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Salisbury-based Atlantic Groove making waves in beach music

By Mark Wineka
mwineka@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY – Brian Hatley swore he would never do it again – start a new band from scratch.
But then again, how many other veteran musicians have made that promise to themselves, only to renege when they found just the right mix of people?
So take Hatley, Rob Robinson and Phil Lowder – friends who played together for years in bands such as Fullhouse and Hip Pocket – and add the new blood of Bradley Swaringen, Jonathan Treece and Todd Wright, and you have Atlantic Groove.
The relatively rookie band – it has yet to release a CD – has made an instant impact on the beach music scene with its Top 10 song, “Crazy ‘Bout That Woman in Red.”
Atlantic Groove will be playing at this season’s last Brick Street Live Thursday night off East Fisher Street in Salisbury.
The band members have an average of 27 years of experience in music, and they range in age from 36 to 58. Except for Swaringen, the drummer, they all sing, and Hatley on trombone and Lowder on trumpet give the Groove a two-piece horn section.
Robinson rounds out the sound on keyboards, Treece on guitar and Wright on bass. But several of the band members play other instruments.
Represented by Green Dot Music of Charlotte, Atlantic Groove has been busy, playing events such as festivals, private parties and weddings in two states. In July the band had seven jobs in 10 days. From Aug. 24-27, the Groove played in Ocean Isle, Aiken, S.C., and Wilmington.
“We’re normally playing something every week,” Hatley says.
This past Labor Day weekend, Atlantic Groove performed at the Beach Boogie & BBQ Festival in Myrtle Beach. After Brick Street Live, the band has nine more dates taking it into mid-November.
‘Unique group of individuals’
Yet music is not the full-time gig for any of the guys.
Robinson serves as Rowan County’s emergency communications director; Swaringen works for Time-Warner Cable; Treece, for Cozart Lumber and Supply; Lowder, for IAC in Albemarle; Wright, for Southern Mechanical Services; and Hatley is a builder.
“We’re a unique group of individuals,” Treece says.
The band also is evenly divided between counties – Hatley, Treece and Robinson live in Rowan County, while Lowder, Swaringen and Wright call Stanly County home. They often find an in-between spot for practices at Hatley’s home off High Rock Lake.
In establishing Atlantic Groove, Hatley says he, Robinson and Lowder could have easily sought out performers already in “the industry, so to speak,” but they looked for musicians who were not entirely vested in the Carolina beach music scene.
Bringing in the backgrounds of Swaringen, Treece and Wright gave the Groove more diversity to their music and the ability to adapt to any event or venue, from backyard birthday party to black-tie affairs.
The Groove, Hatley adds, can play a hot song on the country charts, the dirtiest ’70s funk, classic rhythm and blues, rock or its bread-and-butter beach.
“So far, we’ve made a real good name in the beach market,” Treece says.
It’s also unusual that five of the six guys are essentially lead vocalists, Hatley says.
Reading the crowd
Swaringen names Hatley as the best front man he has ever played with in his ability to read a crowd and determine how the playlist should proceed through a performance.
“I normally call the songs as I read the crowd,” Hatley explains. “… You can tell within the first 10 minutes.”
For several weeks now, “Crazy ‘Bout That Woman in Red” has made the Smokin’ 45 of beachmusic45.com, based on what deejays are playing most often.
The song was previously recorded by R&B artist Floyd Taylor. At No. 9 this past week, it sat between “I Can’t Think” by the Band of Oz at No. 8 and “You” by Chairmen of the Board” at No. 10.
“It has done really well,” Hatley says. “… You know the song’s done pretty well when you look out in the crowd and people are singing it.”
Hometown connections
Nominations for the Carolina Beach Music Awards have yet to come out, but Atlantic Groove could possibly qualify for best new group, and their song also might have a chance for a Cammy.
Treece thinks having a beach band based in Salisbury is highly appropriate, given the strong connections Salisbury had to beach music through the old WRDX FM radio station, which played a beach music format.
Treece said people don’t realize it, but the first Carolina Beach Music Awards were handed out in Salisbury in 1995, when 14 bands played at a memorable beach event. The awards program then went to Charlotte for two years before finding a permanent home in North Myrtle Beach.
Treece, 36, started singing with country groups as a 16-year-old, then picked up the guitar while attending school at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
He began attending beach music festivals and listening to the likes of the Band of Oz, Chairmen of the Board and the Shakers, so he appreciates the Salisbury connection to beach and playing with Atlantic Groove.
“To me, it kind of seemed like we were the hometown beach group,” Treece says.
When Hatley, Robinson and Lowder played for Fullhouse in the 1990s and into the new century, that band had two original songs that did well on the beach music charts, including “Down for Your Love” and “Love Can’t Be Blind.”
Hatley says Atlantic Groove has a good chemistry, a combination of personalities and guys who cut up with each other. They consider Wright, who brings a blues background to the group, the biggest prankster and Swaringen the loosest cannon, but they all have their moments.
“I don’t like them,” Swaringen says, kidding.
Then he adds,”Everybody complements everybody else.”
No one in the band is an “all-out professional,” Swaringen says, but with Atlantic Groove you get an all-out professional show.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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