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Sol Nation

Colin Badger concedes there’s a subliminal political aspect to Sol Nation, the multicultural musical outfit he formed with lead vocalist Paulo Almeida in 2007. “I guess the subliminal message is that music brings people together,” Badger says. “We probably wouldn’t know each other if it wasn’t for the music, so we’re an example of how music brings people together – as long as you can play, you’re in. It doesn’t matter what your background is, or where you come from ­– it’s good if you’re different.”

Sol Nation was conceived following the demise of the Dili Allstars, the Timorese-Australian band featuring Badger, Almeida and Badger’s Painters and Dockers colleague Paul Stewart. “With the Dili Allstars we were strongly focused on the Timor independence movement,” Almeida says. “After a while a lot of the members started going their separate ways, but we didn’t want to stop completely, so we started Sol Nation.” 
 
Almeida, who left Timor with his family almost 30 years ago, sat down with Badger and commenced writing songs for the fledgling Sol Nation. From the outset, Badger and Almeida were keen to create music that would fit a festival atmosphere, rather than the traditional pub circuit. 
 
“I’ve played in pubs for years and years, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but there are other things as well,” Badger says. “Being able to travel and go to interesting places is exciting.”
 
Along the way, Sol Nation picked up various musicians, each bringing a unique musical flavour to the band. The result is a vibrant potpourri of musical styles. 
 
“People ask us if we can describe our music, and I can’t,” Almeida laughs. “The idea is that we have people with different musical backgrounds, and we mix up the styles,” Badger says. “There’s a reggae bass there, but we kind of mess with that. That keeps it musically interesting. Mark [Grunden], the drummer, is good with African and Brazilian rhythms, so we mix that with the reggae and try and come up with our own thing rather than copy anyone else.”
 
With such a diverse cultural profile – members include Black Arm Band vocalist/guitarist Deline Briscoe, Egyptian-born Ann Metry on bass guitar and Zimbabwe-born percussionist Zeca Mesquita – the risk is always a sound that’s too complex. It’s a risk, however, that Sol Nation have been able to avoid. 
 
“I think one of the tricks to writing songs is to keep it simple,” Badger says. “I might have been guilty of putting too many chords in at some stage, but then I say to the rest of the band, ‘It’s not kindergarten’.”
 
The band’s debut album – aptly titled Melting Pot – was produced by former Little River Band guitarist David Briggs. With Sol Nation’s live set often featuring elaborate jams, Briggs’ quest was to condense the band’s music to suit the album format. “It’s turned out a lot more poppy than I expected, but if that helps it get on the radio, then who’s going to complain? Not me.” Badger laughs.
 
Sol Nation’s journey has taken them across Australia, from Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory to Cairns in north Queensland, and over to New Caledonia in the South Pacific. With the release of Melting Pot, Sol Nation are hitting the road again, intent on bringing people together and seeing as much of the country, and the world, as possible. 
 
“There’s a party vibe behind the band,” says Badger. “The whole idea was to get out there and play festivals and travel.” Almeida has an iron in the fire with a promoter in Japan, while Badger is sure there’s a market to be tapped across the Tasman in New Zealand. “Hopefully the new album will open some doors. We’ll go anywhere we can – have guitar, will travel.”
 
BY PATRICK EMERY

SOL NATION play Rubix Funhouse on Saturday September 12 with Ribeleon, Yung Warriors and DJ Henrique Santos. Melting Pot is available now via MGM.