An Interview with...
Old Soul Society
In 2022, The Hometown Foundation is excited to bring various musical talents to stages around Washington County. We are looking forward to our Thursday night summer music series at Regner Park and Sandy Knoll Park, a Washington County Park as well as our annual HomeGrown Music Festival on July 10. You will see many talented folks who call Wisconsin home. Joshua M. Miller interviewed one of those artists, OId Soul Society. Old Soul Society will play live on Thursday, August 25 at Regner Park in West Bend.
Sitting Down with Derek Ramnarace of Old Soul Society
It sounds like it's a pretty busy time for you.
Yeah. Things have been kinda hectic. I have my band and stuff and a solo thing that I do. And then I also do a lot of booking and I represent a few other artists. And I work with a lot of other venues. So, I’ve had a lot of stuff just with everything kicking up again.
How did you keep busy the last few years?
I’ve kept busy. I mean, we had a few months off with the COVID stuff, but that wasn’t really time off. It was more like time to learn how to live stream and focus on getting good quality stream and audio and all that stuff. So, it was just a different kind of work really. But then we got back to doing gigs in the spring and summer and worked pretty good throughout most of the rest of 2020, we had the winter off for the most part. And then back into it kind of early last spring and worked real hard all summer. And then this winter actually took the most time off from doing anything, made a new record with the band. And so that’s kind of where my getting back into the group of things. This is the first time I’ve actually kind of taken time off for real.
About the Band
The band's sound branches into a variety of genres. How would you describe the band sound and what makes it unique?
We describe ourselves kind of as Americana folk rock. And I think what makes our sound unique is, well, in general, we have just very good interplay between the musicians, but it also has some really good harmony stuff. Our stuff works really well because it’s very authentic music. It’s not flashy. We’re not putting on a show. We’re just performing really good music. And so, we still work. We’ve done a lot of concerts in the park things over the last few years, especially, and it’s been great because people are able to hear… Well, we attract or do well in front of audiences of basically all ages and the genres. Everyone seems to get on board with it because we’re just really authentically just getting down.
How did the band originally form?
Well, the genesis of the group was that I had another band that was kind of a bigger rock and roll type of outfit. And I was also writing songs that were more folk based and didn’t really have a home and got to the point where I was kind of doing more songs that I wanted to do like that, and kind of got tired of trying to perform or cheerlead for parties or whatever, and just changed our focus. I just put together the band and then we’ve evolved over the years.
We’ve had some different members kind of come in and go, but it’s all people that I’ve known for years and it’s all people I’ve played with for years. And everybody kind of understands my writing and how I approach what I want to be doing. We formed in 2014, we had some cool things early on right away, and then paced ourselves, stepped back. And then in 2015, we started getting out and doing some more gigs. And then we went in and recorded our first record in the fall of 2015 and released that in the spring of 2016 and did a lot of running around, a lot of big shows. And we recorded a live album in 2019.
And then when COVID hit, we decided to do something about it. So, we had it mastered and had some artwork done, and we actually released it on our Bandcamp page currently, but we’re preparing to release it on Spotify and iTunes and all that stuff too. And then we’ve been in the studio, like I said, this winter, just working on our follow up studio record, that’s almost done. And we’ll be releasing that this fall.
The Farmhouse Sessions Record
What should people know about the new album and the themes on the songs?
It’s a collection of some newer songs, a few older songs. It’s some things that we kind of put together that we think is a cohesive collection of songs like an actual album should be, versus a collection of singles or whatever. And there’s some songs that are kind of short and simple and poppy sort of Americana pop type stuff. And then there’s other ones that are much deeper jammy stuff and some more lyrical, poetically lyrical stuff as well. But yeah, I personally think it’s the best record I’ve ever made, and I’m really excited about it. But even though it’s almost done, we’re not going to release it till this fall, late fall, because we just have a really, really hectic schedule already going on this summer.
I imagine that it's interesting seeing the growth that the band's made from the first album to this one.
Well, the first studio album that we did, we actually converted an old farmhouse into a studio and recorded it live pretty much. So, it’s got a very live feel to it, like you’re in the room with us. And a lot of the songs are, I guess a little more melodic and a little more rootsy feeling, whereas this is more of a produced record and has some kind of bigger sounds, but still some in depth to the topics. It deals with a lot of topics like love and loss and addictions and just some of the things that separate people and a lot of that stuff, as well as some of the things that bring people together.
With the new album, what was the most surprising song to write and record?
