SOJA Biography

“I want to speak for people who don’t have microphones,” Jacob Hemphill says. “Our goal as a band is to stick up for the human race. We see the world and we try to make it better in the limited time we have here.”

This is the philosophy behind SOJA’s music, a simple statement that has driven the Grammy Nominated D.C. area band, who blend reggae, go-go, D.C. hardcore, Latin, rock and hip-hop. Originally formed by a group of friends while still in middle school and has built a massive, dedicated fanbase around the world since. In the years following, SOJA has sold more than 200,000 albums, headlined shows in nearly 30 countries around the world, generated over 4 million Facebook fans, and over 120 million YouTube views. The band has toured with Dave Matthews Band, Incubus, 311 and appeared at major festivals including Bonnaroo where they attract an almost Grateful Dead-like international fan base along the way, with caravans of diehards following them from city to city. After the release of their 2012 album Strength To Survive, the musicians started writing material for what would become their fifth full-length album, “Amid the Noise and Haste.”

SOJA, left to right: Bobby Lee, Trevor Young, Hellman Escorcia, Jacob Hemphill, Patrick O’Shea, Rafael Rodriguez, Ken Brownell, Ryan Berty

For Hemphill, who pens the lyrics, chords and melody, each song starts with an experience: meeting someone, reading something, experiencing something that seems pertinent to the human condition. On this album, the songwriter is suggesting that “all of life’s problems, and all of life’s answers are within us. We’ve been conditioned to accumulate, compete and break others down around ourselves — not inherent to the human condition, but rather taught. Those things can be untaught. The real us is in there, somewhere.” All of this is translated into short, sweet packages of music.

The writing and recording process for Amid the Noise and Haste stretched out over a year and a half, mostly because the musicians kept finding new collaborators and new ideas along the way. The aim was to engage as many guest artists as possible, with each working on a song that had a legitimate connection to them. The album was produced by Supa Dups (Bruno Mars, Eminem, Rihanna, John Legend) and recorded at Circle House Studios in Miami and Lion & Fox Studios in Washington D.C. throughout 2013. Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley appears on “Your Song,” a buoyant, hopeful number that asks fans to remind the band why they got into music by singing along, while “I Believe” brings Michael Franti and Nahko together to offer thoughts on how to control your own destiny. Collie Buddz, J Boog and Anuhea are also featured on various tracks. “We wanted to bring together people who would help demonstrate each song,” Jacob says. “We wanted people who could either relate to or convey the message. The whole album is about the human race relating to itself and connecting with itself.”

For SOJA, whose live show is an explosion of energy and positivity, music is a means of helping people relate in a more affirmative way. It also asks people to look inside themselves and really ask what it is they want to do with their life and how they can be happy. SOJA’s music is about finding that happiness and peace we all deserve and helping others do the same, something Amid the Noise and Haste aptly conveys in its songs.

“I put words in my songs that I believe to be true,” Jacob says. “The point of the album is reconnecting people to the power inside themselves, getting them to fall back in love with life again. Look around, take a deep breath. All the answers are there.” ❖

Download bio, logo, photos on Media page ›

SOJA Band Members

Jacob Hemphill - Lead vocals, Guitar
Jacob Hemphill – Lead vocals, Guitar

Facebook | Instagram

“I want to speak for people who don’t have microphones,” Jacob Hemphill says. “Our goal as a band is to stick up for the human race. We see the world and we try to make it better in the limited time we have here.”

Bobby Lee - Bass, Vocals
Bobby Lee – Bass, Vocals

Instagram | Twitter

“The biggest motivation I have on a daily basis is knowing that people are waiting in the audience every night to be entertained and with a mind state that they can’t wait for positive vibes and a conscious message that we convey through our music.”

