Hey LA, are you ready to feel the funk? Summer Love is drawing to a close and Crew Love will be slinging the jams with authority this Saturday, September 16th. Taking place on the Treehouse Rooftop overlooking DTLA, this will be an incredible event that you should make a serious effort to attend. The whole squad will be in tow and it's hard to imagine the emotions that will be spilling into the streets as the California sun tucks behind the beautiful LA skyline. To close out our Summer Love series, we chatted with the boys behind Soul Clap to get a feel for the duo we all know and love.
Soul Clap is, hands down, the pinnacle of funk in the modern age. For the last decade they've churned out a seemingly endless supply of top notch tunes, all the while running their label Soul Clap Records and contributing heavily towards Crew Love's success. They tour like crazy but they seem to understand that it's the serious studio time that allows for them to raise the bar of quality over time. As seen by their work with George Clinton and "Little" Louie Vega, they have an incredible amount of respect for the masters who came before them, and actively seek to show their audiences how deep the funk goes.
MM: How did you two meet?
Charlie: We first met in the raves in the mid to late 90s. We were at two neighboring high schools. They were a little more focused on the arts, sort-of alternative high schools where the student government could hire and fire the teachers. We had a mutual friend that went to my high school named Sour P aka Hardcore Pete aka Vegan Pete. We used to throw anti-thanksgiving rallies and serve tofurky and show peta videos of turkey slaughter. He knew that we were both DJing and it was the 90's so there weren't so many DJs so he said we should meet. We started going record shopping together and noticed we were buying the same material and then started sharing our record collection.
MM: What came next?
Charlie: Creatively, the Soul Clap as artistry didn't come until later on. We had a mobile DJ company that Eli had started in high school and when I graduated from college I joined in. They were already doing weddings, high school dances, and bar-mitzvahs. We were a one stop shop for entertainment. We did stuff like mobile DJing, throwing small events, doing bar gigs, equipment rental, and sometimes helping promote. It wasn't until 2007 until we gave up and sold our shares. Then we went straight into the studio and focused on making Soul Clap into something viable.
MM: After you guys went from being record collectors to partners, what did the working relationship look like?
Charlie: Back then we would make these press packs for all the measly little gigs that we had. We’d put these folders with mixes on a CD and we’d hand them out to the all the promoters, clubs, and department stores; anywhere that could have a DJ really.
MM: What did the creative interaction look like starting off?
Charlie: We were trying our hardest to make original music, but most of the work we produced were edits for our gigs at Macy’s, the department store. The original stuff was alright, but these edits were really turning it out. Seth Troxler and Shaun Reeves were the stars at that time and they were playing the edits in clubs in Berlin, which was incredibly important in helping us make a name for ourselves.
MM: What were your favorite skills you developed at that time?
Charlie: I think having the experience of playing all these different clubs all around the world really changed the way that we looked at DJing. We were able to play the music that we played in our bedrooms and had only ever dreamed of playing in front of a crowd. It really gave us a better understanding of the music and how it applies.
MM: What does your creative process look like when you set out to make a track?
Eli: There's not really a lot of planning. When we write Soul Clap music it's a lot of jamming, that's the basis of it and it has been for the longest time. The coolest thing about switching from Logic to Ableton was that we could use Ableton as an instrument. We worked a lot with Gadi from Wolf + Lamb and we'd daisy chain a couple computers together to play around. Then we’d hit record and see what happened. I think we're much more improvisational, which definitely speaks to the funk and jazz influences.
MM: Do you guys ever feel discouraged about the work you're doing?
Eli: It’s tough, I think we've never really taken the easy way out wIth the music that we play and the music that we make. Instead of falling into doing one thing that works, we've always tried to push creatively and experiment with other things. There could be some frustration, but you know, feeling creatively inspired is the reward. I don't think I would trade that for anything and it's really easy to lose that when you start chasing what's easy.
MM: How do you stoke your creative fire?
Charlie: You gotta shake it up. Originality was a huge driver for establishing Soul Clap, because in the mobile DJ world, we’d be playing other people’s playlists for private events. We vowed that we were never going to play music that we didn’t believe in.
MM: What was working in the studio with George Clinton like?
Eli: It was really organic, man. We were showing him our stuff, but once ideas are sparked with him, he's the leader of the pack. He very clearly has his creative ideas and you just go along and see what happens. It's amazing.
MM: What lessons did you take away from him?
Charlie: Inspiration and affirmation. It affirmed that what we were doing was legitimate. That we weren't faking the funk, that it was being recognized. You can't say the funk is fake if George Clinton is down. It could be easy to write us off as a bunch of white boys doing what we're doing, but it was just about music and energy and attitudes, it wasn't about race.
Eli: I agree, music at it's purest is an energy form. But you do see a lot of cultural appropriation, especially in dance music. You see this culture that was predominantly a gay and black culture that is now about 90% white, so there's this music from marginalized groups that is being used for people's gain, without actually respecting the legacy.
MM: Do you think there's a way to mitigate that?
Eli: Yeah, keep it real. For us, we seek to build these bridges to the original artists and actually trying to work with them. Not just faking the funk but actually shining a light on the history.
MM: After working with George Clinton, is there anything else on your bucket list?
Eli: Doing the live thing is really big. Being able to make this band thing happen is hugely exciting. Also, always be spreading the funk and the house. The other thing is that I'd really love to have an album that gets critical acclaim. We put so much work into our first two albums but they didn't really resonate. So, we keep throwing stuff at the wall, keep working on trying to make music and hope that one will connect with people.
MM: Do you pay attention to reviews?
Charlie: Way early on in our career I read a Miles Davis' biography. He always got slammed, especially when he was doing the experimental stuff that I love the most. So, he stopped paying attention to the press. We had a fair amount of backlash from various journalists for the music that was really propelling our career forward. However, I don't think we're really sitting around waiting; we've got fans coming up and expressing real emotion about their love for the music and how much it's meant for them. How it's either introduced them to dance music, or how they learned more about the old school and the new school. We know the love is there, which is what moves us forward.
MM: What is the essence of Soul Clap?
Charlie: If you could bottle us and sell us as cologne, it would smell like Frankincense and Muir.
Eli: Well, we do burn Nag Champa at all of our parties.
Charlie: The essence of Soul Clap is Nag Champa and baby wipes. In all seriousness, it's about gratitude towards our idols, and shining a light on the myriad of musical history that came before us.