The Symbols
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The Symbols

Fort Collins, CO | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | SELF

Fort Collins, CO | SELF
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Pop Fusion




"The Symbols - (Featured Cover) Spiritual Porn Rock For the Masses"


THE SYMBOLS: Spiritual Porn Rock for the masses

December 1, 2016

By: Rebecca Lapole

When a group of artists calls their style of music “Spiritual Porn Rock – music that’s good for the soul and body,” there’s an intrigue there urging more exploration. In an unassuming suburban Fort Collins home, The Symbols created their own magnificent recording studio, and over a Chinese food lunch, seduced this writer with their talent and passion for their craft.

The Symbols are guitarist Jasco Duende, bassist and vocalist Mer Sal and drummer Don Stahl. Mer and Jasco met at a blues jam at Spotlight Music and created the band about five years ago. He bought her a bass a year later, and within three months she’d learned how to play the bass while singing all their tunes. They have been married for three years now and counting. “We’re lucky to have found soulmates in each other,” Mer said, “and to be in a band with people we get along with.”

They all agree that their meeting was “nearly cosmic.” Don came along about a year ago, meeting Mer and Jasco at a blues jam at The Boot in Fort Collins. He showed up and played a gig with The Symbols a week later, with no rehearsal. Jasco had told him, “If you’re worth a fuck, we won’t need [a rehearsal].”

While effortlessly restringing a guitar in a few minutes, Jasco said, “The difficult part of any band is getting along with all the personalities, liking the same types of music, and having the same level of commitment. It just doesn’t work without fitting those three things.”

Don remembered, “I showed up and Jasco said, ‘we’re going to do ‘Pride and Joy,’ but like a Rumba,’ and then ‘a Fleetwood Mac song, but more like uptempo jazz swing.’” After a year of playing these “dramatically altered and mangled” cover tunes, they decided to record a full album of them, called Symbolized, which came out in June. They cover songs by bands from The Clash to The Ramones to Jimi Hendrix, all with their own creative twist. Jasco explained the way they do covers, “You don’t want to be comparing yourself to Led Zeppelin…Other than the educational part, you don’t want to copy their notes; you want to copy their soul – what made them special. The trick is trying to keep the essence of the song that is cool.”

Don lays down the groove with Mer, most all of their songs are groovy and funky, while Jasco brings the soul. Jasco said, “I try to be as musical and soulful as possible. I’m actually not a big fan of long guitar solos; they gotta be poignant and it needs to tell a story and paint a picture.” Mer is very comfortable in her role and said, “As the lead singer you have to be the provider of the entertainment, and draw people in all the way from the back of the room. Make them think with their soul.”

Jasco’s opinion is that, “If you can play with enough soul to really touch someone’s emotions, they’ll love you forever. And that’s what we try to do.”

Speaking of that forever love, Mer said, “Upon getting married, we built a house and a music studio. Isn’t that what everyone does?” Jasco showed off “The Recordium,” an impressive recording studio custom built in the basement of their three-year-old home. “It’s 1500 square feet, five rooms with decent sound isolation and acoustic treatment. I built the studio for us because Mer writes so many songs, I needed a place I could record them. While it’s not a commercial studio, we do record a lot of our music friends. Usually a band or two per week. Notably, we’ve recorded Phil Brown from Little Feat (who also produced Smile, their debut album that came out last year), Alvino Bennet (Dave Mason, Stevie Wonder), and local act Maxwell Mud made a record with us that won FOCOMA’s Album of the Year this year.”

Don pointed out that the bathroom in the Recordium has a shower, “just in case you rock so hard you need to rinse off after.”

That brings us back to their sexy soulful style, like the song “Not Enough Love” which was featured in a PSA for Blue Star Connection, a local non-profit organization that provides guitars and other instruments to hospitals for musical therapy programs and for kids with terminal illness. Their song “Alone” will be featured in the opening credits for Colorado independent filmmaker River Wilde’s upcoming movie, Abstinence. Mer warned, “It’s not a Christian film. It’s more like Porné — artsy porn, or thinking man’s porn; non-body shaming soft porn.”

