There is little point in introducing Alan Evans, Eric Krasno and Neal Evans again. Soulive is one of the hottest bands out there, riding an explosive wave of funk and R & B sounds, of live soul groove, to new regions of instrumental ecstasy and to new legions of fans. Just about this time last year I spoke with Alan about Soulive’s roots and future. At the time, Soulive was just 9 months old. Since then the trio has had a month-long residency at the Wetlands and continued to develop wonderful musical relationships with the likes of John Scofield, Derek Trucks, and Oteil Burbridge, among others. They won the Musicians’ Award at The Jammys and played major time slots at a number of festivals that they had previously opened. They traveled to Ghana and were signed to Blue Note, among other successes both more subtle and more sublime. I had a chance to talk with the whole band at the beginning of a short tour with Project Logic. The guys were as gracious as ever, and still lookin’ toward the horizon.
Let’s start off with Blue Note. We ran a piece by Lee Seelig two months ago about the process of getting signed- it had some comments from Kim [Evans, Al’s wife and Soulive’s manager]. But what does it mean to you guys?
Eric: I think it’s a logical step in the right direction. You know, at first we were freakin’ out, ‘cause it’s Blue Note. I mean all the records, all the records we’ve heard. It’s definitely an honor to be a part of a company that has such a rich history and everything.
Alan: Yeah, it’s real cool man, but it’s funny. Once you start getting into the whole process of putting the album together, it’s one of those things. The honeymoon’s over and now it’s just about workin’ When you’re so far in it. I don’t know, I just forget sometimes that we’re on Blue Note, but I know we have to put out this album.
Eric: The process is the same no matter what label you’re with.
Neal: It’s no different than Velour. It’s just another way of getting it out there. Alan: I think, though, the difference that we’ll see is once it’s out, or leading up to it.
Eric: Once it’s out, we’ll see what happens. Right now, we’re going through the process of putting the record together, and we’re just gonna see how it goes. I mean, I know there’s gonna be a lot more promotion in this one than in the other ones we’ve made. We’ll have to see what happens with that.
What was the recording process like? Your previous two albums, Get Down and Turn It Out were both recorded straight in a studio.
Neal: It was basically done the same way.
Alan: This time though, we utilized the studio. Whereas before we used the studio to capture the music, now we captured the music and then mixed it down, worked through the tracking…For instance, Neal played a piano, and a Wurlitzer.
Eric: We also have horns.
Who’s playing horns?
Eric: We have Fred Wesley. He also did one of the arrangements for the new songs. We’ve got Jacques Schwarzbar and he plays with D’Angelo. And we’ve got Jeremy Pelt and Sam Kininger, who’s joined us a bunch, he’s on Turn It Out.
What’s on the disc, songs like “Bridge,” “Shahied,” “Evidence”?
Eric: Yeah, “Cannonball”. And we redid “Doin’ Something.”
I wanted to ask you about that. It was left off of the re-release of Turn It Out.
Alan: At that point we knew that we were gonna recut it.
Eric: I originally wrote that tune with horns in mind. But we just kinda recorded it anyway when we did Turn It Out. What it basically came down was we did two extra cuts with Scofield and we had to get rid of something or they wouldn’t fit. So we decided if we were gonna take a tune off there, it might as well be that one ‘cause I knew I wanted to do it with horns.
You can listen to that studio cut and the evolution of it.
Eric: Yeah, it’s a lot different now. When you hear it on the new album, it sounds like a different tune. I sent the version that we do to Fred [Wesley] and he completely changed it. It’s real funky. He just added his horn magic to it and he arranged the horn lines, which makes it very different.
*What’s the story behind “1 in 7”? It’s by Neal but when I first heard it I thought it was by Al- a little mood. Like “Evidence,” a little heavy. *
Neal: Well the “Evidence” that we play on the album is exactly not how we play it live. But ya know, it’s kind of a fun joke, the beginning of the tune [1 in 7] is my dedication to the Euro-house trash. But it’s way funkier than that. Actually I came up with that tune at Velour one day. The band Kudu, they were there and it was just a tune that I was singin’ that I wanted to hit to them. The way I was playin’ it there with changes in seven. I guess it was kinda influenced by James Hurt and all the stuff I was just hearin’. I was hangin’ around with him around that time. That’s kinda where it came from, if you heard it played like that, but we play it differently. I wrote the rest of the tune. The beginning part, actually the melody, [sings a bit], that doesn’t really change. And I worked out different chords I was playing on it- it was more like a drum and bass thing.
Tonight’s the second night of a mid-west swing with Project Logic. And Logic did a remix of Steppin’?
Eric: Yes, for Velour. I actually did the beats, I remixed it and he came in and played some turntable cuts on it.
Neal: The actual remix is by Eric.
It’s going to be in limited release?
Eric: It’s being distributed by Landspeed, so a bunch of hip-hop, vinyl places will have it. You won’t be able to get it in your everyday store. For hip-hop fans who want to find vinyl, we’re gonna have it. We’ll have it at shows and on the web. We’re performing the song- Shuman’s coming out on the road with us for this tour also.
You also just finished the Southern coast Blue Notes Presents tour with Charlie Hunter and JMP. How was that?
Neal: It was pretty good. There were really good crowds that came out every night. I had a lot of fun hanging out with Charlie. Hanging out with him every night.
Eric: Yeah Charlie Hunter was going really good. It was cool. We were playing first so it was an early night. It kind of depended on where we were as far as how many people were there for our set. But there definitely were a few shows that really went off good.
Any cross-pollination going on?
Eric: Not really. I sat in once with JMP. It kind of worked out like that. The vibes were all different. Charlie Hunter’s new group is more a Brazilian, percussion-based thing. They sounded really good. And we were doing our thing, and JMP were doing their thing, and kinda left it like that.
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