Derek VanScoten thinks people like to label bands from their inception so they feel comfortable knowing how to categorize them.
VanScoten, the guitarist for 8traC, has a hard time limiting the identity of his band to one type of music.
"I would call us an urban dance band because we play Motown, funk, soul and hip-hop," he said. "We lay down heavy grooves that you have to dance to when you walk in the room, and you have to stay all night long."
The band started as a cover band that played 70 to 80 Motown tunes. The key to developing the band's original sound was to imitate what they wanted to emulate.
"It's like any field where you study the living daylights out of your idols so you know them better than yourself," VanScoten said. "What we were really trying to do was make that Motown sound that made Aretha Franklin so hip."
He has played with bands such as Cabaret Diosa and The Motet and finds 8traC fanatically more coherent than any other band musically, creatively and personally.
"It's the first time that I have been in a band that can make a whole room dance and sing our lyrics without having been on the radio," VanScoten said.
VanScoten is teaching guitar lessons to all ages in between gigs.
"I get solicited to be a hired dunce," he said. "Guitar instruction helps me illuminate what I actually know as music because when your musical well gets deep enough, you take for granted what's down there."
8traC is in the process of mixing its first full length CD that will be released this summer. VanScoten produced the project, except for lead vocalist Chantel Mead and drummer Chris Misner acting as the angel and devil whispering in his ear, he said.
He has an extensive production background and even though most members of the band are almost too young to have listened to eight tracks, the medium was not lost on VanScoten. "My main love is the art and evolution of recording and embracing the old thing when new technology comes out," he said. "Vinyl is not dead, it's alive as ever."
Even though the band's members are children of the '80s and '90s, their influences include Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder. Because he is a guitarist, VanScoten inevitably finds himself in the shadow of Jimi Hendrix, he said.
An all-white band playing Motown music can raise eyebrows. But VanScoten is quick to quote Miles Davis. "Let's get this straight and I'll say it only one time -- you don't have to be black to know how to groove," he said.