Pushing musical boundaries

SIMO will bring sounds of its latest album Rise & Shine to Sellersville Theater on Feb. 25

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

On stage: SIMO’s latest album Rise & Shine pushes past its predecessor’s retro vibe, boasting an evolved sound of R+B influences. The band will perform at Sellersville Theater on Feb. 25. SOURCE: Mike Stahl

JD Simo, Adam Abrashoff and Elad Shapiro didn’t take a break for 300 consecutive days. But when you’re doing something you love with your closest friends, who needs a vacation? The year was 2016 and the three, who make up the bluesy, funk/rock band SIMO, were promoting their first full-length album Let Love Show the Way — the ultimate dream for a few session musicians out of Nashville.

Now, SIMO is back at it with its sophomore album Rise & Shine and jam-packed touring schedule, which will include Sellersville Theater on Sunday, Feb. 25. The Times recently caught up with vocalist and guitarist Simo to learn about the trio’s infectious chemistry, influences behind the new record and what potential concert-goers can expect.

It all started about six years ago in Nashville, Tennessee, when Simo was working as a session musician, trying to find his place in the local music scene. Through the tight-knit community, he met drummer Abrashoff, and there was an instant connection between the two aspiring musicians. Soon after, they began meeting up for regular jam sessions.

“We didn’t know what we wanted to do, but we wanted to be part of something original,” Simo recalled.

In the beginning, it was all fun, no pressure. On a whim, they decided to create a self-titled “little record,” which they played at numerous venues in neighboring towns. Without realizing it or even meaning to, SIMO gained a steady following.

Eventually, Simo and Abrashoff realized maybe they could be the professional musicians they always aspired to be. Maybe they had a shot. So, they signed a record deal with Mascot Label Group, hired an agent and dropped their first full-length album in 2015 entitled Let Love Show the Way. At this time, bassist and backing vocalist Elad Shapiro became the official third member.

Though Simo is a self-described “‘90s baby” who grew up on artists like Pearl Jam, his band’s first album was a stark contrast from his love of grunge rock. Instead, Let Love Show the Way was derivative of retro with strong influences from the late ’60s and early ‘70s.

For most of the following year — 300 days to be exact — SIMO was on the road promoting and touring the album across the United States and overseas. Once home in January 2017, a break was still out of the question. SIMO was on a roll and didn’t want to stop. The band went straight to work in the studio to create Rise & Shine, which was released on Sept. 15.

Rise & Shine pushes past its predecessor’s retro vibe, boasting an evolved sound of R+B influences from artists like Curtis Mayfield and Alabama Shakes.

“We really expanded the palette,” Simo said. “It’s a lot denser of an album.”

From the soul ballad “I Want Love” to the bluesy “Light the Candle,” SIMO holds fast to its Nashville roots while exploring uncharted territory on its first concept album. According to Simo, an underlying theme revolves around personal struggles he had to overcome from his childhood.

“It’s more veiled than overt, but it’s still unexpected and surprising,” he said.

And that’s just what the band was going for, with this idea of keeping listeners on their toes translating into a live SIMO concert. According to Simo, they never play the same show twice. The setlist is ultimately dictated by the audience and the energy in the room. Nothing is ever preplanned.

“It’s whatever feels right that particular evening. It keeps the material from getting stale,” he said. “It just goes where it’s going to go.”

Still, attendees can rest assured they’ll hear some of their favorite SIMO tracks including “Shine,” the band’s latest single that can be heard on local stations like WXPN.

As Simo, Abrashoff and Shapiro make their way along the east coast to share SIMO’s ever-evolving sound with music lovers, they’ll be simultaneously working on the band’s third full-length record, which they hope to release this fall.

Talk about workhorses. ••

SIMO will perform at Sellersville Theater on Sunday, Feb. 25. Tickets cost $19.50. Doors open at 7 p.m. with the show beginning at 7:30 p.m. For ticket information, visit st94.com/calendar or stop by the box office at 24 W. Temple Ave. in Sellersville. Keep up with SIMO at simo.fm or facebook.com/simotheband

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com