Spreading the Good Vibes

Charleston City Paper | September 20, 2005
“The scenes in Charleston and Columbia are very different,” says singer, songwriter, and pianist Roni Zagoria. The 22-year-old Georgia native spent four years in the state’s capitol before recently relocating to the Holy City — a move she’s happy she made.

“It got really redundant in Columbia,” she says. “It’s not really a good place for starting musicians to get themselves seen and noticed. The places where you can play music all close down eventually. Bands have to rotate between two or three clubs, so things are limited. We needed to moved and try something different in a place where nobody knew us. We wanted to build a genuine following of people who liked us for what we had to offer, not because we hung out every Friday night.”

While studying anthropology at the University of South Carolina, Zagoria started performing as a solo act featuring just her singing voice and a piano. Last year, the classically-trained performer started collaborating with others and filling in with some fellas from Columbia rock band Fastest Steed On Earth. By year’s end, they became Roni Zagoria & The Whole Lotta Man Band.

“That’s how it started,” she says. “I wrote my solo songs and needed a backup band, so we all got together. Now, our guitarist writes a lot of songs and it’s more like a melting pot than what it was when we started … and I like that better. I’m kind of the band leader because my name’s in the band name and I’m sort of the ‘face’ of the band, but everyone does their thing — especially our drummer Zach, who handles a lot of the marketing and business things.”

With Zagoria in the lead on vocals, keyboards, and piano, the Whole Lotta Man Band is comprised of bassist Jon Stone, drummer Zach Alberto, and guitarist John Ford. The bandmates graduated from USC in the spring. Fed up with the music scene in their hometown, the entire band moved to Charleston from Columbia in June.

“I considered moving somewhere else and forming a band, because I didn’t want to stay there,” the bandleader says. “No one in the group was doing anything very serious, and it turns out that everyone felt the same way. And, I’m sorry, you just can’t stay in Columbia for too long!”

The group tends to aim for a brightly-polished, groove-oriented pop-rock sound in the vein of Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell, and the like … “a good, smooth, jazzy, jam band type of awesomeness,” as she puts it. They cite classic rock and contemporary pop artists Elton John, Pink Floyd, Primus, Eric Clapton, and Phish as main influences.

“We could possibly be described as psychedelic-blues-funk-jazz-alt rock; at least that’s about as close as anyone has come to pigeonholing us.”

The band recently recorded a full album’s worth of tunes at a local home studio, put the final touches on the mixes, and is getting it all mastered this summer for release in the fall. According top Zagoria, the live shows keep getting better, and the feedback from the local crowds has been extremely positive.

“People here just go out and listen to music no matter the style,” she says. “We’ve had a great time playing in town. People are cool and dancing their asses off … it’s just not like that in Columbia.”

Charleston City Paper

Founded in 1997, the locally owned and operated City Paper is Charleston's only weekly alternative newspaper and the second-largest publication in the metro Charleston area. Reaching a strong mix of active, affluent locals and tourists, the City Paper has thrived...
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