Meet the Band

The Symbols are a popular female-fronted blues/funk/rock trio from Fort Collins, Colorado.  Formed in 2011 by guitarist Jasco (former guitar player for Grammy-nominated Blinddog Smokin') and vocalist/songwriter/bassist Mer Sal, The Symbols are centered around a dynamic musical and life partnership.  They write their own music, in addition to writing arrangements of known tunes, to be different sounds and styles than they were intended.  Their unique sound, charisma, and songs are winning hearts through theaters and festivals across the country.  
 

The Symbols formed in a melting pot of blues-rock, urban funk, motown roots, and soul revival, spending every night possible in the Denver blues, funk, and rock scenes during the band's formation.  Early on, Jasco and Mer Sal discovered that with both of their diverse musical backgrounds, they could perform for several different audiences.  The Symbols began to perform across the west and midwest with many cool players in the Blues/Funk/Rock genres after talent buyers at major festivals in Colorado began to notice The Symbols' subtle innovations.  

The Symbols perform 150 dates a year, across Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, California, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

The Symbols received the 2017 Holley Award for "Best Arranger" from the Colorado Blues Society (CBS). In addition, The Symbols represented the Mile High Blues Society (MHBS) in Memphis, TN in January of 2018 for the International Blues Challenge (IBC), making it to the semi-finals.  

The Symbols were featured on the cover of  Scene Magazine in December of 2016, with a feature article inside.  
In February of 2018, a featured interview with Mer Sal was released in Bass Musicians Magazine (The Face of Bass).  

The Symbols have shared the stage - opening and sometimes sitting in - with many national acts, like Danielle Nicole Band, Samantha Fish, Miss Blues, Southern Avenue Band, Jason Ricci and the Bad Kind, Bobby Messano, and more.

While staying in the realm of modern female blues acts, The Symbols try to bring their own definitions to what may be considered the blues.  The Symbols' sound is also reminiscent of a range of millennial influences like Jeff Beck Group, Sheryl Crow, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Amy Winehouse, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  

Scene cover

The Symbols - left to right: Mer Sal, Don Stahl, Jasco

We are The Symbols: Because we stand for something.  

The Symbols show support for nonprofits whenever possible.  Whenever asked, The Symbols lend musical performances and fundraising help to nonprofits and charities like The National MS Society, The American Red Cross, Crossroads Safehouse, Wikipedia, The Food Bank of Larimer County, Animal House, Love Hope Strength, Blue Star Connection, and more.  

Formation and History

Touring veteran Jasco and raw talent Mer Sal were not expecting a career and partnership together when they met at an open jam in Fort Collins, Colorado, in 2010.  Jasco suggested they form a band together, and Mer Sal suggested they call it The Symbols.  The rest is history!

The Symbols have played as many as 700 concerts together in theaters, festivals, radio shows, and bars, traveling through Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and California to perform.  The Symbols have shared stages with musical greats Phil Brown, Victor Wooten, Bobby Rush, Taj Mahal, Ana Popovic, Southern Avenue Band, Eleanor Tallie, Samantha Fish, Danielle Nicole Band, Trampled Underfoot, Billy Branch, Miss Blues, The Ori Naftaly Band, Andy Irvine, Bobby Walker, The Boogie Boys, Hazel Miller, Emilio Emilio, The Hornbuckles, Zora Young, Ollie Brown, Aynsley Lister, Lionel Young, 
and Kara Grainger, among many others.


 
Photo credit: Ben Kohles

Photo credit: Ben Kohles

Photo Credit: Darren Mahuron, 2015.

Photo Credit: Darren Mahuron, 2015.

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Progression and Sound

The Symbols’ sound evolved from a culmination of influences from rock, blues, radio pop, funk, flamenco, gypsy jazz, and beyond. Jasco listens to a lot of guitar heroes, and Mer Sal listens to vocal jazz and R&B vocalists. The Symbols is then almost what you might hear if you had a Jeff Beck on guitar and an Amy Winehouse on vocals.  

The Symbols feel good about being charitable. Over the last 3 years, The Symbols have made a point to donate to charities.  The Symbols have donated their time, talent, and money to events for Blue Star Connection, Realities for Children, Adoption Dreams Come True, The National MS Society, Love Hope Strength, Animal House, Crossroads Safehouse of Fort Collins, The Food Bank for Larimer County, and many more, hoping to make a difference. 

In January of 2013, radio personality Marla Stone joined The Symbols as a friend and band facilitator. Marla served as band manager from 2013-2015, and remains a strong friend and supporter to the band.  

