Rich Howells

From gospel to metal, The Contact Collective fuses genres into soulful sounds from Stroudsburg to Scranton

From gospel to metal, The Contact Collective fuses genres into soulful sounds from Stroudsburg to Scranton
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Stroudsburg rock fusion band The Contact Collective blends soul, gospel, jazz, funk, reggae, new-age, and even a little metal into a sound that they say “tastes like mom’s cookin’ but feels like a summer’s breeze.”

In the wide-ranging music scene of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the relatively new group has still managed to stand out since forming about a year and a half ago. Their bio serves as a proper introduction to this creative collective:

Led vocally by the sweet blend of metal, gospel, and soul, we have the stunning Elonda “Vibez.” Next on the roaster, standing at 5’9″, 210 pounds, coming from the school of church, bringing both feel and thought to the groove, we have Gregg Hedrington stepping in on keys. Also, living in the quaint town of Sciota, Pennsylvania, we have the peaceful bass giant Johnny Valinote, bringing his unique heart to the foundation of our sound with backgrounds in classical and jazz. Jonathan Lindsay, drummer before his first breath or so the rumor goes… one of the most dynamic drummers of all time, being especially known for versatility in room. Last but certainly not least, we have Nicholas DeSouza out of Brooklyn, New York, bringing his Rastafarian heritage and city rock to the dynamic of the band.

Largely performing in the Poconos area, the band recently ventured up to Scranton for “Juicebox Sessions x NEPA Scene Podcast,” a new live streaming series that combines Ionic Development’s original local music showcase Juicebox Sessions with the uncensored interviews of the NEPA Scene Podcast, giving musicians an alternative platform during the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down venues and most of the music industry.

While playing at The V-Spot for the first time on June 21 as an online audience watched from home on Facebook Live, The Contact Collective explained that their group just fell into place naturally.

“Honestly, it just meshed together – mutual friends, people that we knew, and then boom, just dropped in,” vocalist Vibez said from the stage.

“We like to say God,” DeSouza added with a laugh. “God is in the house.”

They never set out to make a certain sound and can’t exactly put any distinct label on it because, “We’re still figuring it out, honestly,” Vibez noted.

“We like to say arguments are progressive conversations,” DeSouza joked. “So through progressive conversation we’ve progressed this far.”

“I come from a gospel/metal background, and then we have Gregg over here that’s super soulful/gospel as well,” Vibez continued.

“Then Nick has his own little rock going on and same with Johnny. John back here does everything, so it was just like a mesh of what we want to sound like but not sound like because we don’t want to be put in a box. So it kind of worked out that we didn’t really know what we were going for sound-wise, but I think it works out for us.”

Putting their own spin on everything from Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” to Radiohead’s “Creep” to Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” The Contact Collective also played the three original songs featured on their demo, “Catching Contact,” which is available on all major streaming platforms. Vibez had already written some songs and Hedrington is “an amazing arranger,” Vibez said, so the band would just “fill in the holes” where needed.

“The first song [Perfect Circles] was a collective – no pun intended. We wrote that song together and it was just like a spur of the moment kind of deal. It came from a dark place, I’m not going to lie, but sometimes you just got to write out what you feel,” she admitted.

DeSouza, who often performed with Vibez at the NEPA Scene’s Got Talent open mic a few years back, noted that the band is currently working on a full-length debut.

“Definitely check it out and give a chance to listen because we’ll be revamping them for the album as we go, just a little bit just so you get something fresh as we progress,” he said.

While the music scene in Stroudsburg is small, they have been embraced at venues like the Sherman Theater and Sarah Street Grill and branched out to Hazleton, Bethlehem, Harrisburg, Saylorsburg, Hamburg, Easton, Bushkill, and Wind Gap.

“The Pocono scene is always as happening as it comes. We just happen to be the bridge in between the city and what is almost like rural area. So it’s cool because you have these cats that follow Sublime and all that stuff and you also have people like us, the urban international sound that’s coming out as it comes on. It’s a blend between all those worlds that exist,” DeSouza described.

“With the little scene we do have, we’re happy to be a part of it.”

Many of the venues they’ve visited are bars and restaurants, so the Sherman Theater was a major highlight for Vibez.

“That was one of the first bigger stages that we played on. There was something about the lights and the space – oh my God, so much space!” she exclaimed.

The house shows they’ve been live streaming during the quarantine just haven’t been the same.

“It’s the worst for me personally. I like the reciprocation. I just need to have like vibes, the energy, you know? I’m named Vibez for a reason. It made it challenging for me personally because I know that people are watching and I just kind of like imagine that they’re all there, everybody just all in one ball,” she said.

“And moving!” DeSouza added.

“But I guess if you can do it like this then you can do it with a crowd, you know what I mean? That’s the truth. This is the test. I’ve been learning, man, because you get to see these videos and you watch them about a billion times after and you analyze every damn thing.”

“That’s the worst,” Vibez agreed. “Sometimes we just get together and we watch our live streams and we’re just picking [them apart].”

The Contact Collective will finally be able to get in front of a real crowd again this Saturday, July 4 at Jay Albertson Park (Avenue C and N. 5th St., Stroudsburg). From 3 p.m.-10 p.m., they’re hosting the outdoor “One Love BBQ” with live music, a DJ, food, fireworks, family activities, and a 50/50 raffle. Social distancing is encouraged at this free event, and a percentage of all profits will be donated to The Bail Project, “a national nonprofit organization that pays bail for people in need, reuniting families and restoring the presumption of innocence.”

“If you follow our page, we just keep updating it as it goes because everything right now is in flow,” DeSouza said.

“Just keep following us if you can. I know it’s hard to keep up with all your favorite friends and bands, but put us at the top of your list if you can.”

Watch The Contact Collective’s full set and short interview on “Juicebox Sessions x NEPA Scene Podcast” and stream the band’s “Catching Contact” demo EP below:

The Contact Collective · Catching Contact

Photos by Jason Riedmiller Photography/NEPA Scene