Over the last five years, Beaufort-based group Souls Harbor developed a reputation in the Lowcountry for a uniquely refined rock style powered by distorted guitars, pounding drums, and lead singer Doug Marshall's emotive vocals. But many of their fans may not know that Souls Harbor actually came to life on an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.
"John Fenin and I were in the Marine Corps together back in 1999," says Marshall, 31. "He and I started the band officially in 2000. Other commitments and people wanting to go different ways have affected the lineup, plus there's not a lot of money in doing what we do, so some people can stick it out and some can't."
During his four years in the Marine Corps, Marshall specialized as a jet engine mechanic, working with an F-18 squad on Navy flight decks.
"It was pretty intense," he says of his time at sea. "I did a total of four cruises when I was in. I didn't plan on putting a band together. Shortly before I got out, I planned to go to school to study aviation science and do my thing. I didn't know music was going to be involved with the whole thing."
In 2000, an officer from the MWR (the Navy's Morale, Welfare, and Recreation department) saw what Marshall and his pals were up to, and he asked them to play a rock show for the troops when they hit port. Souls Harbor's first official show was in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The drummer played on a set of buckets.
"There was actually a buzz about us when we shipped back into Beaufort," Marshall says. "We didn't expect that."
In 2001, Marshall and Fenin solidified the band with bassist Ryland Underwood (a fellow Marine) and drummer Rob Cadiz (a Navy man) while they were all serving in the Persian Gulf on the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier.
"We were over there doing the whole Saddam Hussein campaign, working on F-18s," says Marshall. "When we started, we were just doing things for fun. But when we got serious about it, things became more disciplined. We're still serious about doing our best, but we have a lot of fun doing it. We strive to achieve our goals. We keep pushing each other and encouraging each other to keep going, despite any setbacks. We've been keeping the fire lit."
The current Souls Harbor roster features guitarist Tony Bigley, who joined in 2001, drummer Justin Long, who came aboard in 2008, and the latest recruitment, bassist Alan Price.
"This is the probably the most solid lineup," boasts Marshall. "The level of talent, showmanship, and professionalism is the strongest we've had. It's great, especially with this new album that's coming out."
The band wrote songs in the studio and in their practice space over the last year and a half. They embarked on more than a few tours around the Southeast and Midwest. After a session in Atlanta's Black Dog Studios with critically acclaimed studio engineer and producer Rick Beato (Needtobreathe, Shinedown, Trey Anastasio), the band is ready to independently release a 10-song collection titled Anxiety Society.
"On this one, I think people will think of it as straight, mainstream guitar rock with an edge to it," says Marshall. "There's actually a military-related song on the new album — a track called 'End of War' — that's more political than our other songs," says Marshall. "It's about bringing troops home. It's a pretty deep song. It's personal to me, because I've had buddies who've been in and lost limbs or who just aren't right in the head any more. It's about what the troops endure."
Souls Harbor headlines a CD release show at the Music Farm on Fri. Oct. 1. See myspace.com/soulsharbor for more.