Guitar legend Phil Brown (Little Feat) signed onto temporarily managing The Symbols, after producing "Smile", which was released in June of 2015.  Since working with Phil, The Symbols have gained endorsements with Fishman and Curt Mangan.  
Lee Jackson mastered "Smile" for The Symbols, and previously mastered "The Jimi Project" and "Cruel Inventions" by Phil Brown.   

In 2015, The Symbols began making conceptual music videos with Hudson Bloom and PhoCo.  Several videos were released in 2015.  In 2016, The Symbols began a working music video production relationship with Bobby Kimble of Be U Productions in Denver, CO.  Bobby produced "Alone" and the now famed "Ball Bearings".  Ball Bearings' music video, filmed at Denver's Zephyr Lounge, gained the attention of a Touch Tunes curator, and as of January 2017, The Symbols' "SMILE" album is available for request in over 65,000 Touch Tunes jukeboxes worldwide.  

In late 2017, The Symbols began a working videography relationship with Emjay Pate, a big budget film grip who moved to Fort Collins, Colorado on a soul searching quest.  In the winter of 2018, Emjay produced several videos of The Symbols performing live at The Rialto Theater in Loveland, CO, and the Lincoln Center, in Fort Collins.  

In March of 2018, The Symbols opened at the Rialto Theater for Jason Ricci and the Bad Kind, currently based out of New Orleans, Louisiana.  Jason is a Grammy winning harmonica player who recorded on the album Step Back by Johnny Winters.  

In 2018, after the departure of The Symbols' drummer and good friend Don Stahl, The Symbols developed a deep musical friendship with Bobby Messano (Starz, Lou Gramm, Steve Winwood).  With complimenting sounds, Bobby Messano and members of The Symbols have been seen sitting in with each other at many shows.  



 

The Symbols performing original song "Not Enough Love" at the Turnhalle of the Tivoli in Denver, Colorado for Blue Star Connection's annual benefit.

The Symbols performing original song "Not Enough Love" at the Turnhalle of the Tivoli in Denver, Colorado for Blue Star Connection's annual benefit.

The Symbols performing at Fort Collins' local festival FOCOMX

The Symbols performing at Fort Collins' local festival FOCOMX

The Symbols sitting in with Boogie Boys, Austin Young and Michaela Rae at Blues From the Top 2014

The Symbols sitting in with Boogie Boys, Austin Young and Michaela Rae at Blues From the Top 2014

The Symbols vary widely between soulful presence and wild stage antics.  
Photo credit: Jim Drake
Snapped at Spirit Lake Blues Festival, Grand Lake, Colorado.

The Symbols vary widely between soulful presence and wild stage antics.
Photo credit: Jim Drake Snapped at Spirit Lake Blues Festival, Grand Lake, Colorado.

Victor Wooten hopped up onstage with The Symbols one night

Victor Wooten hopped up onstage with The Symbols one night

Festivals and Events The Symbols have played at:

Spirit Lake Blues Festival (2015)
Arise Music Festival (2017)
FOCOMX (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
Taste Of Colorado (2017)
Realities Ride and Rally (2011, 2014)
The Greeley Stampede (2013, 2014)
Blue Star Turn 5 at the Tivoli (2016)
Blues From the Top (2014-2016)
The Greeley Blues Jam - Friday Night Downtown Greeley Fest (2012, 2014, 2015, 2017).  
Brighton Arts and Culture Symposium (2016)
Brighton Blues Blast (2017)
Tulsa International Mayfest (2011)
Garfield County Fair and Rodeo (2011)
Meeker Music in the Park (2011)
Mead Music in the Park (2017)
Rawlins Music in the Park (2012-2014)
Mountain Madness Music Festival (2017)
Cherry Creek Marina Concert Series (2017)
Castle Rock Brew Festival (2017)
CHUN Capitol Hill People's Fair (2014, 2015, 2016)
UMX (Underground Music Experience) (2014, 2015)
Girls Night Out (The Yard, Saratoga, WY) (2012, 2014, 2016)  
WHAT Fest (Riverside, WY) (2015, 2017)
No Woodstock Festival (2017)
Trapper Days Fort Lupton (2016, 2017)
Heritage Days Evans (2017)
KGNU 12th Annual Legacy of the Blues Broadcast at Denver Open Media (2016)
Blues and BBQ For Better Housing (Arvada, CO)  (2016, 2017, 2018)
Art in the Square, (Old Town Stage, Fort Collins, CO) (2015, 2016, 2017)
Cheyenne Days (Cheyenne, WY) (2016)
Colorado International Blues Challenge with the Colorado Blues Society - FINAL ROUND (2012); SEMI FINALS (2017)
International Blues Challenge with Mile High Blues Society - Denver Nominee Band for 2018.  
I Slept With The Band Festival  (2017)

