The 502s are a Floridian band that claim allegiance to perhaps one of the less-famed genres of music, especially in the UK: Indie-folk. Their sound is one comprised of a Frankenstein-esque contrivance of disparate aspects, combining saxophones, electric guitar, and melodicas with banjos, mandolins, and Hawaiian shirts. They are, if nothing else, a heady cocktail of musical styles.
Bandleader Ed Isola described their main influences as “2010s folk at the core, mixed with 80s funk,” a union that in some may cause a furrowed brow or wrinkled nose… But 1.2 million monthly Spotify listeners can’t be wrong, can they?
Self-described as “rays of Florida sunshine,” the band seem to produce music based around a single, overarching message: community. “That’s all I hope the music does, bring people together and remind them that there is always a community around them,” Isola told The Mancunion, a sentiment reflected in the campfire singalong nature of many of their tracks. Listening to the 502s, it is hard not to be transported to the Florida seaside, as much of their musical inspiration seems to be taken from their immediate environment, with many of their lyrics drawing on aspects of this shared experience.
When asked about this difference in culture between the audience who will be present in the Academy on the 23rd, the band seemed undaunted, arguing that the universal language of happiness and community is enough to bridge any cultural chasm. “At the core of everyone, there is a desire to be happy, fulfilled… that is the general feeling of our music.”
While I voiced my concerns over whether the average Manchester resident would respond positively to their stereotypically American style of blind optimism and in-your-face energy, The 502s seemed confident in the universal nature of their music. “We’re for grandkids to grandmas, anyone that likes tapping their toes,” says Joe Capati, resident saxophonist.
Their, arguably, best-known song, ‘Just a Little While’, stands testament to their desire to produce happy, upbeat music; its energy, delivery, melody, and message make it hard for even the most ardent anti-folk extremist to argue with its bop-a-long, foot tapping credibility (take a listen and see what you think). Not only is this the internet’s favourite of their tunes, but it also seems to be the band’s. “I think ‘Just a Little While’ is our favourite, just because of the strumming banjo and what it has grown into.” It certainly is the most anthemic of their songs, and is sure to go down well with the crowd on the night.
The 502s were formed half a world away from the streets of Manchester, but not from the far-reaching influences of British music. “Bear’s den,” Isola tells us, “is my favourite UK band, along with Mumford and Sons, Laura Marling, Johnny Flynn, and The Vaccines.” This is another eclectic mix in true 502s fashion, and folk music connoisseurs may recognise a clear influential link between Mumford and Sons and the music of Ed Isola’s group over his other stated favourites.
The 502s arrive in Manchester on the 23rd November, having packed their ski jackets, gloves, and woollen hats in preparation for the Manchester-Florida climate difference. “I’m assuming it’s gonna be cold!” Anyone who has queued for very long outside Academy will know Isola is right in this assumption, but don’t let that put you off. Smiles, fun, and a general air of community are all to be had at their upcoming show, so make sure not miss out.
The 502s play Manchester Academy 2 on the 23rd November, and tickets are available here.