While we anxiously await the release of that movie, The Symbols will be busy playing shows every weekend, teaching music, writing tunes, and recording. Mer said, “If you’ve got artistic powers you should use them.”

If you haven’t had a chance to catch them live, don’t miss their show on December 10th at the Swing Station in Laporte with Maxwell Mud. They promise a combined hoe-down at the end, and a whole lotta love.

For more info visit:, - Scene Magazine

"Arise Music Festival gives local artists chance to perform for big crowd"

The Arise Music Festival offers local musicians chance to play a big festival close to home.

"There is so much great talent in Colorado," said festival founder and producer Paul Bassis. A wide variety of musical genres can be heard at Arise, from electronica to bluegrass. Bassis has found that most festival-goers love a broad range of music.

"You can't be a community if, intentionally or otherwise, some segment of the community is excluded," he said.

Arise will take place from Aug. 4-6 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland. Headliners include Ani DiFranco, Tipper and Atmosphere. Outside of music, the festival offers yoga and workshops on a variety of topics. There are also "villages" that focus on children, healing and wisdom. Cost for general admission tickets ranges from $49-$229; children age 12 and younger get in free.

For the first year, Fort Collins band The Symbols will get the chance to be part of Arise.

"It's the biggest thing around, so that is one of the things that makes you want to be a part of it," said guitarist Jasco Duende. The rock, blues and funk band is looking forward to getting to see the rest of the lineup.

"It's a great opportunity to hear other bands and check out new music you wouldn't normally be exposed to," said Symbols lead singer Mer Sal. The Symbols are playing Friday night but they are planning on sticking around for some of the weekend.

Eddie Roberts of The New Mastersounds performs during the 2016 Arise Music Festival.
Eddie Roberts of The New Mastersounds performs during the 2016 Arise Music Festival. (Not Provided / Daily Camera)
"We took Saturday off intentionally so we could hang out and see all the bands and participate in the festival as participants instead of musicians," said Duende.

Boulder rootsy groove band Intuit is returning to the festival stage for the third year. "I feel like it is a really special festival in that it's the local festival," said Intuit's Chloe B. Watkins. She added that because the festival is local, the group has a lot of ties to those who organize it. This makes the gig more like a collaboration.

"We are not just coming in to perform, but we are part of this co-creation of this alternate reality," Watkins said. Festivals can provide a space where people can live outside their day-to-day lives, Watkins said. Arise is no exception.

Watkins will be playing in the Children's Village and will be part of a duo that performs live during one of the yoga classes.

"I think that's the cool thing about Arise, that they invite musicians to do other things," she said.

Skydyed, a Fort Collins-based band on the festival lineup that leans toward electronic music, has also been invited to play during an Arise yoga class.

"That is something we have never done," said bass player Andrew Slattery, "We are getting out of our comfort zone."

All three members of the group have taken yoga classes and know how the music flows.

"It's a really cool thing, because it's not just brining people together for the music, it's something that's helping in a real way," Slattery said of the festival as a whole. Attendees can learn about the environment and other topics to help them be more socially conscious.

"This show is just basically in our backyard," said Skydyed drummer Craig Babineau. "I have played it before with other bands and we had a great time. We just wanted to go back again."

Michelle Vendegna: 970-699-5407, - Reporter Herald

"Open Music Session: The Symbols Shake It at the Open Media Foundation"

Print Article
On Friday, October 7, the Open Media Foundation hosts its next monthly free Open Music Session event, which will feature musical guests Jux County and comedian Brent Gill.

Last month, the September 2016 Open Music Session welcomed bluesy pop-rock band the Symbols, a band that actually describes its own music as "spiritual porn rock." The Fort Collins group swears that its music is good for the soul, and it's tough to argue when hearing Jasco's intricate guitar work and Mer Sal's expressive vocals on a song like heart-wrenching blues ballad "Not Enough Love."

