Red Martina: A Cool Mosaic of Sound.
The chemistry between two or more people is sometimes instantaneous and undeniable. Once formed, these bonds are hard to break. For Haley Cass of Red Martina, this moment came when she created music for the first time with bandmates Ish Quintero and Ben Polinsky.
“We wrote the hook of our first song outside the first day we all met,” says Cass. “We knew it at that moment.”
Before Red Martina became a seven-member band creating music in a West Philadelphia basement, they started off as a foursome. Quintero, the group’s multi-instrumentalist who decides what they’re going to sample, was working on hip-hop and trip-hop projects with Stoupe, a local Philadelphia producer. Once Polinsky and Cass were invited on as vocalists, the sound and rhythms to Quintero and Stoupe’s previous projects became more diverse. Red Martina was born.
“When Haley and Ben came to start working with us, we realized we could use what we had in different ways,” says Quintero. “We didn’t have to stick to the formula of a rap song where Ben would rap and Haley would do the hook or chorus.”
Their ability to stray from any set formula was amplified after the additional members, Noam Szwegold, Adam Williams and Aaron Blouin joined the group. Drawing on various musical influences like Parliament Funkadelic, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Caribbean and Latin rhythms and Billie Holiday, Red Martina’s songs blend elements from a broad range of genres. To categorize them as pure hip-hop would be ignoring the richness and complexity of their sound.
“What makes a good band is the sum of its parts and since we all come from different backgrounds, it’s kind of like a creative tension in a good way because it creates a unique sound,” says Szwergold, the band’s pianist. “The songs are versatile, and I think that’s reflective of the Philadelphia music scene. There are so many backgrounds and genres that come together and make this cool mosaic of sound.”
This mix of sound and their ability to bring it all together in a cohesive, head-nodding way, forces the audience to truly listen during Red Martina performances says Cass.
“It’s not just young kids or one type of person,” she says of the band’s fan. “We get people who really want to listen to music, who are not there to party, but to listen to what we have to play,”
Fans have flown from Chicago and Denver to listen to their live performances, which they have started recording as a tribute to their followers, both in the States and abroad.
“They had their first show at Milkboy in Philadelphia and I was utterly impressed with their performance, especially it being their first one,” says Taylor Gannon, a fan of the band since their early days as a foursome. “More people in Philadelphia should get a chance to listen and see them live.”
Gannon adds that the band’s complexity in being rooted in hip-hop, jazz, funk and even reggae is what makes them all the more interesting.
“With all of the new music coming out these days, even just in Philadelphia, it’s nice to hear something straight up different from the rest,” she says.
To get lyrical inspiration, Polinsky says he does not look much farther than his own home of Philadelphia. Whether it is taking a walk around the streets to clear his head or hopping a ride on SEPTA, the stories are all around him.
“It’s like Mr. Cheeks from Lost Boyz says, ‘Sometimes I take the train just to clear the brain,’ and I think it’s really true,” says Polinsky. “It’s tough to write if you don’t get out to see what people are doing.”
While Red Martina is working on their next album, they have not set a release date yet.
“We will release it when the moment is right and we feel good about what we’re putting out there,” says Cass. “For music that draws from so many people and tastes, we can’t rush.”
In protest of having that album, or any of their other work boxed into one genre again, Red Martina created their own. They call it West Philly Basement.
“It’s where we make our music and it embodies who we are, where we’ve come as a group and where we still can go,” says Szwegold.