ALBANY — Pressed to categorize the music that the Albany-based band This Solid Ground plays, band guitarist/songwriter/engineer/vocalist and top techie nerd Daniel Watson looks to his bandmates for inspiration. There’s a moment of shared I’m-not-so-sure looks before everyone starts chiming in.
After a bit, the five-man collective comes up with an apt description for This Solid Ground’s music: alt-industrial-metal-core ... with elements of hip-hop, country and just about everything else thrown in the mix.
A listen to the band’s debut EP “Modern Alchemy” bears the description out. There’s a little bit of everything — including the kitchen sink — in the eclectic mix of a band that is preparing to make its mark on the music scene ... when the time is right.
“We are not a local band,” lead vocalist Brandon Plotts said. “That’s something I’m huge about insisting. We’re not going to play in bars, and we’re not going to play our first real show until we’re ready.”
Band bassist Chris Chatman, who took up the instrument as an opportunity to fill a needed slot in This Solid Ground, adds another piece to the band’s master plan.
“We have in our mind what we want to do, how we want to do it and what we need to do to prepare (for the band’s debut performance),” Chatman says. “We don’t need anyone else to tell us what we need to do. We’ve got that figured out.”
This Solid Ground came together in an organic fashion that typically bodes well for musical groups. Plotts, who was the “full-out screaming vocalist” for the hard-core metal band Crown Hill, became aware of Watson’s work with another regional metal band. Watson had turned his tech skills into a high-profile gig at Atlanta’s Tree Sound Studio, where he wound up working with such artists as Mastadon, Taylor Swift, T.I., T. Pain, Lenny Kravitz, Kendrick Lamar and a memorable first session with Justin Bieber.
“Brandon basically came up to me one day and said, ‘Let’s do a band,’” Watson said.
When Plotts and Watson posted some of the music they’d been working on online, both guitarist Adam Snyder and bassist Chatman sought them out.
“I heard what Brandon and Daniel were doing — I knew both of them from the area music scene — so I called Brandon up and talked with him about joining them,” said Snyder, a Massachusetts native who was playing in the country band Southtown before joining This Solid Ground. Chatman too called Plotts, and when the singer said the band didn’t need another guitarist but was instead looking for a bassist, Chatman said he was the man for the job.
“Playing bass seems simple, but it can be complicated,” Chatman, a Leesburg native, said. “I thought it would be so awesome to be a part of this band, I taught myself to play.”
That left the other part of the rhythm section — the drums — to fill.
Jeremy Dollar, who’d left the successful Albany-based alternative rock band Monroe Brown 10 years before to focus on family and work and had turned his home-based Good Life Vapor business into an international success, was, as fate would have it, ready to get back into music. He’d talked with the Albany band The Giving End and was set to join that group when he found out This Solid Ground was looking for a drummer.
“One of the things that blew my mind when I came to Albany was to find out that the Monroe Brown drummer lives here,” Watson said. “I said, ‘It sucks that we’ve found the perfect drummer, but he’s getting ready to play in another band.’ When I found that Jeremy was interested in playing with us (Dollar was a fan), things started coming together.”
Dollar said leaving The Giving End after initially agreeing to play with the band was difficult, but it was the right move for him.
“The guys (in The Giving End) are a great bunch of guys,” he said. “But I had followed (the members of This Solid Ground) with the other bands they were in, especially Crown Hill. When I heard ‘Lost and Alone’ (the centerpiece of the “Modern Alchemy” EP), I freaked out. I really wanted to play with this band. It all worked out.”
This Solid Ground is, on close inspection, more a collective than a band. With Watson’s studio expertise and the various musical and business elements that each brings to the group, This Solid Ground is the ultimate independent band, in the process of setting up and handling its own marketing, production and distribution.
“When Brandon told me he wanted This Solid Ground to be run like a business, it really sparked my attention,” the businessman Dollar said. “We wanted to take the resources we had and do our own music as well as work with other artists.”
Added Chatman: “The music business has changed, and we have the ability and the capacity to do what any major label can do. We don’t have to have people managing our business and telling us what to do. Why pay someone else to do stuff that we can do ourselves?”
While its members complete an overall plan, the band runs its business, rehearses and does production work at its Slappey Drive headquarters. This Solid Ground is working on songs to flesh out its first proper album (one number the band is working on, which Watson calls, simply, “Idea No. 40” is destined to be a crowd-pleaser) and is planning a first show.
“We have the stage setup, the lights, everything mapped out,” Dollar said. “That’s why we won’t just play anywhere. We’re going to do a professional show in every way.”
Band members know Watson is a task master when it comes to getting the sound he wants, and they respond in a positive way.
“We come up with these ideas together, and there’ll be this little guitar riff, and it’s ‘Let’s record this right now,’” Snyder said. “And we can do that with our own recording studio available. Plus, we can do the same kind of things for other bands.”
And, the band members say, there’s just a chemistry among the members of This Solid Ground.
“Making music has always been a slow, steady process,” Watson said.
Dollar cut in, “But the first day we were together we ended up writing a song.”
The band’s drummer smiled broadly.
“It’s so nice to be in a band where everyone is looking to the future,” he said, and there were nods all around.