Meet the Band

The Symbols are a popular female-fronted blues/funk/rock group 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 as many as 200 shows a year, across Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, California, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

The Symbols received the 2017 and 2019 Creighton Holley Award "Best Arranger" from the Colorado Blues Society (CBS), along with “Best Guitarist” in 2019. 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 only to be beaten out by Keyshia Pratt Band (who took 1st place in the finals the following night).

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).
In 2019, the group's vocalist and front lady Mer Sal released a co-written album with Grammy-winners Jeff Lorber and Jimmy Haslip (The Yellowjackets), and Denver all star jazz group The Gary Dean Smith Project – Xpansion of a Sum, called “Awakening”, which has been charting in the top 20 since January 1st on Roots Music Report and top 10 on NACC Charts for college radio in 2019, both in the jazz category. Mer Sal's work with Jimmy Haslip on this recording has lead to Mer Sal singing three tracks on the upcoming Parkinson's Global Project fundraising album directed by Karl Sterling, featuring an all star cast of Los Angeles fusion musicians, including Jimmy Haslip, Scott Kinsey, Jimmy Keegan, members of the band Citizen Kitten, Peter Erskine, Jeff Richman, and some more dazzling players and singers.

 

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, Vixen, Tommy Castro, 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.

In 2019, The Symbols have downsized the band to its 2 founding members, Mer Sal and Jasco, in an all new power-duo format. The power duo is named Stompit – and is a band in which a full sounding band is achieved by the two musicians playing the drums with their feet, while also playing their regular electric instruments and singing, all while standing up. Practicing this duo for over a year before debuting it, Stompit has begun to tour the many states surrounding Colorado.
They are the first known duo band in the world to divide the drum beats between two people exactly the way they're doing it. Jasco plays a mounted snare drum and hi hat, while Mer Sal plays the bass drum and foot percussion with her two feet, and the two of them are working up complex coordinated drum beats. Already opening at all kinds of national shows from jazz fusion to blues to rock shows, their Stompit duo is a terror on the rise.
Information about Stompit at www.stompitband.com

 

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.

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.

Festivals and Events The Symbols have played at:

Mer Sal, singer, bass

Jasco, guitar