Well, there’s one song that we put on this new album that I actually wrote it a long time ago. It was kind of a therapy thing for the loss of a friend of mine. A very close friend of mine passed away and I wrote the song. Didn’t really play it out much. It was more of just a piece for me and just a therapeutic piece, I felt like. But it was in a stack of demos that the other band members listened to, and when we were going to track for this record, they wanted to do that one. So, I kind of reluctantly said “yes,” and when we actually recorded it and I got to hear the way it sounded in my head all these years, it was very surprising to me to kind of still be processing or feeling. It had a very healing, cathartic nature to it all these years later. I was very surprised by that myself.
Old Soul Society performing live.
What are some of your favorite gigs you’ve played?
Well, we have a show at the Majestic in Madison coming up soon in July. That’s been a fun place for us to play as well. We’re playing at the High Noon Saloon in Madison. That’s always a great room for us as well. We’ve played down in the area for like Wise Fest has been a good time for us as well. We’ve had a lot of really interesting things. We got to play on some lineups with acts like Phil Lesh, who’s one of my idols. And I got to meet Cory Wong and we actually played on the same stage as him right before he did. We did a VIP lounge thing for Live Nation for Zach Brown Band at Alpine Valley. That was really cool. Yeah, we’ve just had a lot of really random, neat things.
On Being a Musician in Wisconsin
How has Wisconsin and this area of the state most influenced you as a musician?
Well, one of the things about this state, versus the work I’ve done in Texas and in Nashville and stuff, has been that when I was younger starting out, there wasn’t as much of a community support for live music as there was in these other communities. And something that I’ve kind of actively worked on, helping develop other artists, host music events, music festivals…And there’s a lot of other people now that are doing that. I see just a huge growth in the overall support of the music community and music fans in this region. Overall, I think that’s just encouraging to be able to focus on original music and writing and creating our own music and not having to feel like we’re just playing cheerleader for some beer companies.
On Past Musical Experiences
What was the name of the band that you used to be in?
I was in a band called Hooch and a band called The SoapBox Project. It was a rock and roll reggae and blues hybrid. More electric based though, whereas this is more of an acoustic based.
It must be nice to get to channel a different area of your influences.
It is. It’s nice to have an outlet for the songs that I write. Before we did these bigger rock shows, and then when we try to play our mellower folk songs, we lose the audience. So, it’s nice to be able to focus now and just play to the right audience.
Outside of Music
What's your most surprising hobby outside of music?
Well, when I’m not working on music, I’m with my kids doing stuff. So, whatever they’re into doing is what I’m into doing. I do enjoy going out to Devil’s Lake and kayaking and frisbee golfing and stuff like that.
Connecting with The HomeTown Foundation
Why is the Hometown Foundation's mission to help local artists important to you?
Well, I just think that there’s a lot of incredible talent right here, and a lot of times people might have talent, but they don’t understand that they can be legit in this field doing what they want to do. And to be able to have resources or other people to help you out and give you the steps that you need… I think there’s a lot of people that as they older in their lives, they find themselves terribly unhappy because they didn’t pursue passions in their lives. And I think it’s good and it’s very important that people have the opportunity and the ability to help to be able to pursue their passions. Because if we’re doing what we love, then we’re all in a much happier place, I think.
Is this the first time you've played at Regner Rocks?
It is. I have lots of friends of mine that are playing there and as well, The Sound Company are actually… My first band that I had coming up that was called Hooch was a big band. We did a lot of huge festivals and big, big shows. And actually, our drummer and lead guitar player’s roommate was Dave Goodell, who’s doing sound and everything for our stage. So, kind of an interesting, funny scenario. We kept in touch and worked together over the years and stuff on other things, but it’s a kind of neat to 20 years later be working with somebody who… Not sure if he would’ve pursued music if he hadn’t seen that we were able to do it.
Listen to Old Soul Society
Josh also interviewed these artists for the HomeTown Foundation’s 2022 concert series season.
About Joshua M. Miller
Joshua M. Miller is a frequent contributor to the Chicago Sun-Times, Guitar World, and the Shepherd Express, among others, He has interviewed the likes of Brian Wilson, Steve Martin, U2 guitarist The Edge, Kiefer Sutherland, and William Shatner. He resides in Kewaskum, is an avid music fan, and is a supporter of the Hometown Foundation. You can follow his writing on twitter and facebook.
Check Joshua’s features in Rolling Stone, Guitar World, SPIN, the Chicago Sun-Times and more at his website.