A local, 1970s-inspired R&B band strays from the mainstream sound
By Kristen Shea
Silver Lake Drive is a street in Palatka where four guys got together and started jamming, and eventually named their band after the starting point of their careers.
Bassist and Flagler College senior John Mike Azula said Silver Lake Drive is a significant name because it is where they got started, a place they will never forget and a place they will always go back to. Ted McClean is the singer and keyboard player, Ryan Leroy plays the drums and Tim Collins plays guitar. Together they make up Silver Lake Drive, a funky R&B band.
The band has made it through three years together and they released their first album, We’re Gonna Make it Through, two months ago. They recorded it in a barn that they turned into a studio. The album consists of some of their first ideas all the way through more creative songs that developed as the band became more focused.
“It’s an early piece. … It’s just got a mixture of everything, some soul ballads, some upbeat dance tunes,” Azula said.
Although they experiment with other genres, Silver Lake Drive is mainly an R&B band. “It grooves and there’s not a lot of bands out there doing that, so we wanted to switch it up and do more of a mellow smooth format,” Azula said.
He said his bandmates push him to become a better musician. “Since I joined the band with these guys, I’ve gotten a great influence from them,” Azula said. Michael Jackson, Prince and other performers from the 1970s have also inspired Silver Lake Drive to break away from the mainstream.
The band plays gigs almost every night of the week around St. Augustine, Palatka and Jacksonville. They’ve played at Cortesse’s Flamingo Room, The Conch House, Steam Boats and Gator Landing. “We’re trying to cover north Florida and we also want to venture out across the states,” Azula said.
He started playing the bass when he was 12 years old. Azula can also play a little bit of the drums, bongos and guitar.
Azula’s love of music has influenced him in every way imaginable. “It’s just the way that it makes you feel, like a song for each mood, or a different type of music for each mood. Music is a huge inspiration to me; it keeps me going,” Azula said.
He said being in school has been the root of some of the band’s greatest conflicts. “Playing late at night and having to get up early in the morning is always tough to manage,” he said. “You just got to be on top of your schoolwork and plan your time well.”
After his graduation in April, Azula wants to travel across the country and live the musician lifestyle. “Not knowing if you’re going to have a place to sleep, maybe having to sleep in the van,” Azula said. “I want to get out there with these guys and travel as far as we can and do as much as we can as possible.”
As a musician, free time can be hard to come by. When he has spare time, Azula enjoys surfing and mixing and editing the band’s music. He also likes playing Frisbee. “Any of the old school sports are cool, but nothing too odd,” Azula said.
He also enjoys collecting vinyl records, especially old-school soul and jazz music. “It’s a little harder to find than rock stuff which makes it even more interesting,” Azula said.
Flagler has been a great influence on his music. “I’ve learned a lot of things from going to school here. It has helped me promote my band and it’s given me visions on how we can make the band better,” Azula said.