  • Also known as Bumble Blee

Ryan Berty - Drums
Ryan Berty – Drums

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

“Big changes are often caused by many people each making small changes, so anything you can do to help benefit the greater good, big or small, will make a difference…”

Kenny Bongos - Percussion
Ken Brownell – Percussion

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

“The biggest life lesson I’ve learned really deals with how Ive come to define success and that is, investing in the growth of my own mind, my deep empathy and my ability and action to treat people the way they should be treated to a positive effect. Investing in and progressing your own humanity within, is the real cornerstone of success to me. When I began to do this, it touched everything else in my life, transformed all my relationships and lifted my entire world. Simply put, the study of self and growth of our well being must never cease.”

  • Also known as Kenny Bongos
  • Born Dec. 30th in Washington D.C.
  • Loves soccer, green smoothies, stand up paddle boarding, logistics and good coffee
  • Has dozens of other nicknames like Chimps, Chan and Mistah Q
  • Went to high school overseas in The Hague, Netherlands
  • Lives in Tampa, FL since 2013
  • Loves roller coasters but gets sick on the tea cups
  • Extremely good at ping pong and foosball. Challenge him!
  • Big fan of Deepak Chopra, Noam Chomsky, Michael Ruppert and Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Favorite percussionist: Go-Go Mickey. Look him up people!
  • In another life: Starting left forward for DC United
  • Would like to thank his brother Matt Brownell for all his hard work and support of SOJA

Patrick O'Shea - Keyboards
Patrick O’Shea – Keyboards

Instagram | Twitter

“I am a believer in the saying that there is nothing new under the sun. Not to say that there are no new accomplishments, because there certainly are. But I feel like the human race is one big interconnected being. So we are all small parts making something bigger. Competition helps us strive for new levels of accomplishment. We all inspire each other in so many aspects of life. So in essence, my inspiration comes from all forms of life past, present, and future. I can only hope I am able to contribute to this massive pool of ideas to inspire others, as I have been inspired by them.”

Hellman Escorcia - Saxophone
Hellman Escorcia – Saxophone

Instagram | Twitter

“El amor lo es todo, conozco el amor gracias a mi familia y mis ancestros, sin ellos ni siquiera estubiera vivo. El amor es libertad y es la única manera de sentirse vivo. Amar es único y esta en peligro de extinsión ya que no todo el mundo sabe como se siente y como en realidad es. Las personas que en realidad aman son bendecidos por todo el universo y aunque hayan personas que traten de eliminar el amor que uno tiene a la vida, siempre la madre naturaleza está para mantenernos vivos ante toda adversidad, como nuestros ancestros los hicieron y lo siguen haciendo del más allá.”

  • Also known as Helms
  • From Venezuela

Rafael Rodriguez - Trumpet
Rafael Rodriguez – Trumpet

Instagram | Twitter

“Surround yourself with people who make you a better person and be kind.” I will always remember words from my music teacher Mr. Luis “P​erico” Ortiz, who was one of the greatest Latin trumpet players. He​ gave me the greatest advice that​ I will take with me forever. I remember that day. He told me that​ today’s class​ was going to be without instruments. Instead,​ he needed to tell me something very important. We sat and spoke about life and while I just wanted to play, he gave me a lecture on how important it i​s to be a good person first before being anything else. He explained that you could be the best at what you do but it amounts to nothing if you’re not a good human being. This is ​because good relationships are what will stay even when whatever you are the best at is over. I left that classroom and kept thinking about that and how some people are the best at what they do but aren’t lucky enough to be​ surrounded by​ good people. So from that day ​on I’ve ​always ​ ​tried to be the best I can with ​ my instrument but more importantly a good person above all.”

  • Also known as Rafa
  • From Puerto Rico

Trevor Young - Lead guitar
Trevor Young – Lead guitar

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

“My dad came home one day after work with a black fender stratocaster copy. It looked exactly like Eric Clapton’s who was one of my all time favorites. He started taking guitar lessons and I immediately knew I wanted to do the same thing. That moment to me changed everything and has made me who I am today.”