Arts & Entertainment, The Muse

Best Seat in the house

It seems that wherever you go in whatever time period in history, there is always someone trying to bring back the past, whether it be revelers at a Renaissance festival or a grandparent longing for “the good old days.” When it comes to music, the latest in a long line of revivalists is the retro-soul/pop band Cheap Seats from Philadelphia.

Formed in the fall of 2008, the group has seen a quick rise to success in the Philadelphia music scene. “We wrote a few songs that embodied the retro-soul pop music,” said vocalist Vince John in a phone interview. “It came naturally, so we decided to run with it.”

The quintet has the look and feel of a late 50s/60s pop group, sporting the matching suits and expertly coiffed hair of early Motown and bringing a sound that borrows without copying from the pop soul of the era. With singing from John that borders on pop-punk at times and arrangements that incorporate horn sections and extra percussion, Cheap Seats has spent time crafting songs in the spirit of decades past &- &- a spirit that seems to be missing from music on the radio today.

“A lot about this decade and the music of today is a little bit frustrating,” John said. “It’s a lot less genuine . . . I feel like I grew up in the wrong time period.”

With influences that span from the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team at Motown to the sunshine pop of the Beach Boys and the mop-headed leaders of the British invasion, the band has searched across the board and into the past for its sound. Cheap Seats’ first EP, the three-song Truth and Soul Sessions was recorded in Brooklyn and allowed the band to develop the professional arrangements found on the tracks.

“Many times in the world of songwriting you wind up overanalyzing things . . . [in the studio] we got back to basics and the music represented what we were feeling,” said keyboardist Paul Sipio, a Northeastern University grad. “As long as [the music] feels good, it doesn’t need to be over-calculated.”

It’s the simplicity of the music and the message that Cheap Seats seems to be returning to, consciously stepping away from some of the synth-driven, over produced pop music flooding the airwaves today. Both “Sin, Repent, Repeat” and “High Ride” are up-tempo songs about the possibilities of youth, with the former featuring strong chorus harmonies and the latter boasting the repeated maxim, “We can make it on our own.” “Chained To Me” features horn arrangements and seems like a more driving, rock remix of a Motown classic.

The songs fly in the face of a lot of current pop music and an industry that is trying to find its way through some of the technological advances that threaten to strip away its business model. With that in mind, Cheap Seats is trying to make it any way it can.

“As long as a band can have the motivation and work ethic to get themselves out there, the results will be seen,” Sipio said.

“Musicians are trying so hard to be heard,” John said. “The Internet allows the listener to be oversaturated . . . it makes us work harder.”

Hard work, dedication, fine suits and pop soul are distinct elements of the Cheap Seats formula &-&- a throwback to an era they feel needs a resurrection. In the coming years, Cheap Seats is hoping to provide that.

Cheap Seats has a number of upcoming dates in both New York City and Philadelphia. Its music can be found at

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