In a community known for both its musical diversity and musical abundance, forming a new band or group can seem like a near-futile task. This is doubly true if the formers of a group are all students, whose busy lives surely make a musical career on the side much more daunting. Such groups can exist for months without getting a gig at even the smallest of venues, struggling to find relevance in an area close to saturation with local artists and performers.
This does not seem to be the case for Soju Blue. Composed of Maddie Budreau, Christina “Tina” Kim and Molly Murphy — all third-years and all Music majors — the up-and-coming group already has an impressive show lined up this Saturday, opening for fellow student group Sorority Boy, who is in turn opening for local group New Boss at The Southern Cafe and Music Hall.
One of the most significant venues on the Downtown Mall, The Southern is a dream venue for most student musicians — a lofty goal to one day be attained. For Soju Blue, it’s just the next destination for the band — even though, as Budreau put it, “we’ve only had one official gig ever.”
It might seem unexpected for such a new and newly successful band to also be humble, but all three members of Soju Blue are pictures of modesty. Everything is “little” to them at this point, even when describing their roles within the band — Budreau does “vocals and piano, and we do a little guitar,” Kim plays “the cello and a little bit of piano,” and Murphy is in charge of vocals and “some very light percussion.”
Arts and Entertainment had the opportunity to sit down with all three of them in advance of Saturday’s show, to get to know the band better — where they came from, why students might not have heard of them yet and what’s next for the group.
Of the above questions, one of them — why students aren’t as familiar with Soju Blue as they might be with, say Sorority Boy — was answered pretty quickly.
“We formed November of last year, so we’ve really been together like three to four months,” Budreau said when asked about the band’s history.
Kim joined in to give a formal history of the band.
“I know Maddie because we live next to each other, and Maddie’s a musician — she writes her own stuff,” Kim said. “So, we used to jam together, and then I met Molly ... And one day, we were just kinda walking, and I was like, “Hey! I kinda want to start a band! Do you guys want to join? And we kinda started just jamming and it really worked out.”
Murphy went on to describe their first official practice, during which they decided on the name Soju Blue. This prompted the question — what exactly is soju?
“I’m Korean,” Kim said. “I spent my summer abroad in Korea, and soju is like the national drink of Korea. It’s consumed a lot … I think it beats out vodka as the most alcohol consumed per capita in the world.”
The three of them came across a poem about soju written by Kim, and they realized the drink itself meshed well with the ideals of their newly-formed band.
“Being drunk on soju is kinda like being wine-drunk — you’re very happy, it’s very communal,” Kim said. “You drink together with friends, family, coworkers, stuff like that. So we just thought that it went really well with the vibe that we wanted to present.”
After they had chosen a name, things started happening pretty quickly for the band. Budreau soon clarified the nature of the “one official gig.”
“Our first official gig was actually at The Ante Room downtown, so that was already like a pretty crazy first gig in itself,” Budreau said. “We were booked to play the Tea Bazaar on the same date, by Maria DeHart, who’s in Sorority Boy. She reached out … and was like, ‘Hey! Would you guys mind switching over to opening for our gig at The Southern on the same day?’”
Budreau said that she was just as surprised as anyone.
“I just remember being like, ‘Are you sure? We really are new. Our vibe’s a little different,’” she said.
Kim expressed having felt similar incredulity, but quickly emphasized how grateful they all are for the opportunity.
“It was super amazing and we’re really blessed to have these connections with people who already really love us, even though we’re so new,” she said.
Murphy described high school road trips she had taken just to see shows at The Southern.
“It may not seem like that big of a thing — it’s a pretty small venue,” she said. “But it’s cool to be here now.”
Budreau encompassed the collective feeling of the band well.
“Everyone’s like, ‘This is your second gig ever and you’re playing at The Southern — how did that happen?’ We’re asking the same thing,” she said.
The members of the band were quick to acknowledge, however, the undeniable fact that they are just one of countless other student music groups at the University.
Murphy had a lot to say about Soju Blue’s plans to set themselves apart.
“I think part of our thing, and why we tend to define ourselves as an all-female band, is because we don’t have any other outside forces … this is all we need,” she said. “We’ve got two multi-instrumentalists, and vocals and everything that we would need from an all-female group, which I think is … rarer in the Charlottesville student music scene at least.”
All band members agreed that their unique sound is a point in their favor, but when pressed to define the sound itself — always a frustrating task for an artist — their answers varied a bit.
“I think at one point, we classified ourselves as ‘sad-girl,’” Kim said.
Budreau helped to classify Soju Blue’s sound with some comparisons to their influences.
“We’ve covered Chance the Rapper, we’ve covered ... Agnes Obel,” she said. “I tend to use the word ambient, just because we kinda have a keyboard-cello harmony vibe.”
Kim described their sound as “really ballad-y, pretty soft,” while Murphy classified it as “minimalist.”
As they’ve only been in existence since last November, Soju Blue still has much to establish about themselves — much is still “TBD,” the phrase Budreau used to describe the band’s web presence.
Even in this aspect, the band members have a lot of plans for the group’s future.
“We’re working on a website … so hopefully that comes up in the next couple weeks or months,” Kim said. “We’ll have our recordings up there, and some pictures and bios of us.”
The three girls also had a lot to say about the show this weekend.
“If you’re gonna come out, come out for our sound because it’s pretty unique and pretty cool with the cello and piano and the harmonies going on,” Budreau said.
Kim agreed, offering a little more of what is unique about Soju Blue.
“I think it’s different from the regular fare that you get with a band,” Kim said. “It’s very acoustic. We have a pretty unique sound, and we are all female … so just to get a new taste of what’s been going on in the U.Va. music scene, the Charlottesville music scene, everybody should come out.”
Murphy had the perfect way to sum up the band’s sentiments.
“We all love music and I think we’re pretty good at it, so it’ll be an enjoyable show,” she said.
Soju Blue will play at The Southern Cafe and Music Hall Saturday, Feb. 3, alongside Sorority Boy and New Boss.