Southside soul

by Grant Tillery

Being all things to all people isnâÄôt a recipe for success in the music world. MinneapolisâÄô Southside Desire breaks this rule because their feel-good throwback soul is egalitarian. Everyone from party-hearty college kids to moneyed suburbanites hitting a jazz club for a night on the town can get down to their music. Southside Desire formed in 2012 when lead singer Marvel DevittâÄôs father summoned her to form a band for a show he was putting together at LeeâÄôs Liquor Lounge in Minneapolis. DevittâÄôs father, brother and sister (backing vocalist Mae Devitt) had groups on the show, and her participation was required to make it a family affair. The southside sound, drawing upon cues from Stax and Motown groups from R&BâÄôs heyday, resonated with the audience and other local bands âÄî like Black Diet, who they discovered and are opening for this Friday at First Avenue. Like many of its predecessors, Southside Desire characterizes the primal essence of human emotions and sensuality, the sweetness of good times and the strain of hardship. Thanks to the musiciansâÄô punk sensibilities, they sit at the nexus of Riot Grrrl abrasiveness and Levi StubbsâÄô (the late lead singer of the Four Tops) swooping, down-home vocal ease. âÄúIf you listen to punk from the early stages âÄî not âÄòGod Save the QueenâÄô era, but what immediately followed that âÄî a lot of that has so many elements of soul in it,âÄù backup vocalist Joy Spika said. The band is rooted in South Minneapolis; Marvel Devitt and bassist Trevor Engelbrektson live in DevittâÄôs childhood home, a quaint bungalow nestled just south of Lake Street. The other musicians grew up in the area, reside there now or played together in bands growing up. The soulful sextet has two albums under their belt: 2012âÄôs âÄúSongs to Love and Die ToâÄù and 2014âÄôs self-titled LP. Though two full-length albums in three years is high output, Southside Desire feels it has been longer due to deep-rooted relationships going back many years. âÄúIt feels like time has passed really slowly and really fast âÄî I feel like that about a lot of things that mean a lot to me in life,âÄù Marvel Devitt said. âÄúYou have this dual sensation of time passing in two different ways at once.âÄù The recording process for Southside DesireâÄôs two albums differed wildly. They cranked out their debut in three days fueled by the occasional liquor, smoking and food breaks. While âÄúSouthside DesireâÄù was recorded with more deliberation and intent, the group bounced between several studios when forming the final product. Both albums were defined by a need to get something done within a certain time frame, however. âÄúA sense of urgency has really helped us in our production,âÄù guitarist Paul Puleo said. âÄúItâÄôs like that crazy deadline where youâÄôre going to create something.âÄù This intensity carries over to the bandâÄôs blue-collar, workman-like grit; They play show after show around town without missing a beat or oversaturating the market, thanks to their catchy coupling of âÄô60s throwback soul with punk attitude. Nothing derails Southside Desire, not wind nor rain nor pregnancy. âÄúWe had a release party when I was a month away from my due date,âÄù Marvel Devitt said. âÄúI was eight-and-a-half months pregnant.âÄù No venue is too small, too big, too grimy or too luxurious for them, either. Name a venue around town and theyâÄôve played it, from basement shows in punk houses to the Dakota to the Basilica Block Party. Larger shows bring the opportunity to cultivate a broader fan base of listeners there to watch other bands, where they become captivated by Marvel DevittâÄôs plaintive shrieks. This proved true at the Basilica Block Party, where Southside Desire shared a bill with bands like Fitz and the Tantrums and Wilco. âÄúThe air that you get is more like, âÄòYouâÄôre by the beer tent, and youâÄôre by the food,âÄôâÄù Puleo said of Southside DesireâÄôs block party performance. âÄúTheyâÄôre all there to see Wilco, so theyâÄôre just hanging out, having a good time. We always get people who want to talk to us and follow up on us.âÄù