“We’re trying to put out real music that everyone can relate to and enjoy.”
-- Sledge Grits Band
Audiences immediately fall in love with the Sledge Grits Band whether their introduction is seeing the Los Angeles-based sister act play live, hearing one of their songs, or watching one of their music videos. They deliver a refreshing dose of pop-rock, embodying contagious live energy, authentic musicianship, and a heartfelt message.
A quartet including siblings Keiko (guitarist/songwriter, 22), Ella (bassist, 20), Mimi (lead vocals, 17) and bo-Pah (drummer, 14), the All About Timing Entertainment Group LLC act write their own music and confidently celebrate their individuality in their look and sound. Their moniker combines their last name, Sledge, with an acronym for “Girls Raised in the Sun.”
Aspiring for greatness is one of the universal concepts the Sledge Grits Band sings about on their latest single, “Forever,” produced by Hyuk Shin, the renown K-Pop hitmaker whose credits also include Justin Bieber’s “One Less Lonely Girl.” On the rock-fused track from the group’s forthcoming debut EP due out this summer, they sing with the vigor of an anthem about their dreams of achieving pop stardom. Mimi belts on the chorus, “Let’s sing this song forever / Let’s scream it at the top of our lungs together / Stand up on the hood of our cars / Tonight the world is ours.”
The music video captures the essence of the song and was shot and directed by Chris Scholar, a fellow millennial rising star who hails from Virginia. The girls hangout in a laundromat, residential neighborhood, subway station, and around a campfire, performing into the night. “It represents who we are as sisters,” Keiko adds, “and it’s one of our favorites.”
Being transparent is a staple in their work. They championed their right to be different in their 2015 smash “Am What I Am,” and explore even more inspiring themes on the forthcoming EP. Keiko’s poignant and emotive songwriting caught the attention of Zach Katz, BMG Chief Creative Officer, North America, who personally signed her to the international music publishing company.
A wide array of influences have impacted their sound. They are fans of the likes of P!nk, Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, Paramore, Jimi Hendrix, and songwriter Diane Warren. Plus, they have a rich cultural background that blends Creole, Japanese, French, African American, Irish, German, and Native American roots. Their parents, who have been their biggest fans and exposed them to everything from classic rock to blues to hip hop and R&B, moved the family from Florida to California.
Tragedy struck their family in 2016 when their father, Kelly Jo Sledge, affectionately known as Mistr Grits, passed away after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. As can be expected, the devastating news made it difficult for the girls to focus on creating. Memories of their dad eventually reignited Ella’s creative spark. “I realized this was his dream for us too,” Ella explains. “It wasn’t just our dream. We’ve just been trying to work everyday to make this dream a success so that we can make him more proud.”
Without a doubt, Mistr Grits is smiling down on his girls. bo-Pah, who has appeared in advertising campaigns for Target and Apple Music, showcased her impressive drum playing skills in Taylor Swift’s 2017 Grammy awards promo commerical that spotlighted gifted young girls. “I was really excited to be a part of a Taylor Swift Grammy promo,” bo-Pah says. “After we filmed the commercial, Taylor sent flowers and a handwritten card to our house. It was amazing.” The young talent will also be profiled in a documentary on female drummers.
Additionally, the Sledge Grits Band is working on a documentary about their career. Aside from their music pursuits, they taped an episode of a reality show that will air this spring.
Over the course of the past seven years, the Sledge Grits Band have scored a number of accolades. They’ve played more than 300 live shows, have appeared on CBS’s The Early Show, and won NBC’s Next Great Family Band competition. They’ve also received praise from celebrities Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child, Grammy-winning producer Jermaine Dupri and MC Hammer. Not bad for a family act that honed their skills by adding guitar classes to their homeschool curriculum. “It all stemmed from there,” Ella explains. “Keiko stayed with the guitar, while I moved on to the bass. Mimi has a voice that shouldn’t come from someone so young, and bo-Pah has a natural sense of rhythm.”
Melding their musical abilities has produced beautiful results. Now, the tough part is finalizing which songs will make the EP. “It’s been an interesting process of us making a lot of different songs and sifting through them and determining what people will really enjoy as well as songs we really enjoy playing,” Keiko explains.
If “Forever” is any indication of what else this engaging band has in store for listeners, we can rest assured that it’s going to be incredible.
Photographer: Chris Alves