Soulive: Organic Sounds

Are you hungry for some Jazz and Funk mixed with a whole lot of Soul? When placing the order, your craving can be met with New York’s Soulive. On the menu since 1999, Soulive consists of Eric Krasno (guitar), Alan Evans (drums), Neal Evans (Hammond B3 organ, bass keys, clavinet) and a recently added reggae […]

Win A $75 Giftcard To Footlocker

Are you hungry for some Jazz and Funk mixed with a whole lot of Soul? When placing the order, your craving can be met with New York’s Soulive. On the menu since 1999, Soulive consists of Eric Krasno (guitar), Alan Evans (drums), Neal Evans (Hammond B3 organ, bass keys, clavinet) and a recently added reggae singer, Toussaint on lead vocals.As their style shifted from up-beat instrumentation of Jazz and Funk to lyrically-driven pieces with a full-time vocalist on board, Soulive switched record labels from the infamous Blue Note to the legendary Stax label. With a fresh new recipe, they are dishing out a new album called No Place Like Soul, slated for a July 31 release. Currently on a national tour, band members Eric and Toussaint reflect on the changes they’ve experienced including their views on contemporary music. Discussing the trials and tribulations of being multi-genre artists, Soulive also reveals the artists they are interested in working with in the future. Open your musical taste buds and hear what Soulive is cooking up Alternatives: After making instrumental music for so long, what brought about your change in style? What inspired those changes?Eric Krasno: It was really [a] natural evolution as we progressed, and as we were making more albums, we were doing more and more vocal stuff. At that point, we were featuring different vocalists and that was cool. We really wanted to be a band and find somebody who really fit with our sound and made sense with what we were doing. Eventually we found Toussaint, and we asked him to come out on tour, and when he came out it just made sense. [So] we started writing tunes. It all just kind of came together, so we felt like it was a natural evolution to make this record with Toussaint.AHHA: How did you manage to recreate your style? Eric: To be honest with you, when we came together – even before Toussaint was with us – we came together to do writing and recording sessions for the next album. All of us had been writing lyrics and had been doing vocal-oriented music. So we all kinda came to the same place. It wasn’t like we were convincing one another to go this way. It was like, “Okay, this just felt right.” It’s funny, that’s a lot of times what happens. We don’t talk about, “Okay well let’s go this direction [or] let’s go that direction.” At that point Alan and I were singin’ some of the stuff, we demoed some of the stuff and we were like, “You know what we need a lead vocalist.”AHHA: At that point, were you actively looking for a lead singer or Toussaint just happened to fall into your lap?Eric: No, we were looking for somebody. At the time, we had Reggie Watts, who had been out on the road with us and had recorded some stuff with us.  He’s doing his comedy thing, and we really dug Reggie but it wasn’t… it didn’t totally fit the sound altogether. At that point we were like, “Let’s bring somebody else out on the road.” Toussaint had just kinda come back to the area to where we were living, to where Alan was living. It just made sense; we called him up and said, “Hey, come out on tour.” At that point we had no original material; within a few days we started writing original music with Toussaint.  After that, we got into the studio and made the album. AHHA: Toussant, how was it adjusting to the band in general?Toussaint: I have been kinda pegged at the reggae thing here. I was in Boston stompin’ around with this band called Toussaint and The China Band, anybody that played reggae I played with in Boston. For years, I have been with the same band, The China Band for four years, something like that. So I was kinda pegged at the reggae thing. But I grew up in church listening to Motown back in Philadelphia. So that was all I was able to listen to, they wouldn’t let us have rap records and stuff in my house. I was being rebellious when I had the Wu Tang record. Basically, coming into this band, I was able to express some of the things that I’ve been burning to express and have just a bed of music that’s amazing. They’re master musicians. So it’s really [a] simple transition ‘cause it’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a band. I can jump up there and say whatever I wanna say with all the pump and flow, because all the pump and flow is right there behind me.AHHA: Do you feel that R&B in our generation is moving farther and farther away from soul music?Toussaint: Well anytime you don’t have musicians really playin’ the music, you’re in a difficult spot to begin with. [laughs]AHHA: With the landscape of “urban” music constantly changing, do you seeit moving into the direction of live instrumentation or continuing to innovate the electronic path?Eric: Well, that’s an interesting question. It depends on what you mean. Radio…radio’s scope is getting smaller and smaller, whereas the people’s access is getting bigger and bigger. People are moving away from radio to a certain