Great performers always have their loyal fans, because, after all, music is better live. Its for this very reason that Soulive is still going strong and just released their sixth studio album, No Place Like Soul. However, will this new album, the first with lead singer Toussaint, change Soulive’s place within the industry? Regardless both drummer and de facto band leader Allen Evans and Toussaint don’t seem worried as they took some time to interview with MVRemix.
MVRemix: Hey, how’s it going?
Allen: Everything’s good, man.
MVRemix: Thanks for taking your time. So which number album is this? The sixth?
Allen: Definitely more than that. You know, I don’t even know.
Toussaint: Seven or eight.
MVRemix: Six or eight?
Toussaint: I’m new to the group so I don’t know shit. I just show up and sing. You know what I mean? [laughs]
MVRemix: I guess you guys are pretty relaxed.
Toussaint: [laughs] Always.
MVRemix: Compared to most artists I interview.
Toussaint: Laid back, baby. Can’t be no other way.
MVRemix: You guys are mostly famous for being a jam band. Is it harder for you guys to go in the studio and translate that feeling onto a record? You know what I’m saying?
Allen: Not really because we’ve never even tried to. It’s like, for me, the studio is a beautiful place to just experiment, and we use that as a vehicle to be able to go other places where you can’t go in a live show. And the live show, you do things that you can’t do in the studio. They’re just two completely separate things, in my mind.
MVRemix: Oh really?
Toussaint: Yeah, yeah, yeah. At least for us, it’s just easier. It’s just easier that way. Also, what’s the point of recording something exactly what someone’s going to get at the show, they walk out and it’s the same. You’re trying to give them the same experience. I just like to offer different sides of us.
MVRemix: That’s interesting because I always felt like groups like The Roots too- are you familiar with their stuff?
Allen: Oh yeah, of course. Yeah.
MVRemix: Things Fall Apart– I didn’t like that album too much, but then when I saw them live, I was like ohhhh! They played some of those songs. I was like “I get it now”. You know? So you’re saying when people listen to the album, they hear it one way, but when they see it live, it opens up a whole other mindset, vision.
Allen: Right, exactly.
MVRemix: Okay. So are you guys working with anybody on this album?
Allen: No, it’s just the four of us. No guests or anything like that. Just a band, you know.
MVRemix: How does the creative process work? Is it usually one person that comes up with more ideas or is it like a melting pot of creativity?
Allen: I mean, for the most part, it’s kind of hard to say. Really, there isn’t one person who comes up with the majority of ideas or things like that. We all come to the table with ideas. In particular Aaron, Neal, myself have ideas mostly on the instrumental tip, not instrumental, but we came up with music. And then Trus came back with some amazing melodies and lyrics for the tunes. Then there were some tunes that already had lyrics and things like that, but again, even with tunes that already had lyrics that Trus didn’t write, it was very important for us to have him put his thing on it. In the end, everybody’s contribution to the music helps create the sound. Otherwise, you might as well do a bunch of solo items. That’s what the Soulive thing is- everybody has freedom to express exactly what they’re feeling, how they feel in music.
MVRemix: It sounds like you guys still enjoy it. It’s not a business yet for you. How do you guys stay so close? Still enjoy the studio process with each other? Is there ever tension?
Toussaint: I can’t answer for the history of Soulive, but since I joined the group, I feel like, I came in August, and we initially did a 10 day run, like a trial run. The chemistry was so nice and we went into the studio and recorded the record, but during this process it’s been just the energy of creating. Seems like to me anytime you do anything for such a long time, you get into a routine or whatever. And it seems like there’s a new, like a fresh energy that we’re all tapping into and we’re loving it. That’s what it feels like to me. You know what I mean? It’s brand new again. Allen, I don’t know what you would say to that.
Allen: It’s foolish to think that whenever you have four people or 10 people, whatever it is, together, all creative people trying to make something- music, or whatever, it’s not going to be all good all the time. But that’s alright because we’re all family. Really in the end, there’s compromises to be made and things like that, but in the end it’s all about making good music. The thing is, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now if I wasn’t having fun. Yeah, true. It’s a business, and I definitely approach Soulive as business. This is how I make my living. This is how I feed my family and everything. But at the same time, I love what I do. The day I stop having fun and loving playing music, I’m just done. I’m going to walk away, and not even think twice about it. It just has to be fun, or it’s just impossible to be creative.
Toussaint: You’re right. Your creating comes from- and that book The Secret that everybody’s reading- it says creating comes from joy. You know what I’m saying? That’s where it’s born of. You can’t create unless you have joy. That’s reality. That’s dope. I’m glad you said that.
MVRemix: Which songs did you guys have the most enjoyment doing on this album?
Allen: That’s a tough question. Honestly, this is the first album that we’ve done that I can actually sit back and listen to as just me. Not sitting back critiquing it or saying man, I wish I would’ve done that, or this tune is cool. Honestly, it’s the first album I can just put in my IPOD and whatever I’m listening to I can go. I want to listen to the new Soulive album. So I’m going to check it out. I just dig it because the whole process for me was great. I loved every second of making this album.
MVRemix: Allen, why would you say that? Just from this being your sixth album, I think you said? Being your sixth album, is it just like-
Allen: Yeah, well…
MVRemix: Kind of perfecting it?
