On this eerie night, the Clifton shops and streets are dark. Think oil slicks. Tar. “I’ve had more vivid dreams in the past few days,” Chris Haubner says as we cross the street. No “W-A-L-K” letters. Just a black box perched there.
Uncle Smokin’ Joe (Jim Pross) nods quietly. Powerless traffic lights = black holes. Haubner, Pross and I head for UDF, one of the few stores alive. Inside, stressed customers look lost. Sitting down, it’s a relief to talk about music and their Americana/Indie acoustic band, The Solid Pack. We drink drinks. We drink in electric light.
Speaking of light, a musical energy surges through these two; their songs hold a natural fire sparked with heart. And the power comes honestly; it’s in the blood lines. Songs live in this storytelling family’s veins.
The two met through genes. Haubner explains, “We’ve known each other all our lives. Jim is my uncle. My … Uncle Smokin’ Joe.” “I’m Uncle Smokin’ Joe, that’s right,” Pross says, nodding. “Jim’s dad used to get us together every Sunday all year ’round. It was constant singing. A little annoying sometimes,” Haubner says, “Well, you know, you say a certain phrase, it reminds somebody of a song, and they start singing it. Sometimes it takes a long time to get through a conversation.”
Haubner’s speaking voice is gently throaty and familiar, like his singing. Immediately catchy, his voice feels comforting, like pulling into the driveway after a long trip.
Also a bassist, the red-haired Pross (who plays fourstring dulcimer and sings) has a deeper drawl. The resulting mix is well-balanced, like the yin/yang earring poking through Pross’ right ear. Both are known for work with The Sheds, but with The Solid Pack, Haubner (guitar, vocals) and Pross often join forces with Sharon Udoh (keys), Matthew Shelton (kalimba) and soon to be Nashville-bound Melissa Baker (skins).
Haubner explains, “We have a ‘more the merrier’ mentality, so whoever is available to join us that knows our songs, we’ll just always do that.” Playing the four-string mountain dulcimer since 1987, Pross says, “I lived in San Francisco. I went to a flea market trying to buy a futon, and I saw that dulcimer.
Pretty. I ended up paying the guy $99 for it, because I The Solid Pack had a $100 bill, but I needed a dollar to get back home. “He said, ‘Goddamnit, red, you’re killin’ me.’ ” Pross adds with a smirk..
The band name came from canned goods. “There was like a can of pumpkin pie filling called Solid Pack Pumpkin, and I liked that phrase,” Pross says, “If I were ever going to be a wrestler or a rapper, that would be my name.” The sweet Folk of The Solid Pack smolders with a soothing closeness. Lantern light. Think of the subtle moments — handing a Band-Aid to someone, brushing his hurt finger. A living intimacy lurks within these tunes.
Delivered without tricks, “Bluebell” or “Backyard Song” could propel you into a nearby hammock. Pross says, “We bounce stuff off of each other, but mostly we’re writing separately. Chris is a machine. It’s just ridiculous.”
“If I’m under pressure,” Haubner says, smiling. His influences include crickets and cicadas. He may record his next album on a canoe.
And how do they release their music? Haubner responds, “All we’ve ever done is give our music away. We really just do it for fun. There’s no sense in money getting involved.”
Pross adds, “We’re really more interested in spreading the music out than trying to get rich off of it. I guess you can get rich off of it … well, first we’d have to be 24 years old…”
“And have dance moves,” Haubner pipes in. “We still have dance moves,” Pross says, chuckling.
“We like to make pretty music. That’s what it comes down to.” “We try to out-pretty each other without actually going over into being a candyass. We try to take it right up to the edge,” Haubner says. Venturing into the shadowy lands, Haubner and Uncle Smokin’ Joe walk me home. No signs for “Don’t Walk.” With The Solid Pack by my side, the trip home is smooth.
Easy as pie.
THE SOLID PACK (www.myspace.com/solidpackpumpkin) plays Leo Coffeehouse Oct. 5.