Sixteen years ago singer/songwriter Sami Chohfi drove 3,000 miles or so from Florida to Washington State armed with a Marshall amp and a Fender Jazzmaster with the dream of finding a band in Seattle.
In the years since he has worked as a waiter to build his own recording studio and learn the ways of the music industry, and it seems the hard work and long, long drive have paid off in the form of his band Blue Helix.
With the additions of bassist Juan Carrion Jr. (JC) and drummer Noah Phipps, who joined the band in May, Chohfi has pieced together a band that is a perfect blend of melodic and acoustic rock with powerful heavy grunge. The three-piece last year won Washington State’s Puget Sound Battle of the Bands competition and seem set for bigger and better things in 2017.
The Blue Helix sound varies hugely from track to track. For example, 2014 album Tale of Two Halves kicks off with huge rock tracks Bullets and Escape, then drops into two relaxed acoustic songs Carry Me and Aliens. Bullets in particular is an awesome romp of hard rock with fast vocals and rolling riffs and big driving drums, while Escape has the hard hitting feel of bands like Tool.
Masters of War and Six8 are two more great tracks that feature huge guitar solos, bursts of synth, strings and heavy guitar. The latter is a purely instrumental track, while the former includes the wonderfully dark lyrics: “And I hope that you die, and your death will come soon, and then I’ll follow your casket, on a pale afternoon, and I’ll watch while you’re lowered down to your deathbed, and then I’ll stand over your grave ’til I’m sure that you’re dead.”
Blue Helix jump effortlessly between really heavy, fast-paced rock and much slower, more relaxed acoustic songs. We spoke to the band this week and asked them what makes Blue Helix stand out from the rest of the rock scene.
Chohfi told us: “Musically we are unique in that we mix multiple genres of rock and acoustic themed music in our songwriting. We incorporate violins, cellos, xylophone and piano in our recordings. Most of our songs are in different tunings making them always sound different, we use different time signatures for different types of songs that call for more of a swing feel or more of a hard rock pounding energy.”
It sounds like hard work bringing these multiple disciplines, instruments and tunings together, so we asked Sami for his thoughts on their musical approach. He said: “We love music and how it affects others. Our vision is to create music that we truly believe in and to be able to connect with our fans on a personal level. Music has played an instrumental role in each of our lives, we each grew up with our own musical role models, and leveraged music for a variety of things, including to navigate adversity.
“Human interaction is all you need to write songs. A good portion of Tale of Two Halves was inspired by bad breakups, friendships gone astray and a rough childhood. Yet, there is a hopeful and positive message behind the lyrics in the songs. We hope our music will inspire others as we have been inspired throughout life, and our ultimate goal is to be able to perform our music all over the world.”
Finally, given Sami’s journey to get to where he’s at now, we asked him for his insight into getting by in the music industry. He told us: “It’s pretty much pay to play for local bands, and its ever changing so there seems to be no easy way to really break through anymore. You just have to do it because you love it.
“It isn’t easy to make a living, especially since everyone likes free music through YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, Soundcloud, Reverbnation. The issue is people don’t buy music to support the artists anymore. The artists who are doing well were doing well 10 years ago and continue to survive off that fan base. Again, do it because you love it, do it well and be genuine about it. Hope for the best as we always do.”