Rock ’n’ roll done right: An interview with the London Souls

by Patty Templeton

The London Souls play road trip music. The sun is shining. The windows are down. It’s you and a sexyass hitchhiker and the wide-open world. Everything is possible. Oddly enough, the London Souls could also soundtrack the sweaty, backseat, desert car sex you have when the stars shine over your naked hearts. Furthermore, they play a sweet sort of song that goes well with eyeballing the one you skin-slipped with over pancakes the next morning.

What I’m saying is that the London Souls play a ridiculous range of music and all of it is good. And most of it will make you want to dance. Or have sex. Or both. You can hear it on Friday, April 14, at the Animas City Theatre.

DGO talked to Tash Neal of London Souls about their tour, their to-be-released-sometime-in-2017 album, and what the ghost of Sam Cooke would think of them.

Y’all have been touring two years straight on “Here Come the Girls,” how do you stay human being on the road that long? For us, we have to play the same songs but we never do the same set twice because we rarely play the same songs the same way. We try to keep it fresh. That is one thing we took from bands like the Grateful Dead or Cream or any bands that are improvisational like The Who.

For us, we didn’t want to be doing seven-minute-long songs. We wanted short songs – two, three, maybe four minutes. If we can put some improv in there and put our expression in, then you’re never doing the same thing twice.

Working on a new album?Our first tracking session was in 2014, but that was only for three songs. We did the majority of it in 2016. About 14 songs, and now we’ve got six songs that we did in two separate sessions this year. So we have a new album, we’re just trying to figure out the best way to put out all the material so that it gets the eyes that it deserves.

How do you feel about your work being on streaming platforms like YouTube or Spotify? That brings up a lot of complicated feelings [laughs]. It is bigger than your band. The distribution and way that people consume music is not anything to do with one band or one business plan.

What labels do is find the backroom deals like Spotify and streaming services to create profit. No matter if you see yourself as an artist, there is always someone behind the scenes who remembers that you are a business and they want to find the platforms that they can make the most profit from. I think it is a really great thing that people are exposed to a band like ours, or any rock band, or EDM, or rapper because they heard something similar and an algorithm on Spotify says, “Hey, you might like this.” I’ve had people tell me, “I would not have heard of you without this streaming service.” I am grateful for that. I think it’s important that people have access to music.

But it’s complicated. One side of it is that I am glad that people have access to music and the other side is that I wish that the business side was worked out better.

Is the new album going to bring any new genre twists or the unexpected?Yeah, for sure. There’s definitely some new sounds. A lot of this album, the material was based conceptually on my being in a major car accident, the coma, coming out of the coma, the concepts of life and death, that idea of in-between – limbo. Are we here or are we not here? Then there’s general love songs. I think the album is going to be really varied and a lot of it is super hard rock and a lot of it are songs where the reason we’re excited is because you’d never think they would be London Souls’ songs. It doesn’t sound like anything we’ve ever done. It’s also the first time we’ve had complete control over what we wanted our stuff to sound like.

Do you think your car accident and recovery changed the way you create art?The process remained the same because I think when you are a musician you work for the muse. To simplify that, for me, I don’t force anything. Everything should be a pure form of expression. I don’t sit down and go, “I’m going to write a song for a Mercedes car ad.” That feels fake to me. With this record, cathartically, naturally, I needed a place for stories to go. I needed to talk about stuff – not necessarily the surgery, but the coma and pain. You know what I mean? I went through a lot of loss that I needed to write about. That was going to come out, not necessarily consciously or distinctly. Maybe in one couplet in one song. You get to tell different stories and it all comes out though the same process just different material because of what happened.

Really, it deeply affected my life, those couple of years. Not just my life, Chris’ life, too. Chris [St. Hilaire] was in the hospital with me and it was so helpful because he was musically sensitive to this stuff because he was there and he lived through it. He was riding everything with me.

Does setting affect your creative process? All that shuffling around on tour? Yeah, it does. I know for Chris, he has written incredibly beautiful songs when he is with his family in the Caribbean. When he is in Trinidad or somewhere, he’ll write and be able to create. For me, I’ve always written the most in New York; that’s where I’m from. We’ve written in California and that’s opened up a different way of writing, you chord differently. We’ve traveled to Asia and that has affected lyrics – just being on that opposite end of the world is a different headspace. Then you have lyrics written in Asia to music written in New York. I guess it is timing and luck, but location can and will affect not only the way you make a record but the way you write it.

Your next album drops, a mega artist asks you to open for them. Who would you want to that to be?We are going to be opening for The Who and I don’t know who I could pick bigger than that, at this point. That is who I would have picked two weeks ago, and then we got that wish. It came true.

The ghost of a musical inspiration comes to your show, who would you want to see the London Souls?[Inaudible name], Louis Armstrong, Sam Cooke, Woody Guthrie. Those four. I think they would like it.

How do you think Sam Cooke would describe your band? He’d say that we were too loud [laughs]. But I think he’d like the songwriting and the chord changes and the approach – I would hope. I can only hope. Sam Cooke is one of the greatest. If he said, “You’re terrible,” I’d be grateful for that.

Would you still want the ghost of Sam Cooke to come to your show if you knew he was going to possess you for the after party? Yes, yes I would. No doubt about that.

This interview has been edited and condensed for space and clarity.Patty TempletonDGO Staff Writer


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