Interview - The London Souls
We sat down with NYC duo The London Souls before their performance and the inaugaral Landmark Music Festival. We talked to Chris and Tash about SXSW, labelling their sound, and more. Read below for more from The London Souls.
CSDC: Welcome to DC! How do you like it so far?
Tash: DC is cool. There's a lot of potential for federal crimes to happen here, we're trying to stay out of the way.
CSDC: Since we're at a festival, what's your favorite fest you've played?
Chris: There's a bunch. We just played in Colorado. It's cool, it's a beautiful place. Afro punk fest was pretty cool. We also did Austin, Texas, way back, for SXSW.
CSDC: How was that?
Tash: Stressful. Even if you're not in the band, walking on the street there is just stressful. The artists are kind of bottom of the barrel. It's all about the advertisers and promoters. The big names get all of what anyone's trying to get out of it. Small artists don't really benefit from that. If you're just releasing an album and there are a lot of labels there, you'll probably meet someone who wouldn't see you otherwise.
CSDC: I heard it's like bootcamp for bands. Is that a little dramatic?
Tash: It's probably an understatement!
Chris: It's really hard to describe. Here's an example: we play at a venue, we load our gear into the back on a dirt hill. There's no help getting to the stage, however there is high-security to get there. So security is stopping us with our equipment from playing the show. After the show, we load out, and the security guard informs me that he had to chase a crackhead away because he tried to hop a fence to steal our gear from this back alley. So, those are the kind of things you have to deal with there.
Tash: I'll have to tag in there. Same day, same show. We are loading into the venue, and we are right next to the trash can...
Chris: Oh, right! We are standing outside of our van, next to the trash cans at around 3 PM. I'm just standing there waiting for our gear to be transferred, and I look over to my right. Somebody runs up and just projectile vomits into the trash can. Then, his friend is helping him out. I got him some water and tried to help out too. Some guy to my left hands he a flyer and is like "hey, check out my band!" And I'm just like man, I don't want your flyer, not right now. You feel like you were underwater trying to catch your breath. A lot of people put themselves through that thinking it's worth it. For young bands, it's not worth it. When Kanye West is playing it, as a young band, I feel like you don't get attention.
CSDC: How did you get here (meaning where they are today, successfully)? Did you always know you wanted to do music?
Chris: Well, we were both musicians in New York City. We were young, and we enjoyed the way that we played together. There weren't a lot of people of the same kind of musical sensibilities. Also, the ability to improvise and write songs. We wanted to do something where we wrote our own material and we got to do our thing. A lot of other people would join a wedding band, or they wanted to be a lawyer, or they wanted to get a quick buck on it, or they're in it not for music at all! They want to be a star and have the attention. Any reason that you would want to become a musician and start a band, we played with all of those people. It widdled and we were with like-minded in that sense. The rest is...
Chris: You can say that, but we are still on our way.
CSDC: You guys are about to tour with Catfish and The Bottlemen! Tell us about that.
Chris: We're playing with them in the UK, it's a sold-out tour. We just released a record over there. We are excited for fans that we have over there to come see us. Even though it's sold out tour, we're still doing a show on our own.
CSDC: I sent your music to my Dad because sometimesI get a little wrapped up in a band, I think it's the perfect song and my Dad is like "not really."
Chris: Is he usually right?
CSDC: I think he is! I trust him. So, I sent over your stuff and I was like I think I'm interviewing them at a festival. He listens and he's like "I love it! Where are they from? What's their deal?" With that being said, it's clear that your music passes over some generational boundaries. Who are some of your inspirations?
Chris: From all over! People ask us to the to describe our sound, I can't do that.
Tash: If we were a band who if we weren’t separate songwriters or we weren’t our own kind of musicians, then we’d be like we are gonna start this kind of specific band or this like doomcore band. You know whatever kind of sub-level type thing you can do. But we’re not.
Chris: We love Soca, we love all sorts of music. Different stuff you know? I grew up in the Caribbean listening to a lot of Calypso and Soca music.
CSDC: What part of the Caribbean did you grow up in?
