Irie Sol has brought the world of literature and music together forming a new art form called “Lit Hop.” The band has taken the writings of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and his short story, “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” and have continued these the stories through music.
The band consists of members from the US, Jamaica, and Brazil.
Last Autumn, Irie Sol, wrote and recorded their album, Dred Scott Fitzgerald at Grammy-Award Winner Justin Vernon’s (Bon Iver) studio. This album will be released on September 24, 2015.
Recently we got to speak with one of the bands’ members, Dr. Joel Pace. He grew up Providence, RI where he developed an interest in music and literature, which led him to receiving a BA in Music and Literature from Providence College and then a masters and doctorate from the University of Oxford, UK.
He currently is a Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire.
It was great chatting with Dr. Joel Pace about the band, the new album, and “Lit Hop.”
upfrontNY: How was the band Irie Sole Formed?
Dr. Joel Pace: Junior Williams started us. It was his dream to come to America and fuse Jamaican music forms and American forms.
upfrontNY: You have an album coming out, Dred Scott Fitzgerald. How did the group come up with the idea of this new music form, “Lit Hop” and can you tell us about what “Lit Hop” is?
Dr. Joel Pace: “Lit Hop” is the fusion of literature and hip hop. From the roots of hip hop, rappers like Slick Rick have very narrative rapping styles. “Lit Hop” takes that narrative and blends it with fictional worlds, and established worlds of fiction, and borrowing characters from novels. Half of us live in Saint Paul and the other half in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. We ended up rehearsing at the Commodore Hotel, a 1920s hotel where Scott and Zelda had lived.
We thought of “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” a story about a woman from Eau Claire, Wisconsin who comes to Saint Paul. Here is a literature character who lives our journey, and we wondered how could we bring her back to life. She was Fitzgerald’s only woman of color who’s a major character and thought it was important to tell her story.
upfrontNY: Why did you feel it was important to continue her story?
Dr. Joel Pace: It’s a short story. She goes to visit her cousin in the big city of Saint Paul. Her cousin tricks her into bobbing her hair, which was a radical hair style at the time and she loses the love interest they are both vying for. She cuts off her cousins beautiful braided hair while her cousin is sleeping and then takes the night train to Eau Claire.
In the story it says some interesting things, she’s bound for New York City to start college and hints that she is of a diverse background. She appealed to us and we wanted to bring her to life.
On our album, she is a jazz singer who ends up touring.
Check out Bernice Dreads Her Hair
upfrontNY: For people who don’t have a lot of experience with F. Scott Fitzerald and his stories, do you feel they will still be able to connect with the music and understand it?
Dr. Joel Pace: We made lyrics so generally appealing in songs in part to James and Daisy. We tried to make Fitzgerald’s references imbedded in a way that if it is on your radar, it will make you smile and you will catch it, but if not, it’s still a love song that makes sense.
upfrontNY: What do you want people to know about this album?
Dr. Joel Pace: One aspect of music and literature is the incredible ability to bring people together and the creating of another reality that somehow allows people to shape whatever visions that manifest.
One goal we always had, this is juniors belief, is that music can bring people together, not only by the diversity of our band members, but by our doing genres that aren’t normally linked together, not only Fitzgerald and Hip Hop, but also linking rock and hip hop, or some country influence and hip hop.
Check out Joel Pace talk about the significance of jazz in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
Dred Scott Fitzgerald is set for release on September 24, 2015 and will be available on iTunes, Amazon, and all other online music channels.
Head here to learn more about Irie Sol.
Thanks to the band for sharing these great photos!