otherwise mechanical piece of technology.
“I always sang backup [in bands], that was my thing. I played beats for six months without the mic, until I set one up, more for just saying shit. I felt disconnected almost with just the beat pad. It naturally turned into this thing where singing over these tracks gave it such an interesting organic element to an otherwise digital set.”
This is Stef’s fifth year as a full-time musician. There was a lot of genre hopping before he found a space where he could really fit in. The outcome is a hybrid that just feels right.
“The last band was so close to what I wanted perform live and the Soul Brother Stef stuff came so naturally. The name came from a weird place, but the name allowed for a platform to play beats live.”
After the New Year, Stef moved his studio to the bottom of his duplex home and began working on some exciting projects.
“I got an opportunity to make music for a Vice show, it’s cool, such a great thing being able to pitch my ideas for a show.”
Stef is beginning to make real waves in the Detroit music scene. He’s steadily working on new music and performing on both sides of the border. Be sure to check out his website to see where he’ll be performing next.