THE SYMBOLS: Spiritual Porn Rock for the masses

By: Rebecca Lapole

When a group of artists calls their style of music “Spiritual Porn Rock – music that’s good for the soul and body,” there’s an intrigue there urging more exploration. In an unassuming suburban Fort Collins home, The Symbols created their own magnificent recording studio, and over a Chinese food lunch, seduced this writer with their talent and passion for their craft.

The Symbols are guitarist Jasco Duende, bassist and vocalist Mer Sal and drummer Don Stahl. Mer and Jasco met at a blues jam at Spotlight Music and created the band about five years ago. He bought her a bass a year later, and within three months she’d learned how to play the bass while singing all their tunes. They have been married for three years now and counting. “We’re lucky to have found soulmates in each other,” Mer said, “and to be in a band with people we get along with.”

They all agree that their meeting was “nearly cosmic.” Don came along about a year ago, meeting Mer and Jasco at a blues jam at The Boot in Fort Collins. He showed up and played a gig with The Symbols a week later, with no rehearsal. Jasco had told him, “If you’re worth a fuck, we won’t need [a rehearsal].”

While effortlessly restringing a guitar in a few minutes, Jasco said, “The difficult part of any band is getting along with all the personalities, liking the same types of music, and having the same level of commitment. It just doesn’t work without fitting those three things.” 

Don remembered, “I showed up and Jasco said, ‘we’re going to do ‘Pride and Joy,’ but like a Rumba,’ and then ‘a Fleetwood Mac song, but more like uptempo jazz swing.’” After a year of playing these “dramatically altered and mangled” cover tunes, they decided to record a full album of them, called Symbolized, which came out in June. They cover songs by bands from The Clash to The Ramones to Jimi Hendrix, all with their own creative twist. Jasco explained the way they do covers, “You don’t want to be comparing yourself to Led Zeppelin…Other than the educational part, you don’t want to copy their notes; you want to copy their soul – what made them special. The trick is trying to keep the essence of the song that is cool.”

Don lays down the groove with Mer, most all of their songs are groovy and funky, while Jasco brings the soul. Jasco said, “I try to be as musical and soulful as possible. I’m actually not a big fan of long guitar solos; they gotta be poignant and it needs to tell a story and paint a picture.” Mer is very comfortable in her role and said, “As the lead singer you have to be the provider of the entertainment, and draw people in all the way from the back of the room. Make them think with their soul.”

Jasco’s opinion is that, “If you can play with enough soul to really touch someone’s emotions, they’ll love you forever. And that’s what we try to do.”

Speaking of that forever love, Mer said, “Upon getting married, we built a house and a music studio. Isn’t that what everyone does?” Jasco showed off “The Recordium,” an impressive recording studio custom built in the basement of their three-year-old home. “It’s 1500 square feet, five rooms with decent sound isolation and acoustic treatment. I built the studio for us because Mer writes so many songs, I needed a place I could record them. While it’s not a commercial studio, we do record a lot of our music friends. Usually a band or two per week. Notably, we’ve recorded Phil Brown from Little Feat (who also produced Smile, their debut album that came out last year), Alvino Bennet (Dave Mason, Stevie Wonder), and local act Maxwell Mud made a record with us that won FOCOMA’s Album of the Year this year.”

Don pointed out that the bathroom in the Recordium has a shower, “just in case you rock so hard you need to rinse off after.”

That brings us back to their sexy soulful style, like the song “Not Enough Love” which was featured in a PSA for Blue Star Connection, a local non-profit organization that provides guitars and other instruments to hospitals for musical therapy programs and for kids with terminal illness. Their song “Alone” will be featured in the opening credits for Colorado independent filmmaker River Wilde’s upcoming movie, Abstinence. Mer warned, “It’s not a Christian film. It’s more like Porné — artsy porn, or thinking man’s porn; non-body shaming soft porn.”

While we anxiously await the release of that movie, The Symbols will be busy playing shows every weekend, teaching music, writing tunes, and recording. Mer said, “If you’ve got artistic powers you should use them.”

If you haven’t had a chance to catch them live, don’t miss their show on December 10th at the Swing Station in Laporte with Maxwell Mud. They promise a combined hoe-down at the end, and a whole lotta love.

For more info visit: thesymbols.net, facebook.com/thesymbols




  • Patrick Gonzales

    I’ve been fortunate to sit in and play with the band on numerous occasions! A very talented trio, soul is an understatement! Love these guys, and a cover story is well deserved! Congrats!