In many ways, Soul Clap have followed the career narrative of their soul forebears. The Boston duo started out as producers of funk music, its edges blurred by a legacy of disco, hip-hop and reggae, and its centre forged by an inclusive celebration of the elevated state of artistic positivity. After only one album, Eli Goldstein (Bamboozle) and Charles Levine (Lonely C) established a record label and reached their hands out to a variety of upbeat artists from the scene. Following a stint of work with George Clinton in his studio in Florida, Lonely C (AKA Cnyce) took some time out to talk to us about future plans and returning to Australia next year for Sugar Mountain festival.
What’s on the Soul Clap horizon at the moment?
What’s on the horizon? Well, actually, Eli and I are in the studio right now and we’re working on a new album that’s going to come out maybe six months, maybe a year down the line. But finally working on something more concrete because we’re due for another album.
I’m not surprised it hasn’t come out sooner. The last two years have been huge for you. You set up Soul Clap records. What were some of the difficulties in launching your own label?
Well, one of the difficulties is figuring out your place in the current vinyl market and trying to figure out what your listeners would want to have on wax as collectors and as DJs, separately. It’s an expense to start a label and do all the things we want to do in terms of art direction and cool projects, music videos, that stuff. We’re very fortunate to have artists like Nick Monaco, David Marsden, DJ Kon, Night Plane who are all contributors to the label and have amazing content so that’s one thing that we’ve never waxed is an abundance of dope music. We have a lot of things that are also happening. We just put out a release by Midnight Magic who are a Brooklyn based disco band and they are phenomenal, it’s been getting huge love. Also, this project that’s taken the bulk of two years, basically what we’ve been working on since the album which is a collaboration with George Clinton from Parliament Funkadelic. So in many ways, this is what’s been occupying our time and it’s also interesting that that relationship has spawned several trips down to Tallahassee, Florida where George Clinton has his studios that are full of all these young musicians that are the kids and grandkids of Parliament Funkadelic. Granted, they’re making more of the hip-hop in terms of music, but they’ve still got the funk down there. These guys are all featured as session musicians on our next album which, in some ways, will be kind of EFUNK part II but validated because what we call EFUNK, we’ve then combined with the funk to put our stamp on this sound, you know?
What was it like working with George Clinton?
It was a trip, man. For sure. He’s my musical idol, it was amazing. He’s in his 70s now, but he was still the first person in the studio and the last to leave. He’s like a workhorse and I think I was fortunate to be there at a time when he was having a real upswing in both his mood and his energy levels and he’s just the illest.
Did you know that in Australia, we have a hip-hop label called Soul Clap?
You know, I’ve seen that and I think we’re all kind of tapped in to a cool concept in music and in spirit so what are you going to do? We kind of realised too late in the game that it was a kind of generic idea but, I mean, there’s even something in New York called Jonathan Toubin’s Soul Clap and Dance-Off which is a real popular party where people get down and have dance competitions while this DJ is playing these cool, boogie-woogie 45s, you know? So whatever, it’s all good. It’s all standing for a positive thing.
And it’s all essentially still oriented around celebrating music.
I think it’s amazing that the concept of soul clap can permeate so many different methods and areas of music. Because we all are able to do our thing and have our fan base. Our fans might only know us as soul clap or maybe for those hip-hop guys, their fans probably- you know what I mean?
Your techniques are often hailed as being experimental, at least in your approach to modern funk. Do you see them as being that way?
I think that’s kind of accurate to a point. Certainly early on when we made the switch to Ableton, it kind of felt like it broke the door. Our first, first records back in 2008 or whatever were finished on Logic and then we made this jump and in learning this new program, we kind of didn’t really follow the rules exactly. We got into using the live arrangement window to do our recording process. So rather than drawing out these blocks, we would hit play and automate things and see where the track would go to kind of get that looser and more freeform feeling. I think not coming from super heavy, sound engineering backgrounds, in many ways we were freer to try new ideas. I think the more complex or complicated your music production is, you start to get bound by more rules. It’s funny. When you know very little, you can take things very far.
EFUNK really seems like a turning point sonically. Were you trying to achieve something different or was it because of that transition in terms of software?
We had made the jump long before that. We had been Ableton devotees for many years at that point. I think the first one was kind of trying to show how far and wide our musical influences reach by having kind of a little representation of everything. But I’m really looking forward to sharing this new material that’s going to come in the next year or so because I think that, to me, that album is kind of to get your head around but this one, there’s a lot of space and it kind of takes the pressure off. I think we’ve been able to make some really cool stuff.
Did you see DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist play live recently?
You know what? I was a total loser and I missed that show. It was Eli that went to that show. But I’m really enthusiastic about that project and that idea, it’s dope. Just dope.
So you missed that live act, what would you say your favourite live act that you’ve seen is?
I just came from Stevie Wonder at Square Gardens this week and he’s performing the whole entirety of Songs in the Key of Life. The whole album with this enormous band. Like, two drummers, a three keyboard section, three vocal sections, a string section. It was insane. That was some real inspiration.
You guys are from Boston. Are there any good production duos or emergent genres coming out of the scene right now?
I would shout out DJ Kon who has put out some amazing disco edits and some great original material. And also of course Tanner Ross who’s a Crew Love member, also Wolf & Lamb and Double Standard as well. Dirty Bird records. We’ve all been close friends for a long time.
While I’ve got you going on shout outs, are there any good albums you’re listening to at the moment?
Yeah! There’s many, actually. Eli put me onto this act called Zackey Force Funk and he has a new album out called Money Green Viper that’s some next level new school funk. I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to Holly Cook’s new album. She’s like a reggae artist and I just love her voice. Her new album is called Twice.
So you’re coming to Melbourne for Sugar Mountain in January-
Yeah, that’s going to be great! I heard it’s an amazing fest and I’m excited to see another big festival. There was a festival that we went to called Let Them Eat Cake, I think. Is that right? That was off. The. Hook. That was by far our best Australian date last tour. It was so much fun we didn’t want to leave.
Have you seen the rest of the lineup?
Oh, Arial Pink is going to be there, that’s cool. Dan Deacon, I’ve never seen him before, either. Eli’s connected to one of his homies called Tom Noble. I don’t know a lot of these other acts but- Ooh, Horse Meat Disco, but this looks like a very different and cool concept for a festival. This is dope.
You guys are fairly coordinated dressers. Where do you get your influences from?
It’s kind of funny that there was like a, you know, distinct, ravey style that’s always coming in and out of clothing. Especially for us when we’re out working and doing DJ sets. We’ve had some cool collaborations that we’ve been working on lately in terms of fashion, to share some of our fashion ideas. One is the t-shirt selection we’ve been designing and releasing through Millionhands in the UK, but also we’ve linked up with your fellow Australian Zanerobe who we helped with their Fall line that’s just been dropping in America. So it’s cool to see these products on the shelves, that’s really chill.
Soul Clap are performing at Sugar Mountain in Melbourne on January 24. Find out more here.