degree to find out what’s out there. So I would say in the mainstream, it’s becoming more and more acceptable – like live music and all that. I think it’s the people in general. My hopes are that more people are turning away from the mainstream media, looking up and using the internet to find what they truly like. To find alternatives…like you’re saying this is the alternative. But alternatives can also become big movements, you know what I mean? It’s really a hope that people will turn away from the formula that people keep using – what they call pop and R&B. Some of that I really dig, so it’s not really hatin’ on it, but I am hatin’ on the programmers at the radio who only want to play the same thing. I’m not hatin’ on the artists really. I’m hatin’ at the fact that they can only play three or four artists at a radio station over the whole day. [It’s] breaking out and searching different things that are available. There’s so much Hip-Hop right now in the world that’s not heard, so people just don’t know. Like my mom doesn’t know about people like J-Live or people that are like saying really positive things you know what I mean.AHHA: What made you choose singing over rapping?Eric: I grew up [listening to] Rolling Stones, Beatles records, Stevie Wonder records and like Run DMC, and the Beastie Boys and so many other things, so it was all in me growing up. I play guitar because I love Jimi Hendrix, but I also knew every single lyric to Run DMC records; I was just a kid. So, that’s basically what we’re all about is that we don’t close the door on any of those things. We love all that music, and you know that many people will probably say that – you could have been more successful if you just took this one particular route or focus on just this. But you know what? That’s not necessarily true to what we wanna do. I think other people eventually can relate to what we’re doing.AHHA: What is the biggest obstacle in finding a record label that suits the needs of jazz/soul artists as opposed to Hip-Hop, R&B or pop? Eric: I think we’ve been pretty lucky to find what we have found, whereas a lot of people want to find labels that really support their music. I mean the thing is, for us, that we’ve been on Blue Note for years, and it made sense to a certain degree but at the same time they were only in the jazz section. The jazz section honestly doesn’t even get looked at; it doesn’t even really exist with a few records that are left, which is not many. Blue Note was cool because they wanted to support what the music was doing, but at that time they didn’t have the exposure to young people that we needed. People still found us; it definitely helped us more than hurt us, but at this point…now we’re on Stax, which is another label that’s been revamped. I think it’s an honor to be considered the young, the new generation of it ‘cause of how it evolved and all the music that came from the original Stax. The way we look at it is that we work and the label is just support underneath that. We hope that they support us, but we try to take it into our own hands. That’s why we tour so much and make our own connections, and just kinda get the music out there in as many ways as possible.AHHA: So here’s a scenario, you are about to perform and a string breaks on the guitar, how would you improvise?Eric:  Oh, I do that all the time; I just play around it. I would probably grab a stick and play percussion or something. If I really had to start breakdancing you know maybe, I would play something. It actually happened once. We played in Philly, we had a sold out show. I remember we were really amped; we had a champagne toast ‘cause it was sold out. We got on stage, and the amp literally blew up the first few minutes we got on. So the first ten minutes, I couldn’t play and the other guys were playing. Eventually we switched it they found an amp like down the street or whatever. That was horrible, technical problems [are] really, really horrible. AHHA: Are there any other Hip-Hop artists that you would like to collaborate/perform with? I know you’ve performed with Black Thought and Talib Kweli…Toussaint: Cee-Lo Green.Eric: Cee-Lo, he’s doing it as a singer now. He’s doing it as a singer these days, yeah he’s ridiculous. I mean we’ve performed with Pharoahe Monch, but I’d like to do more with Pharoahe. People we haven’t ever performed with like Jay-Z; I can’t deny that Jay-Z is one of the greatest of all time.Toussaint: I really dig Common, man. I think he’s one of the heavyweights man. Eric: He knows how to work with a live band. That’s part of it too, whether they had experience with a live band. Some MC’s know how to work with a live band and some are not used to it. AHHA: Many soul bands have a penchant for drinking or smoking on stage to enhance their groove. What’s your poison while performing?Eric: You know not really much while we’re performing. [laughs] I usually don’t like to drink too much while I’m playing. I won’t deny smoking once in a while. [laughs] Not while we’re playing, but in and around. AHHA: Any other special rituals that you guys have on stage?Eric: Toussaint usually brings out his incense to get the right vibe. Toussaint: I gotta get spiritual with the incense man. Burn incense and meditation, you know.