Human beings tend to obsess over images and ideas of the past. The older generation wants to return to a time of simplicity; the younger generation wants a bigger vinyl collection. Call it nostalgia or idealism, but you can’t deny its appeal. LA’s Retro Bloom is using the old to spread great music and even greater acts of kindness.
The young four-piece–Tim Skelly, John McManus, Ryan Chollet and Riley O’Halloran–more or less met through school. Tim, Ryan and John met in their fraternity at St. Luis University. The three were in and competed with an Acapella group, giving them a rich musical education and perspective that formed into something bigger: Retro Bloom. Functioning as a three-piece for a while, the three were eventually introduced to Riley, who happily jumped in as Retro Bloom’s bassist.
The members of Retro Bloom are immediately eye-catching. Decked out in matching floral suit jackets, the band gives off an image rarely seen in today’s scene. What’s better? They have the sound to match. Mixing together jazz, soul, R&B, and the Blues, Retro Bloom are using their talent to update the old and make it new. While they might stand out in most modern bars or venues, the band recently received residency at Black Rabbit Rose–a venue that doubles as a magic show and a speakeasy–perfectly fitting their vintage inspired look and sound.
Of course, the “bloom” in Retro Bloom doesn’t stop with their style. To match their eye-grabbing floral jackets are fresh floral arrangements that decorate their stage. The arrangements come from the flower shop in where Ryan works and serve as more than just a positive sensory experience for the band’s audience members. The day immediately following their shows, the members of Retro Bloom take those flowers to their local hospital and pass them along to its patients. This is known as their Flower Share Initiative.
“The goal is to operate on a larger scale,” said Ryan. “We want to make sure flowers are received by someone who doesn’t already have flowers.”
The band also partners with local urban gardens to run what is known as their Veggie Share initiative.
“Coming from St. Luis, I had never seen the amount of people that are out here,” said Tim. “They are everywhere. But, we wanted to try and figure out a way to do our part and help and spread conscious eating, and try and get low income and no income individuals the opportunity to eat healthy.
“We’re still trying to get connected with local urban gardens,” continued Tim. “Our goal is to get our own urban garden and grow the vegetables and flowers there, and have it be a community building space, as well as a space to give back to the community.”
“The overarching goal is to have more components to our music,” said Ryan. “We would ideally inflate our ticket prices, and then allocate that money towards making the urban garden idea happen.
‘So, when coming to our shows, there would be more to it than just simply coming to our shows,” continued Ryan. “It actually has a direct effect on helping people.”
Everything about this band is unique. While I’ve yet to meet the group in person, their kindness and passion radiated through the phone as we spoke. It’s rare to see men performing in suit jackets. It’s even rarer to see such young artists using their platform to help spread positivity and love to the community of which they are apart. While you anxiously wait for the band to finish creating an EP, as well as a space for themselves on Apple Music and Spotify, you can stream some of their music on Soundcloud. For those living in L.A., you can catch Retro Bloom at Black Rabbit Rose the first Friday of every month, and can keep up with their schedule by following them on Instagram @retrobloommusic.
Images taken by Dev Conboy (@pdc.jpeg). Courtesy of Tim Skelly.