Listen to more of the Symbols' music library, and download and remix with the stems of their Open Music Session songs below.

"Shake It," or "Shake That Butt," according to Sal on the night of the performance, is a much more lively tune. It's unapologetically funky, and all three musicians take the opportunity to indulge in a solo part-way through, though the butts never stop shaking. Bass-heavy and ludicrously good fun, "Shake It" offers a fair representation of what the Symbols are all about.

About Open Music Sessions: Every month, Westword joins Open Media Foundation and Greater Than Collective to bring you Open Music Sessions, a video series aimed at introducing people to bands and providing context for their music. Every First Friday, we bring a band to the Open Media Foundation studio at Seventh and Kalamath and record a live performance. In addition to broadcasting the show live on the Denver Open Media TV stations (Comcast channels 56, 57 and 219), we edit the clips for certain songs, which you can find at You'll also find additional information about the band and the recordings of individual instruments on select songs, which you are welcome to download in order to create remixes or simply to learn more about the way the music is constructed. - Westword Magazine

"Blues From The Top Festival Review"

[...]The Sunday morning Gospel set comes really early for most festival goers, especially if they stayed up for the Saturday night jam at Smokin’ Moe’s. But, every year John Catt puts together a group of musicians that are worth the early morning 10 am music call. This year was no exception. The High Mountain Gospel Choir packed the stage and woke up the neighborhood. Performers included: the entire Ori Naftaly Band, Jasco Duende, Sadie Johnson, Kara Grainger, Tempa Singer, Mer Sal, and Jimmy Carpenter. - Blues Blast Magazine

"The Symbols do unique Fleetwood Mac cover rearrangement"


The Symbols

And now for something completely different: a refreshing acoustic-swing jazzfunk rock take on a familiar Fleetwood Mac classic from husband and wife duo The Symbols, exclusively released here on Cover Lay Down. Equal parts Django and Hendrix, the track is a delight, with powerhouse pop in the throat and an audible grin on the lips of lead singer Mer Sal making for the perfect compliment to cymbal-crashing percussion, backup singer oohs, and Grammy-nominated hubby Jasco’s string-bending wizardry.

The Symbols: Gold Dust Woman (orig. Fleetwood Mac) [2016] - Cover Lay Down

"Album Review: The Symbols - SMILE"

The Symbols – Smile

September 30, 2015


4 stars out of 5

There is little else to say about Smile besides “groovy.” Mer Sal takes center stage as bassist/songwriter/vocalist, flaunting pure and justified confidence in The Symbols’ first full-length album. She sings with power at times, funk at others, but always in full-force, with Jasco and Ika Pekelo maintaining a solid, bluesy backing throughout. The message is positive and clear (as the title suggests), though the influences of The Symbols seem across the board, from the unmistakable mark of blues and R&B to the more subtle Latin rhythms, reggae and jazz. The undisputed talent of Jasco on guitar could have been highlighted perhaps only a small amount more, as his quiet acoustic ramblings add exponentially to any sound he accompanies. With such a strong debut album, it can only be hoped for that The Symbols carry on with their musical adventure. - Scene Magazine

"Album Review: The Symbols - SYMBOLIZED"

by Jay Wallace


The Symbols, consisting of singer Mer Sal, guitarist Jasco and drummer Don Stahl, is a peppery rock band out of Fort Collins that exude positive energy in their work. Symbolized, their newest album that was released a few months ago, showcases the unique cover songs they play between their original songs at live shows.

