The sounds of Soatoa

Dec 19 2017, 11:01 am

Tom Heuckendorff could be considered as one of Vancouver’s Renaissance men for the sheer breadth of his musical skills.

He journeys around town doing session work, navigating a myriad of genres from rock and jazz to reggae, while skilfully swapping from keyboard, saxophone, to bass guitar, singing all the while.

In between working with other bands, he leads his own, called Soatoa. Their sound reflects Tom’s diverse abilities, but remains a cohesive, upbeat, whole.

I caught up with him before he went onstage at Fox Cabaret on Main Street for the official release of Latent. Sitting in front of Vancouver’s ex-porn theatre and now-trendy nightclub venue, we chatted about the sounds of Soatoa.

Tonight is a celebration of the release of Latent. What did it take to put this together?

It’s been a very DIY project for me from the get-go. I did the producing, engineering of the album and played a lot of the instruments. For the last couple of years, the album’s been done but I’ve been getting my ducks in a row. For the last few months I’ve been doing a build-up to the event tonight. 

It’s been a long journey in general: You’re from Ontario. How did you get all the way out here? 

I’m from Ontario, but I moved out west when I was done school. When I left jazz school in Nova Scotia, it took a few years to get integrated into the scene here, but now I love it.

I’ve been playing music since I was a kid; I learned piano from my dad. Then I went to school for saxophone, for jazz performance. But currently, I make my living as a Vancouver session musician playing keys and bass guitar, and I play organ with [local band] Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer.

Why Soatoa?

It’s a funny story … There was this old piece of furniture in my house growing up – a chair. It just said “Soatoa” on the arm. For some reason it stuck in my head all these years.

Where did your sound start? What can we expect now? 

My sound has really been influenced heavily by reggae, rock and roll, and blues. For this album, my influences were the really straight-ahead rock and roll, the real old school Bob Marley Stuff, Blind Melon, Stone Temple Pilots, and gospel-influenced blues like Ray Charles and Oscar Peterson, which I totally love.

What excites you most about the music you’re playing right now?

The biggest thing that gets me is the musicians I play with and how seriously they take the music. And hearing them really nail the songs. These guys have been putting in their time, and that really stokes me up because it’s a reflection of their seriousness in the project and their commitment to it, which means a lot to me.

If you could be an animal what would you be?

A spider.

Um, I was expecting a mammal. Does an insect even count?

Well, it’s an arachnid. It’s crazy! They make these webs; if you took it to scale to a human, it would be like a human making the Golden Gate Bridge in your garden. And I kind of see piano playing in the hands. Weird, but true.

If you could envision the next five years, what would happen – besides turning into a spider?

I would love nothing more than to be on the road with Soatoa eight months out of the year. I’d love to be playing shows all the time, having other people take care of the details because I’m a manager, booker, everything for the band – it’s three full-time jobs.

Tell us where to find your tunes.

We’ve got the album stocked all around town at Dandelion, Red Cat, Neptune, Zulu, or you can go to where we have an online store.

*End of Interview*.


Connect with Sarah Gray on Twitter @GraySazz

Feature Image: Soatoa