Secret Stash Record’s Will Gilbert Weighs In On Minneapolis Soul


By: Becca Martin

Rift: Why is Minneapolis ripe for soul acts like Sonny Knight and the Lakers, Wanda Davis, Black Diet, and Southside Desire?

Will:  I think the soul revival in Minneapolis is part of a larger aesthetic wave. Growing up in the 1990s, I remember a lot of people doing “retro” things, but for the most part they were kitschy: Austin Powers, lava lamps, bell-bottoms, Lenny Kravitz, etc… In the 2000’s, that kitschy approach started to transition to reverence. Like the Strokes with rock, the Brooklyn Daptone/Truth and Soul/Soul Fire/Desco retro-soul groups weren’t the first retro soul outfits, but they did a great deal to refine and popularize a specific aesthetic. If there is one record that is most responsible for the way soul bands today sound and look it would be Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black. It is the soul equivalent of the Strokes’ Is This It. The success of Back to Black, which for the most part was recorded at Daptone, took current retro soul ideals to a much wider audience.

Rift:   Can you specify on what sets today’s revival apart from past incarnations of soul?

Will: Today, bands that make “retro” music generally have a desire to do it true to form and not be caricatures of an unremembered past – to paraphrase James Murphy.

Rift:   Why now?

Will: As far as why this style of music seems to be happening in Minneapolis now, I think the biggest factor is having an audience that really supports the bands. A soul band is enormously difficult to sustain because of the number of people involved. It is very rare to find a group of seven, eight, or sometimes nine or more talented musicians who are willing to put in the months of rehearsal necessary to put on a good, tight show. At the end of the day, if there isn’t an audience to support the band, sooner or later they will split up. In many ways, the impacts of the disco craze reveal that lesson. Changing tastes in music and competition from more affordable DJs limited the amount of money soul bands could make. Eventually, as well paying gigs became few and far between, eight piece soul bands no longer had the motivation to rehearse regularly, broke up, and new bands didn’t start up. The best thing I can say about disco is this: because disco put an end to the soul genre prematurely – before audiences were sick of it – there is a pent up demand for it today!



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