When playing something like “All Along The Watchtower,” The Symbols don’t copy the performance of Jimi Hendrix or Bob Dylan. Instead of the guitar riffs everyone’s heard in every Vietnam war movie ever made, it’s the wah-wah ‘60s bass licks that can be heard on occasion in The Symbols’ original work. Instead of the Bobby Fuller Four’s rollicking guitar or The Clash’s hyperactive guitar, The Symbol’s cover of “I Fought The Law” is done as a reggae song, which you wouldn’t think would work, but it does. The few songs that sound closest to the originals are their takes on Led Zeppelins’ “Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “Immigrant Song,” yet they’re still steeped in The Symbols’ relaxed funkiness. Conversely, they’ve done a 1950s sock-hop version of the Ramone’s “I Wanna Be Sedated,” simply called “Sedated Rockaboogie.” The album, in general, can leave you guessing just what song it is you’re listening to. (If you don’t have the liner notes.)

“It’s fun to see how long it takes people to recognize what tune it is we’re playing,” Mer Sal said via Facebook. “We get a lot of people saying they like our versions better than the original versions.”

Sal said they way they rearrange songs is by adjusting various parameters such as the tempo, groove, and key. They might write some completely new parts, or try a song in several different styles to hear how it sounds.

“The reason why we re-arrange covers is two-fold,” Mer Sal said via Facebook. “First, it gives us something unique to offer fans. Why would someone want to hear our version of Immigrant Song verses any other bands? Because you can only hear our version from us.

“Second, it is an opportunity to exercise our creativity. It helps us become better songwriters by rearranging and rewriting these songs. We rearrange our own songs many times before we record them for an album.

“The trick is to not ruin what was inherently cool about the song to start with,” she said. “We learned a lot about this process from Little Feat guitarist Phil Brown.”

By and large, Symbolized is successful in that regard. Instead of Plain-Jane imitations of classic songs, The Symbols have made an album of cover songs that can be identified as the work of The Symbols, and possesses all the unadulterated joy of their original work. Like I said in my previous review of The Symbols’ work, catch them live when you can; you will not regret. In the meantime, grab a copy of Symbolized and play a game with your friends called “What Song Is This?” - Bandwagon Magazine

"Album Review- The Symbols: SMILE"

by Jay Wallace


Chill. Charismatic. Mellow. Funky. Rocking? It’s hard to describe Smile, the latest album from Fort Collins band The Symbols, beyond saying it’s awesome. I’ve listened to this album over and over again and I honestly love it, but I can’t say why, nor can I say what genre The Symbols are a part of. On their website, they describe themselves as “spiritual porn rock,” which is definitely one of the corniest descriptions I’ve read and does a disservice to what The Symbols do as a band.

Imagine a three-piece rock band lead by a jazz/R&B singer, and that is The Symbols. Mer Sal is the lead singer and bassist, and backing her up is guitarist Jasco (yes, that’s his name) and drummer Don Stahl. The trio formed in 2010 after they all ran into each other at a Fort Collins open jam. The Symbols list among their influence Amy Winehouse, Jeff Beck, Sheryl Crow, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and knowing that, much of their work on Smile makes sense.

This album possesses an infectious, bouncy energy that’s conversely relaxing. You put this album on, and you smile. (I know that sounds corny, but it’s fucking true.) Sal’s high energy vocals and the guitar work of Jasco just makes you happy and chill. You can either bounce along with the music or you can relax on your couch in a state of euphoria while listening to it. I can only imagine how these guys are during a live performance. If they’re playing near you, I highly recommend seeing them live, but if you can’t, get Smile, throw it on, and just listen to it. You will listen to it again and again. If not… you’re probably dead inside.
For more information on The Symbols, visit - Bandwagon Magazine

"Album Review: The Symbols - Symbolized"

January 1, 2017

By: Jeremy Fleischer


In our culture, we tend to value the new over the old. After award seasons pass and end-of-the-year lists are ranked, we move on to new release movies and the next buzz album, sending last year’s hits to the dustbin. If a band is trying to build an audience, it’s an act of generosity to include a cover song in a set of unfamiliar originals.

