By Jeff Maisey

Talk about a big band with an enormous sound and array of talent, Seamless — based in Hampton Roads — was recently named the house band at Rivers Casino.

As a full band, Seamless includes cover a variety of classic songs ranging from Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious” and Sade’s “Smooth Operator” to Eurythmic’s “Sweet Dreams,” Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind,” and Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love.” The list of tunes is long, and you can heard much of the material June 22 at Rivers Casino in Portsmouth. 

To learn more about Seamless, I recently interviewed founder and lead vocalist Malikah Harris. 

VEER: When was Seamless born and was it originally as a full band or duo?

Malikah Harris: In the genesis of January 2019, Seamless emerged, initially as a duo. With a foundation rooted in my experience as a local freelance vocalist, I had the privilege of collaborating with various musical ensembles. Through these engagements, I gleaned firsthand insights into the intricate mechanics required to sustain a thriving musical outfit. While undeniably enjoyable, the endeavor demanded significant dedication and effort. Drawing from the wisdom imparted by the band leaders I worked alongside, I discerned invaluable lessons on both effective strategies and pitfalls to avoid. Encouraged by the encouragement of friends, family, and supporters, the notion of establishing my own ensemble gained traction. Thus, inspired by this collective momentum, I embarked upon the endeavor of crafting Seamless Duo.

VEER: What singers influenced you most in terms of vocal style and also as a performer?

Malikah Harris: Immersed in the vast array of musical genres and vocal expressions, I found myself parallel to a child in a candy store, delighting in the richness and diversity of sound environments. My musical journey has been profoundly shaped by influential artists whose performances resonate deeply within me, leaving an indelible mark on my soul. Among these luminaries are Patti LaBelle, Phyllis Hyman, Whitney Houston, Fantasia, Yalonda Adams, Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin, Shirley Bassey, Eva Cassidy, Toscha L. Comeaux, and Kem, to name but a few. Their artistry continues to inspire and uplift me, perpetually expanding the roster of revered voices that enrich my musical tapestry.

VEER: Were you raised in a home where music was important? When did you know you could sing?

Malikah Harris: The universal music in my upbringing honored me with a profound sense of comfort and belonging during my formative years. Raised in a household where melodies filled the air incessantly, I found solace in the rhythmic cadence of life’s soundtrack. With a father who once graced the stage as a singer in his youth, and an uncle who ignited my passion for the arts, music became a natural aspect of my existence. It wasn’t long before I, at the tender age of fourteen, recognized within myself not merely talent, but a gift, a harmonic essence waiting to be unraveled.

VEER: Seamless performs as a full band, trio and duo based on the booking venue. How do you manage rehearsals and select the songs for each iteration?

Malikah Harris: Our ensemble, whether presented as a duo, trio, or full band, remains dynamically adaptable, tailoring our performance to suit the unique requirements of each venue. A mantra I hold dear is that one’s merit is measured by the quality of their most recent performance. Therefore, in our pursuit of excellence, we are committed to diligent practice and ongoing refinement of our collective talents. Moreover, acclimate to the preferences of our audience, we strive to create a setlist that resonates universally, drawing inspiration from their feedback to ensure an unforgettable musical experience.

VEER: As a 10-piece band, what songs tend to be most popular with an audience — in party mode?

Malikah Harris: Our versatility as a band, encompassing a broad spectrum of genres, affords our audience the opportunity to cross through musical eras and indulge in beloved hits tailored to diverse age demographics. Evident in the youthful enthusiasm sparked by contemporary tracks such as “Water” by Tyla and “On My Mama” by Victoria Monét, compared with the timeless appeal bring forth in classics like “Before I Let Go” by Frankie Beverly and Maze, and “Come Together” by the Beatles, our repertoire caters to the varied tastes and preferences of both younger and older audiences alike.

VEER: As a trio and duo, are the songs more jazz, soul, and light pop oriented? 

Malikah Harris: The duo and trio configurations of Seamless offer a refined and intimate experience, highlighting our penchant for jazz and laid-back melodies. This more subdued ambiance lends itself to an early, sophisticated sound, allowing audiences to immerse themselves in the intricate nuances of our musicality. Such diversification within our repertoire enables venues to witness a distinct facet of our band’s versatility, enriching their musical journey with a captivating blend of soulful melodies and powerful rhythms.

VEER: What are some of the songs that go over well in an intimate venue such as Varia?

Malikah Harris: Performing at Varia was an incredible experience, as I saw the audience deeply enjoy the soulful sounds of my voice, enhanced by my light, airy vocal ability. Accompanied by the mesmerizing talent of pianist Zach Bridges, we captivated the crowd with renditions of timeless classics. Songs like “My Funny Valentine,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “Love Calls,” “New York State of Mind,” and “Give Me the Night” resonated with everyone, creating an unforgettable evening of music and emotion.

VEER: What is the working relationship like between you and pianist Zach Bridges?

Malikah Harris: Zach and I are true friends, more like family than anything else. Zach Bridges epitomizes what it means to be a well-rounded, talented individual. He is the best team player you could ask for, always motivating and supporting your visions and dreams. Working with Zach feels seamless because he collaborates with you rather than against you. His talent is unparalleled, making him one of the best in the business. Despite his immense talent, he remains humble, honest, and dedicated. I feel incredibly blessed to have him in my life, not just for business but more importantly for his friendship.

VEER: Was your versatility an important factor in becoming the house band at Rivers Casino?

Malikah Harris: Yes, I believe that our synergy and mutual respect were key reasons why we were asked to become the house band. With Seamless, I always aim to create an inclusive atmosphere where everyone feels welcome. It’s very important to me to see people from all ethnic backgrounds coming together to enjoy every genre of music. This unity through music is what makes our performances so special and fulfilling.

VEER: Does Seamless have any original material?

Malikah Harris: Yes, Seamless has been dedicated to creating original music since the very beginning. We actually perform our recorded songs “Welcome to P-Town” and “Show Me,” both of which are available on every major live streaming platform. We are committed to continuing our musical journey, as most of our musicians are not only performers but also talented writers and producers. This collaborative creativity drives us to keep making music that resonates with our audience.

VEER: What does your performance schedule look like this summer?

Malikah Harris: With the grace of God, our duo, trio, and full band have secured bookings with Rivers Casino all the way until October. We feel incredibly blessed to have this opportunity, as Rivers Casino has been so amazing to us. Their support and enthusiasm have made this journey even more rewarding, and we are grateful for the chance to share our music with their patrons.