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Hybrid Soul coming to V Club

Feb. 07, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Former Marshall University student Shayla Leftridge studied foreign opera in college, toured with such rappers as Snoop, Daz Dillinger, Kurrupt, and E-40, and now is serving up a fresh baked slice of Mountain State soul her way.

Perhaps best known in Huntington for singing with the Charleston band, Santa Cruz, the Oakland, Calif., native brings her new six-piece band, Hybrid Soul Project to the V Club, 741 6th Ave., Friday night to boil up some dance floor heat with spicy blend of rock, funk, jazz, old-school R&B and neo soul.

Doors open at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8 and music starts at 10 p.m. Cover is $5.

The band, which has been featured during the popular Charleston riverside concert series, Live on the Levee (ironically with her old band Santa Cruz), was birthed about 2 1/2 years ago when Leftridge was managing the Vandalia Lounge and kept running into well-known West Virginia keys whiz, Randraiz Wharton, who has played the V several times with such acts as the Fat City Organ Trio and Luke Jivetalker.

"I was the general manager at Vandalia Lounge, kind of jazz and martini lounge, and we had live bands every weekend and because of that I got into the music scene and got to meet a lot of people and would occasionally sit in with some of the groups," Leftridge said by phone earlier this week. "Randraiz and I had heard of each other and really respected each other, and he called me and we had this instant musical connection. He knew where I was going to go and I knew where he was going to go and I just , really loved working with him so we were like 'we totally got to do this again,' so we kind of threw together a band."

That was then. Now the band has been rotating playing at about four venues in Charleston and then picking up some out of town gigs in places such as Marietta, Ohio, building a loyal base of fans and friends.

Musically structured different than most bands in the region, Hybrid Soul has no guitars but has Wharton playing synth bass on his keys. They have two drummers, Mark Price and Jaysen Lapsley, two keyboardists, Wharton and Johnathan Smith and three vocalists, Leftridge, Sara Renee and Price.

"When we first started a lot of people were saying there's no market for that -- this is West Virginia and nobody wants to hear that stuff," Leftridge said. "But to us good music is good music, and good music is honest music so you can take elements from any genre and make it work for you. That's how he (Randraiz) came up with the name that all music comes down to soul music and where you are at and how you are feeling and how is your life going and that really speaks to people."

What has also spoken to people it seems, is Hybrid Soul's ability to throw any tune through the soul looking glass, whether it's Nirvana, pop, rock or whatever, in addition to stamping their own voice onto more traditional R&B from the likes of Etta James and Aretha Franklin.

"It's kind of like the cross-breeding of the music so we take a Nirvana song and change it into soul or a pop song and make it reggae so when people hear it they are like this is 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,' " Leftridge said. "The crowd reaction is just amazing. That takes a lot of work because people have it in their mind how it's supposed to sound and it takes a lot of work to change the time signatures and the chords sometimes but people are loving it."

Leftridge said she's excited to bring the band to Huntington for the first time since she spent several years at Marshall (she left in 1997) singing in the concert choir and gospel choir before going on the road touring singing backup vocals with a number of artists.

Leftridge, who has toured Europe and who sings on a new soundtrack written by Emmy Award-winning composer Joel Goldsmith, also said it was her opera training at Marshall that has given her a great vocal range for belting out that hybrid soul.

"It'll be a little nostalgic," said Leftridge, who graduated from West Virginia State University in Charleston with a degree in business and minor in music. "I never got to play at the clubs there when I was at Marshall, so I am hoping to see some old faces -- that'd be nice.... We have people who come from Huntington once a month to Charleston to see us. We've been trying to get into a venue into Huntington but didn't want to do just any venue. We had been trying to get into the V Club and finally one of the guys there saw us on a fluke and called us and said 'let's make it happen,' so we finally got us a weekend."