If any band can be called the Traveling Wilburys of Hilton Head Island, it’s Soundboy.
Individually, they are Jos Vicars, Greg Critchley, Kyle Wareham, John Wilkins, Martin Lesch and Juan Buzo. You probably know each of them individually as “that guy from that band.” Like so many musicians within the island’s music scene, each of them has a deep pedigree playing with different groups in different configurations: The Storks. Pretty Darn. Trophy Wife. La Pachanga. Spare Parts.
“With the exception of maybe one of us, we’ve all played together in different bands,” said Critchley, who serves as the band’s drummer.
In coming together as Soundboy, they had the same criteria as the Wilburys. If you’re a part of this band, you’re going to have to be fun to hang around with. That is, if six working musicians can ever find the time to just hang out.
“All the players are people I’ve really admired,” Lesch said. “I like them as people, and as musicians, I think they’re great. So, I get to play some reggae and hang out with some great people.”
“Everyone’s so good; we listen to each other, and we’re here for the same reason,” Wareham added, “to have fun.”
For six talented musicians, fun takes the form of a raucous improvisational free-for-all at the Tiki Hut every other Sunday. Quickly becoming a shared cultural event for the whole island, “Soundboy Sundays” let the guys play some of their own originals, mixed with reggae-flavored covers ranging from Pink Floyd to the Jonas Brothers. It may seem like a fairly typical setlist for a beach band, but in the hands of Soundboy, it becomes a free-flowing whirlwind of improvisation.
“There’s such an improvisational element to this band,” Critchley said. “There are cornerstones where we all meet, then we just go off and play.” Incidentally, if you ask who tends to take the song in the craziest direction, all fingers will point to Critchley.
“Sometimes the song just goes somewhere, and well, we try and hold on,” Wareham added.
To which Vicars responded, “We might go, ‘What the … what was that? But it’s usually, ‘that was great.’”
It probably helps that the guys all have a long history with one another on stage. “You get to know what guys are likely to do,” Wilkins said. “We trust each other not to try some stuff that you wouldn’t try with people you haven’t played with before. It’s tricky.”
The improvisational nature of a Soundboy show is partly due to the deep respect each musician has for one another built over countless performances. But it’s probably also due to the fact that trying to get six working musicians together to schedule a rehearsal is like herding cats.
“Cats would be easier, I think,” Vicars said. “We spent months one time just to line up a practice. Actually, it was just a meeting to discuss what the practice was going to be.”
Of course, if you’ve been following the news, you’ll probably know that as live musicians, they had about a five-month hole open up in their day planners earlier this year.
“We had our last meeting in February,” Wareham said. “We made all these plans … we were like, ‘Yup we’re going to do it this year boys.’ And then the only place we play shut down.”
With mandatory lockdowns shuttering the Tiki Hut and ending live music for five months, Soundboy went online, recording in their homes and swapping files. The task at hand was recording more originals. “We got started on our process, but we haven’t been able to finish because of COVID,” Critchley said. “I have a studio; Kyle has a studio … actually I think everyone does. So, there are ways to do it remotely, but that’s not as fun.”
When lockdown ended, it ended abruptly, with Soundboy being asked to return to the stage after five months apart with just a few days’ notice.
“It was like falling off a log,” Vicars said.
And at last, the long months of lockdown are behind us, and the Tiki Hut can now welcome back throngs of live music fans, drawn by Soundboy Sunday.