For its 2016 release, Symbolized, Fort Collins blues-based band The Symbols dusted off a collection of classic songs for a reimagining. The band’s selections cross genres and decades, revealing a primary essence to a great song. Each of these songs, most of which are immediately recognizable, if forgotten today, gets a careful, well-played treatment by The Symbols. In other words, the songs are “symbolized.” “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns ‘n’ Roses becomes a slide blues number. “I Wanna Be Sedated” by The Ramones is imagined as rockabilly. And “All Along the Watchtower,” the Bob Dylan song made huge by Hendrix, becomes funktronica.

On paper, this may sound like a gimmick. And in some ways, it is. But it’s mostly a lot of fun, like a costume party for songs. And the band’s performance shows true reverence for the tunes.

Produced, Engineered, Mixed, and Mastered by: Jasco Duende at Recordium, Fort Collins, CO - Scene Magazine


The Symbols - "Smile" -
Recorded at The Recordium, Fort Collins, CO USA
Produced by Phil Brown (Apaches From Paris)
Songs written by Mer Sal, Jasco, Phil Brown, (BMI).  
Album available for download at and across other platforms such as Amazon, CD Baby, iTunes, Spotify, and more!
1. Alone
2. Maybe Baby
3. Speak
4. Still
5. All Along
6. Ball Bearings
7. Balloon
8. Live
9. Reeling In
10. My Gold
11. Be What You Are
12. Who Were You



The Symbols are a female fronted funk/pop/rock/blues trio from Fort Collins, CO.  Their style has been coined "Spiritual Porn Rock" by Scene Magazine - "Music that is good for the soul and body."  

The Symbols play a mix of their own original songs and some interesting covers.  Their cover tunes are often rearranged, as you can hear in the examples below:  a Delta-Blues slide guitar version of Welcome to the Jungle (Guns n Roses) and a funk version of Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin).  

In addition to a busy regional schedule, The Symbols play festivals and venues around the nation.  There is no limit to how far they'll travel, or how unusual a gig!  See below for a list of festivals and events The Symbols have played recently.  

Lead vocalist, bass player, and songwriting female partner of The Symbols, Mer Sal is an interpretive vocal artist.  She expresses her truest feelings using a range, selection, and precision of vocal expression, inspired by many of the jazz, blues, and funk greats of the 20th and 21st century. 

Jasco’s guitar sings with passion or screams with fury as he squeezes drops of soul from bent strings. In addition to rock-blues-funk stylings, Jasco’s musical depth is explored with subtle additions of flamenco, jazz, and classical textures.  Jasco will thrill you when you experience the melodies and rhythms articulating through his stratocaster, using only his hands (no pick).  

On the drums is Don Stahl (Joey Dee and the Starliters, Damon Fowler Band).  Don's enthusiasm and fantastic hands add great rhythmic texture to what the Symbols are doing live and on record.  Don Stahl plays with conviction and attitude. 


Arise Music Festival (2017)
FOCOMX (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
Taste Of Colorado (2017)
The Greeley Blues Jam (2012-2017)
Blues From the Top (2014-2016)
Blues and BBQ For Better Housing (Arvada, CO)  (2016, 2017)
WHAT Fest (Riverside, WY) (2015, 2017)
No Woodstock Festival (2017)
KGNU 12th Annual Legacy of the Blues Broadcast at Denver Open Media (2016)
I Slept With The Band Festival (2017)
Castle Rock Brew Festival (2017)
Trapper Days Fort Lupton (2016, 2017)
Heritage Days Evans (2017)
Blue Star Turn 5 at the Tivoli (2016)
CHUN Capitol Hill People's Fair (2014, 2015, 2016)
Brighton Arts and Culture Symposium (2016)
Cheyenne Days (Cheyenne, WY) (2016)
Spirit Lake Blues Festival (2015)
Realities Ride and Rally (2011, 2014)
The Greeley Stampede (2013, 2014)
Tulsa International Mayfest (2011)
UMX (Underground Music Experience) (2014, 2015)
Colorado Blues Society's International Blues Challenge - FINAL ROUND (2012); SEMI FINALS (2017)
International Blues Challenge with Mile High Blues Society – Denver Representative Band for 2018. (2017)

Band Members