Allen: A lot of it is learning experiences over the years. Working in the studio takes a lot of learning. It’s really hard to be happy with what you do in the studio. It just takes time. And also, one of the things that really helped the most was having a producer on this album. We all, Aaron, Neal and I, in the past as of right now, I’ve produced things outside of Soulive for bands and things like that. So in the past, it’s always been produced by Soulive, but what that usually means is there’s too many damn cooks in the kitchen. You know what I mean? So everybody has an ideas of it should be this way, it should be this way, it should be this way. By the time the album is done, it’s just like a compilation of ideas, rather than this time we had Stuart, our producer. That situation allowed us just to be artists. Just sit back and do good takes, and he would give us comments like you guys should try this. Maybe you should put the bridge over here. You should try this this way. No, that just isn’t happening, so let’s move on. So in a way, we were detached from that end of things. It’s easier to just sit back and listen to the final product because a lot of it wasn’t just our creation, our making. It was a collaborative effort with Stuart, our producer, who had a lot of great ideas. He’s an awesome, accomplished musician himself. That really helped me really dig this album.
MVRemix: That’s good. Alright, so because you didn’t know the question before when I said which songs did you enjoy the most, so maybe you’ll have a different opinion after you perform this album live? Or have you started performing these songs?
Toussaint: I’ll tell you- the song that I love to perform live is “Mary”. Because live we take them to church on that shit. It’s for real. When Allen sent me the music, it was completely cathartic. It came out in five, ten minutes- melody, lyrics, everything. We switched it up because one part of it they made me switch up, but for the most part it came out like it is. Live, when we play that shit live, oh my god, we crush them every time because the song takes you there every single time.
MVRemix: That was a good one.
Allen: Like we were talking about before, it’s just a different experience live than it is in the studio. It’s a great tune, but live….well..[laughs].
MVRemix: I see you guys are coming to College Park, right? In Februrary?
MVRemix: That’s my alma mater.
Allen: Oh what up man?
MVRemix: Yeah, so I’m in DC right now. I don’t think you guys are coming to DC though, are you?
Allen: Yeah on the fall tour we’ll be in DC.
MVRemix: When does the fall tour start?
Allen: It starts August 22.
Toussaint: Twenty-third we’re in Atlanta, baby!
Allen: We’ll be in DC sometime in September, close to the end of September.
MVRemix: Okay, I’ll have to come out for that. So you guys are originally from New York, right?
Allen: The band is based out of New York, but we’re kind of from all over the place.
MVRemix: Where are you guys from?
Toussaint: I’m from Indiana. I was born and raised in Indiana.
Allen: And Neal and I grew up in Buffalo, New York.
MVRemix: Oh wow. So you’re kind of Canadian.
Allen: Not exactly.
MVRemix: My family’s from Toronto. My father’s side is from Toronto.
Allen: Yeah, Toronto is awesome. I used to go there all the time.
MVRemix: People are more nice up there, I’d say. Where is Eric from?
Allen: He kind of bounced around. He spent a lot of time in Connecticut, and then Vermont, and New York.
MVRemix: So do you guys have a favorite place to perform? Is the South better, West Coast better?
Toussaint: I’ll tell you. The one venue I damn near rocketed off the stage was New Orleans, Congo Square. That’s where the only place in the South where slaves were allowed to play music. You better believe the spirits are still there. When you step on the ground in New Orleans, you can feel that vibration, but we were right there in Congo Square where music was born in the United States. That vibe that day, I damn nearly lost my mind.
MVRemix: We’re a rap website, so I got to ask you: Allen, what was it like working with Kweli? Did you get to work with him?
Allen: Oh you know what? When that went down, I actually wasn’t there. That’s one of the things about the hip-hop era- a lot of stuff flies around through the internet. No, but I’ve hung with him a bunch. We played live together and things like that, but he’s a cool cat.
Toussaint: I did a lot of work with some cats. There’s a group called Audible Mainframe. They just went out west; they’re in L.A. now. They’re up and coming. You should check for them because they’re really sick- Audible Mainframe. Those are my cats. This dude named Exhibition is the MC of that group. They talking about some conscious lyrics. Another group called The Foundation. East Coast cats underground that been grinding and doing real music. I started off as a hip-hop group in Boston. It was called Red Pill.
MVRemix: Was it a reggae group? Did you do reggae or hip-hop?
Toussaint: I do everything. I do reggae, hip-hop, cocktail lounge jams.
MVRemix: Are you touring with any other groups or is it just you guys?
Allen: For the fall tour, the opening acts are going to be announced pretty soon. I know one of note is we’re doing two nights with Musiq Soulchild in New York in the fall tour.
MVRemix: Why not Philly for him? That’s interesting. Are there any artists you guys are going to try to work with in the future? Or would like to perform live with?
Allen: Honestly, I don’t really think about that because just in my experience, the situations that come about just because they come about are usually the best. I know with us, when it’s been like let’s get so and so, or let’s get so and so, it’s usually cool, but some things you just can’t force. A lot of times it’s those collaborations or situations that are just unexpected are the most fun. I go along day by day and see what happens.
MVRemix: The spontaneity of the situation drives it?
Allen: Exactly because those are the genuine situations that come about. Because it’s all about mutual respect and things like that. Those are just my favorite kind of situations.