Community Enrichment

The Symbols have participated in community musical education and enrichment, including their work with: 
-Blue Star Connection
-Seacrest Studios at Children's Hospital of Denver
-Blues in the Schools
-Little Kids Rock
-Polaris Expeditionary Learning School - Guest Educators for the music intensive 1 week class.  
-Teaching over 250 students private lessons between 2006-2017 at Spotlight Music.  
-Hosting clinics and workshops at The Symbols' privately operated studio, The Recordium
-Mentoring and producing community youth recordings to be aired on Vincent Burkardt's "Rhythms of Youth" radio show on KCSU 88.9FM and "Rising Artist Mentorship Program" (RAMP).  

Mer Sal, singer, bass

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Lead vocalist and bassist Mer Sal has a musical maturity beyond her young age.  When placed in front of an audience, Mer Sal comes to life as an engaging front person and crowd pleaser.  Her versatile onstage persona is backed by emotive vocals and solid grooves. The songs she writes come out often and fast, and are relevant to a wide demographic.  Vocally and instrumentally, Mer Sal carries her experience and stylistic influences from jazz, funk, blues, R&B, radio pop, and vintage rock n roll into the sound she creates with The Symbols.  

Mer Sal has toured with Jasco through Colorado, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah and California.  

Mer Sal has been honored to share the stage and the studio with Bobby Messano, Jason Ricci, Phil Brown, Victor Wooten, Alvino Bennett, Ori Naftaly, Tierinii Jackson, Eleanor Tallie, Southern Avenue Band, Danielle Nicole Band, Trampled Underfoot, Albert Castiglia, Eric Gales, Hazel Miller, Erika Brown, Dave Beegle and Michaela Rae, Austin Young, Jimmy Hall, Kara Grainger, Ana Popovic, Samantha Fish Band, Joe Louis Walker Band, Deanna Bogart, Josh Hoyer, Willie K and the Warehouse Band, The Boogie Boys, Hexx Henderson (Texas Guitar Army), Derek St. Holmes (Ted Nugent), Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath), Eef and the Blues Express, John Weeks Band, Gary Dean Smith, Emilio Emilio, Michael and Bryan Hornbuckle, Shane Zweygardt and Menyus Borocz (Wire Faces), The Patti Fiasco, Whippoor Will, Kerry Pastine and the Crime Scene, Seniorita Sometimes, Maxwell Mud, and Oklahoma Blues Hall of Famer Miss Blues.

Mer Sal has been mentored by Jasco, Alvino Bennett, Victor Wooten, Bobby Messano, Phil Brown, Krystal (Harris) Peterson, Fedis Grey, Cari Cole, Alex Ryer (Pure Piaf), Karen Lauer, Karen Lesser and Janet VonForell (Colorado Academy of the Arts), Cherie Lamperes, Chris Harris (bassist), and Anthony Deyo (bassist).  

In February of 2018, an interview with Mer Sal was published in Bass Musician Magazine.  


 

Jasco, guitar

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Nate Brown, drums

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Jasco’s guitar sings with passion or screams with fury as he squeezes drops of soul from bent strings. In addition to rock-blues-funk stylings, Jasco’s musical depth is laced with exotic influences from flamenco and gypsy jazz.  

Jasco has toured the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East with his previous band Blinddog Smokin'.  He has also shared the stage with Duke Robillard, Taj Mahal, Bobby Rush, Buddy Guy, Chris Duarte, Little Feat, Los Lobos, Johnny Lang, Robben Ford, 
Zora Young, Miss Blues, Aynsley Lister, Billy Branch, Lionel Young, Bobby Walker, and many others.  

Jasco has been lucky enough to study guitar with Paul Gilbert, Chris Duarte, Phil Brown, Dave Beegle, and Rene Heredia.  

 

 

 

With years of experience drumming with rock/country/blues/funk/soul bands on both the local Colorado scene and the national scene, Nate Brown provides rhythmic backbone and distinct energy for The Symbols as their drummer as they tour state and nation wide.  

Nate's favorite drummer growing up was Carter Beauford of The Dave Matthews Band.  Of Carter, Nate told his band mates that he most admires Carter's dedication to playing for the song and for playing well with the band which Carter is in.  
Nate definitely is an example of a drummer who plays for the song, living each song like a story - with a beginning, middle, and end.  

Nate Brown has played with internationally touring Celtic metal group Celtica, along with Fort Collins talents The Bryan Thomas Band, The Zac Wolf Band, The Jesse Leeroy Brown Band, and others.