The Soul of Lincoln: Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers

Courtesy Photo from Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers

The Bourbon Theatre was packed with an attendance of over 700 people on Friday at Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers’ CD release party (A Ferocious Jungle Cat [Lincoln] and Funk Trek [Omaha], two other funky, soulful bands, also performed earlier that night.)

The band always draws a crowd to their shows and after the group’s year of climbing success, the debut of this album was certainly hyped, as the night proved.

Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers formed only a year or so ago, with their first show on December 28 of 2012. The year has treated the band well.

“We played all the major festivals in state and in the immediate area,” said Hoyer. “And then we played the Sin City Soul Revival in Las Vegas and we’re heading to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. It’s going to be next [this] week. So some pretty good things have happened for us in the first year.” It’s been a fortunate year for the nine-person group indeed.

Additionally, Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers are nominated for Best Artist of the Year and Best Soul/R&B Artist by the annual Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards ceremony which will be held next month. “It’s pretty exciting,” said Hoyer. “We’ll be closing out the awards ceremony with a performance so that’s pretty cool, too.”

Friday literally was the release party for the self-titled album. Songs were played that the public hadn’t heard. Copies of the CD went out the door. Now, copies are available at Lefty’s Records, Recycled Sounds as well as at future shows. The album is also available on CD Baby and on the Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers website. “You’ve got to try to meet people where they are,” Hoyer said about releasing in various means. “There [are] so many different places to get things anymore.” Hoyer said their music will also be on iTunes in a month or so.

Hoyer had a vision of what he wanted the album to sound like. In short, he wanted to produce good, upbeat soul music that people want to listen to. Hoyer sees soul music as accommodating a social setting, for one.

“The way I see soul music in general is…[it] either [fits a] really social kind of mood, where you’re at a party, and you put this album on and it’s going to real good for creating a nice vibe for a party I think,” said Hoyer. Soul music can fit nicely into time alone as well.

“I always wanted to write songs that were good for when you first get up in the morning or when you get into the car and you need to get into that mood to kind of conquer the day,” said Hoyer. “That was my goal for this band in general—to have that empowering, energetic, get-down-to-business kind of feel where you can kind of feel that sense of empowerment.” Hoyer says that’s what good soul music does for him.

It’s fair to say that the self-titled album does all of this. Each of the eight tracks are about five minutes long—not too long so as to carry on but long enough to give the taste of the unique flavor that each song boasts. In whole, the forty minute listen is upbeat and fun and certainly soulful.

The genre of ‘soul’ music is known for carrying loud, passionate energy with it. Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers always bring this to the stage. But transferring it into a recorded album is different and can be challenging.

The recording of the album took about four months. Three songs were recorded at Silver Street Town and the other five at Fuse Studio, both in Lincoln. Hoyer says the five at Fuse were basically recorded live and took about four days total whereas the rest at Silver Street Sound took about four months.

“That was sort of [trickier] to capture the sort of live energy but I think we did it pretty successfully even though we tracked individual instruments one at a time,” said Hoyer. “So that is a testament to Sean Beste otherwise known as Bzzz…He’s the producer and I think that’s a testament to his skill as a producer.”

“I think that, number one, I’m really patient with the songs I write,” said Hoyer. “Some of them take two years to get just right. I think if a song is strong enough and it has kind of that staying quality that you can revisit…the emotions that it took to write it each time and it feels fresh to you each time if the words are just right and the feel is just right.” Hoyer says there has been songs in the past that he has written where the flame seems to die out and playing them feels more like work.

“I think as I’m growing older…I think I’m more selective about what I put into a tune,” said Hoyer. “I think [the songs] will stay around for awhile. They’ll be alive hopefully.” Hoyer wrote and arranged all of the songs on the album and has been in various musical projects in the past. In this project, he mainly sings and plays the piano.

The Shadowboxers are eight other musicians: Justin G. Jones (drums, vocals); Brian Morrow (bass, vocals); Benjamin Kushner (guitar, vocals); Tommy Van Den Berg (trombone) and Mike Dee (tenor saxophone). Additionally, three female backup vocalists called the Foxy Boxers joined the group last year.

“Their first show with us was 4th of July at Zoo Fest,” said Hoyer. “We had so much fun and I realized that their vocals filled in some gaps in the sound that really needed to be there. So we try to have them perform with us as much as possible. As long as schedules and money allow…The Foxy Boxers are really important to us for sure.” Together, the nine people make a powerhouse of sound from their souls to others’.

It’s obvious that the group is having fun on stage. Hoyer says his favorite thing about playing live shows is the interaction between them and the crowd. “When you see people out there dancing and smiling and having a great time it makes it all worthwhile. So that’s the biggest thing,” said Hoyer, adding that if people are singing along, that’s even better. “That’s like icing on the cake.”

The band aims to bring as much to the listener of the album as they do to the audience members of live shows.

“The players are really great and I think the songs are really strong,” said Hoyer of the album. “Sometimes you don’t have to look further than your own backyard to find what you’re looking for.”

 Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers are currently playing shows in the region. Their next show is on February 6 at Duffy’s during the Lincoln Exposed music festival.

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