Samuel L Cool J Harks Back to Motown for Vinyl Release

Categories: Local Wire

Susan Jordan Anderson
Samuel L Cool J will hold its vinyl release party on Saturday, April 26, at Crescent Ballroom.

Plenty of bands profess bizarre origins, but few are quite as violent as Samuel L Cool J. According to the Phoenix-based group, lead vocalist Haendel Balzora and rhythm guitarist Joel Marquard teamed up after assassinating each other's respective gang leaders, "Bernardo" and "Tony."

Instead of the electric chair, an extremely sympathetic (or one might say progressive) judge sentenced the pair to months of community service. Specifically, they were tasked with freeing the world from "hatred and anger by writing and performing music that could get people on their feet -- shakin' those hips."

The story almost seems plausible. A throwback to Motown and vintage R&B with a dash of soul and gospel for flavor, Samuel L Cool J certainly has the power to getcha groovin'. Featuring a whopping 10 musicians from all corners of the Valley -- including three female backup singers, Jason Roedl (of Mergence), drummer Bob Hoag (of Flying Blanket Recording Studios), bassist Mitch Freedom (Wooden Indian), lead guitarist Alex Tighe (Ladylike), and a saxophonist -- Sammy L might qualify as a local supergroup.

Even that's not quite as large compared to Marquard's 13-member Through & Through Gospel Review. Naturally, Samuel L's immense size can make scheduling practice times difficult, not to mention that Balzora, responsible for the band's sultry vocals, lives in Los Angeles. But to Marquard, who writes the tunes, it's all worth it when it comes together.

"Haendel, he's a good-looking dude. He's a stick of dynamite. It's just like, when someone comes along like that, you kind of have to [start a band]," Marquard says over the phone. "Why wouldn't you try and get a band together with that guy? It's almost like the universe, er, or the Department of Corrections, putting us together."

However, Marquard is worried the punny name might doom the band, acknowledging that he has a history with bad band names. "The first band I was in, Dear and the Headlights, was spelled weird [and] just kind of overly complicated. Then Gospel Claws, everyone thinks it's like a Christian band," Marquard says.

"[But] Through and Through Gospel Review, that one's good," Marquard adds with a laugh.

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