Chris: Trinidad. You know I feel like a had a pretty diverse musical upbringing early on-so, we pull from all of that. Tash as well. So when we came together we already had the foundation of a lot of different things.
Tash: Puerto Rican hustle, that was it!
Chris: Digging into rock and roll and rhythm and blues. Rolling Stones, Sly & The Family Stone, James Brown, Ray Charles.
Tash: Aretha Franklin.
Chris: Aretha, yeah same music. Jazz, we love jazz. Anyone who expresses themselves on an instrument is an inspiration. You know as a drummer, I looked into people like “who’s good at this? who’s good at the drums?” So I found a lot of music that way. You know Elvin Jones, John Coltrane’s drummer.
Tash: Who is John Coltrane?
Chris: And then it opened me up to a whole other thing, as an instrumentalist. And then set aside songwriting, which is a whole other thing. Of course you have The Beatles, Bob Marley, Neil Young-songwriters.
CSDC: When was that moment you decided to take that jump into music? A lot of people are nervous to do that. It’s there, but it takes something else to actually pursue it-it takes something special.
Chris: Right. Well, I don’t know. I can speak personally that music, it makes me happy. That’s a start. I realized you know, when life started getting a little more stressful, growing up it’s like looking forward to being able to play music and do something cool sort of takes you away from that. You find a way to grow within it. And I realized I needed that. If I don’t play music every day, I don’t feel right. I learned that pretty early on though. As far as making a living doing it, you know that’s a whole other conversation. You can do it every day and still not make a living. There’s a lot of people who are not very good at it that make a living doing it. So, I can’t speak for their intentions but it makes me happy. I knew that I was gonna be doing it either way, so it was like why not commit to it?
CSDC: That’s hard to do. To just do the nontraditional thing.
Chris: Yeah, people don’t take it seriously. But also, we’re lucky we have musicians in our family which helped.
CSDC: They were probably very supportive.
Tash: My parents were super cool but also would tell you if you weren’t good. They wouldn’t have it. They’d be like “that was not in key” or “this is flat.” That was discouraging but also you have to find that part within yourself where it becomes a point of expression. Once you have that relationship with an art, you have to do that. It becomes a thing that you have to do. It’s not something you have to think about it.
CSDC: One question for you specifically, Tash. How does it feel being black in rock music?
Tash: It’s interesting. It puts a lot of things in perspective with people only willing to focus on certain people they know. Like wherever I’m at, certain white people will only know one black person. Whereas other black people, like the other day, some black dudes in the audience were like “Richard Prior!” Anybody or like a certain older white woman will be like “Lenny! You’re like Lenny!” Everyone has their one specific black person they like. It seems like generally people cannot like more than one black person.
CSDC: I hear “Fetty Wap/Will Smith” all the time. That doesn’t make any sense.
Tash: It rarely makes sense. That’s kind of what it’s like. But it’s funny because even though black people have been playing music for years, people still get this dumbfounded “is he really doing that?”
CSDC: Yeah, like rock music, white people.
Tash: And then it’s like, Little Richard or Chuck Berry-or all these people that they do know about but just forget and marginalize. It’s interesting but for us it’s great because we get to play the music that we want and remind people that this is where it comes from.
Chris: I find it funny because rock and roll, it’s really black music. I mean, culturally where it came from. People forget, they don’t realize that.
CDSC: I forget her name, she was bisexual, she was black, and she was a nun. She was one of the first women that ever did rock music.
Chris: Oh, are you talking about Sister Rosetta Tharpe?
CSDC: Is that her name?
Chris: Guitar player? Played an SG?
Chris: See, you watch her and you can’t take, you know, you can’t John Mayer seriously as a guitar player. Then you see Sister Rosetta Tharpe- it’s like come on. Not to talk trash but people talk about rock and roll and they associate certain things and they have an image of it and they forget as an American music where it really came from. That’s pretty annoying. No matter what color you are-that’s just dishonest.
CSDC: Yeah, exactly.
Chris: We like to remind people of that.
We'd like to thank The London Souls for taking the time out of their day to come talk to us! Catch them on their sold out tour in Europe supporting Catfish and The Bottlemen.