Soulive’s pursuits span the Beatles and new bands
Earlier this year it broke that Abbey Road Studios in London—the legendary halls first brought into public consciousness by the Beatles—was in dire financial straits, staring at closure in the face of urban development. It’s a sad commentary on the state of the music business.
Well, Soulive—the jazz-funk organ trio gracing the stage at Moe’s Alley on Wednesday, Dec. 15—knows a thing or two about the economics of running a studio. It also knows a thing or two about the Beatles, given its three-month-old LP of cover tunes, Rubber Soulive. And though Beatles covers may not be the most original of ideas, the inspiration behind Soulive’s take on these classics comes from a natural impulse.
“Initially, we’re like ‘Yo, let’s do a British Invasion album,’” explains drummer Alan Evans. “Obviously a lot of those tunes we wanted to do were Beatles tunes, so it just kind of evolved into what it became. We’ve done original albums forever, as long as we’ve been together. We’ve thrown in maybe a couple cover tunes on a few of those albums, but we just felt like it was time to do something completely different.”
Though it’s an album of pre-written material, Rubber Soulive is still true to expectations of the trio’s (rounded out by guitarist Eric Krasno and Alan’s brother, organist Neal Evans) faithful. While far from being abstract interpretations of the Beatles, the groove-based funk backbone of the band remains in tact. Still, one wonders if an all-covers album would have been possible under Soulive’s previous business arrangements.“We have all the control, we do whatever we want to do,” says Evans about creating the band’s own label, Royal Family Records. “For us it was always kind of frustrating that we’d be ready to record something, but no, you’d have to wait for a certain amount of time, things like that. Those kind of decisions that we just had no control over, that was really frustrating. Now it’s just that we have so much music we want to put out.”
And indeed, at this point, Soulive is pretty much keeping the label afloat by itself. Still, Evans hints that beyond increased creative control for the trio, the seeds have been planted to expand the business and eventually move on to signing new bands and putting out others’ music.
“It seems like these days that’s what everybody’s trying to do,” explains Evans. “We’re just lucky we’ve been doing this long enough so a good number of people know who we are, so it was a little easier for us to really get the label going. It’s just really starting now, but we’re really psyched to see where it’s going to go in the next few years.”
Owning his own studio will probably make the venture easier, as Evans has been operating Play On Brother Studios in Massachusetts for about three years now—further emphasizing the move from large recording halls to home recording and smaller, personally-operated studios.
“It was like ‘Soulive’s not on the road, so I’m really going to get back into engineering as a profession so I can make some bread,’” recalls Evans of the period after 2007’s No Place Like Soul. “So I opened the studio to the public, I guess you could say. It’s been great, it’s definitely successful at a time when a lot of larger studios are closing.”
After being together for 11 years, recording all over and spending a ton of money at other studios, Evans admits it’s nice to settle down in one spot now and take on new roles. “It’s kind of cool—we have like a home studio of our own,” he says. “And it’s great for me, I get to work with a lot of great bands and artists from all over the world, so it’s really inspiring.”
Soulive performs at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 15, at Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. Tickets are $18 in advance, $20 at the door. For more information, call 479-1854.