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About Soraia

Not to be confused with the Colombian rock en español/Latin pop star Soraya (who had a major hit in Latin America with "Llevame" in 2005), the band profiled here is a Philadelphia-based alternative rock/post-grunge outfit fronted by lead vocalist ZouZou Mansour (an expressive, big-voiced singer with a gutsy, edgy, gritty, forceful style). Loud, hard-rocking and aggressive yet highly melodic and hooky, Soraia brings a wide variety of '70s, '80s, and '90s influences to the table. L7, Concrete Blonde, Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and Hüsker Dü have affected Soraia's sound, as have the Pretenders, Chrissie Hynde, and Patti Smith. Another influence on Soraia is singer/songwriter PJ Harvey, although Francia's vocals are not as stream-of-consciousness or as impressionistic; Francia is more direct and to-the-point in her approach. And while Soraia is clearly part of post-'80s alternative rock, the Philadelphians also get a great deal of inspiration from metal, punk, and new wave artists who were around before the rise of Nirvana and before the highly influential, mega-platinum Nevermind dramatically rearranged the rock landscape in the early '90s and caused a lot of '80s bands to disappear from MTV. Soraia is a band that has clearly benefited from Nevermind, although they realize that rock history did not start with that 1991 classic.

In her pre-Soraia days, Sue Francia earned her living in the educational field; the singer once headed the English department at Nazareth Academy, an all-girl Catholic high school in the northeastern part of Philly. It was around 2001 that Francia, who left her position at Nazareth to pursue a career in music, formed Soraia with her brother, guitarist Joe Francia. Performing in and around Philly in 2002 and 2003, the Francia siblings went through various bassists and drummers before auditioning and hiring bassist Travis Smith and drummer Jeff Valcarel in July 2004. Valcarel, who began studying the drums when he was only four years old, has cited Stewart Copeland (formerly of the Police) and Stephen Perkins of Jane's Addiction fame as major influences on his drumming. With this lineup in place, Soraia started work on their debut album, Dirty Like Soraia, released on the band's own label, Soraia Music, during the summer of 2005. In March 2006, Soraia announced that they would be doing some recording with veteran producer/engineer Obie O'Brien, best known for his work with Jon Bon Jovi and Alice Cooper (O'Brien was one of the engineers on the Desmond Child-produced Trash album in 1989), April Wine, Gorky Park, and Shootyz Groove, among others. After 2007's Shed the Skin, the band began touring incessantly, culminating in a 2009 performance opening for Bon Jovi at Milwaukee's Summerfest -- without ever leaving dingy bars and grimy clubs in their rearview.

2011 saw the release of the compilation (A Lotta!) Singles. Due to intense touring activity, it would be two years before they issued their next proper studio offering, In the Valley of Love and Guns, followed by another studio effort, the paradoxically titled Soraia Lives! in 2014. The latter effort featured covers of David Bowie's "Cat People (Putting Out Fires with Gasoline)" and a punk read of the Kinks' "(I'm Not) Like Everybody Else" as a single; it spent ten weeks on the South American charts. The EP Less Than Zero followed in 2015 amid avid touring activity, and a year later, the single "Electrocutioner" was picked by Little Steven Van Zandt's Underground Garage, Sirius/XM radio program as "#1 Coolest Song of the Year." Van Zandt also signed the band to his Wicked Cool label. In early 2017 Soraia entered his Renegade Nation Studios in New York City, where he produced two tracks: a cover of Prince's "Wow" and his own "Why," composed especially for the band. Soraia co-produced the rest of the album with Geoff Sanoff. The pre-release single and video "Quicksand" was released in September. The full-length Dead Reckoning followed in October. ~ Alex Henderson

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