Rockford’s newest band: Salva Me

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//img-MhZRKwvvE4.jpg’, ‘Photo by James Thompson’, ‘Rockford’s Salva Me performed at the Irish Rose in the downtown River District on Halloween night. The group will be at Paragon on State at 8:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 5.’);

The salvation of the Rockford music scene is here in the form of an un-peggable quartet known as Salva Me. With fascinating stage presence, hypnotic music and a gorgeous vocalist, this group is going to show locals what freshness is.

Many months ago, a young man came to me asking if I could book his band at the Irish Rose. With one thing and another, it took me quite a while to get around to listening to his demo of The Laura Bayliss Jazz Trio, and when I did, I was non-plussed to say the least. The music was fine, well-executed and decently presented, but the song choice and vocals were mediocre and consistently flat. I ended up booking them anyway, and was glad I did because I got to experience first-hand the musical expertise of the above-mentioned young man, Jesse Korleski, on upright bass.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him how I felt about the group, since he is such a nice guy, but I did go out on a limb and book his other group, Salva Me, for the following Sunday at the Rose. Not really knowing what to expect since, once again, I didn’t remember whether he had given me a demo, I was stunned by the performance.

Bass, keys, drums and vocals make up Salva Me. In a sort of minimalistic acid jazz style, the group forces the audience to listen with a lot of hooks. The first hook is their singer and lyricist Stephanie Castillo, a gorgeous young woman whose voice takes the listener by surprise. She’s a little girl with a huge voice that overwhelms the room with richness. Sometimes it’s not really clear what she’s actually singing because of the unnecessary effects they throw on her mic, but the sound is reminiscent of a siren, wailing and crooning perilously. If her voice doesn’t nab you, her appearance will.

The second hook is the great musicianship of Jesse, drummer Josh Dissmore and keyboard player Brandon Payton. Korleski writes most of the music and songs, and it’s quite obvious when listening that these tasks are taken care of by a bass player. The bass is emphasized more than any other instrument, and creates the mood for each song by driving deeply, and whipping around the audial region savagely demanding attention. A whisper of dancehall style comes through in his sound, but since he’s not pressing any buttons on a box but rather merely playing an instrument, that whisper is more textured and interesting than prepackaged.

Dissmore, from Milwaukee, is obviously a rock drummer and keeps it steady. He tightens and binds Salva Me together, working the snare very simply. Occasionally, I caught him overplaying a bit; but all-in-all, he maintains the minimalistic quality that makes the group so unique in this town.

Payton plays the keys with taste and mastery, pulsing strong melodies or just sitting back and setting a theme while Korleski guides the tune. All together, Salva Me finds a balance between ambient sound and universally appealing music.

There really is no other band quite like ’em in town, and they’re picking up gigs quickly. I liked them so much, they’ll be playing the third Sunday of every month for me at the Irish Rose indefinitely. Also, they’ll be at Paragon on State Nov. 5, 8:30 p.m., for no cover.

Salva Me (which irrelevantly means “Save Me” in Latin) began with Castillo and Korleski fooling about with a bass, an amp and a keyboard. What had been a way to entertain themselves developed into a full band in the next five months ready to entertain others.

I see a lot of good things to come for this group in the near future; they’re currently my favorite local band. To find out more about Salva Me, visit

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