If you were lucky enough to grab a ticket for the Great Hall on the 28th before it sold out weeks ago, here’s a reason to be there soon after doors: you’ll get to witness the explosive duo that is The London Souls, supporting Catfish and the Bottlemen.
There’s no doubt the laidback pair from New York will electrify the crowd with their trail-blazing style of live music that both listeners and the musicians are reluctant to categorise. As Tash Neal, the band’s lead singer and guitarist told me, “We write original music very steeped in all facets of rock and roll. It’s important to us to follow whatever muse is true to the moment.” And while Exeter may not be known for attracting musicians, we’re privileged to be the first date on The London Souls’ UK tour. “It’s a really great opportunity to play in front of new crowds and audiences who don’t know us, especially when you’ve never really played in the area.”
“We’ve always been explosive in terms of our approach… my near death experience has brought that out of us as writers and musicians”
The Grammy award-winning Eric Krasno produced the band’s second album Here Come The Girls, a chunky 13-track album which was recorded in a lightning-fast couple of weeks. Tash explains the speed: “We just had a wealth of material at the time and we were really wanting to get into the studio to bring out new songs to light.”
Despite being recorded back in 2012, a serious accident set the release back until this year. “We’ve always been explosive in terms of our approach,” Tash explains. “If anything, my near death experience has brought that out of us as writers and musicians.” The band were preparing to tour their new material when Tash was critically injured in a hit-and-run accident. In a coma, it was feared he wouldn’t even be able to talk for up to a year, but Neal defied the odds and was playing live again months later. “When we approach our live set now it can’t not be performed with the understanding that tomorrow is not promised.” Chris St. Hilaire, the band’s drummer and singer, has previously said that “getting back out and playing shows and touring seemed to speed up his recovery. Music had a way of healing him.”
Here Come The Girls is one of those rare albums that delivers track after track of captivating music, from the blisteringly confident opening of When I’m With You, to the satisfyingly crashing percussion that sits behind Neal’s soulful vocals in Valerie. With such variation in style and influential genres I had to ask what their favourite is, an admittedly basic question they neatly sidestepped by answering, “Hercules is a great sign of growth sonically and musically for us as a band in a great way. It’s not only what we do but what we’re moving away from as well. It’s a blast to hear that trade off in record form.”
Trade-offs, movement, not sticking to a genre – it’s refreshing to find artists so at ease with where their style is going. “I see the music progressing ten-fold. I’d imagine the songs would get progressive and more comprehensible and cognizant of what’s going on in life. However, having said that, I hope the opposite is true so that we get to reconnect and start from scratch with legends we admire.” Change isn’t particularly new to the band: they’ve had as many as four band members in the past before stripping down to the current two. Has that had an effect on the band’s famously energetic live sets? “If anything the stage dynamic has gotten more intense. In fact, before that we were a quartet and I played bass for a period. The only main thread was Chris and I composing and imagining how these songs would come out.”
The name The London Souls may seem strange when the duo is New York through and through, but it’s easily explained. “New York was absolutely an influence musically, as it always has been… we realised not only did this name look good but it could work when trying to describe what we do.” Relix have described English rock-and-rollers like Led Zeppelin as embedded in the DNA of the London Souls’ music. “We are a band that doesn’t discriminate against influences… so here we are. Either you dig new original Rock and Roll or you don’t.”
“We are a band that doesn’t discriminate against influences… so here we are. Either you dig new original Rock and Roll or you don’t”
The London Souls have had a vibrant year, hopping between live shows and festivals. I asked what their highlights had been. “Life is Beautiful [Vegas Festival] was amazing. I gotta say one of the greatest moments of the festival and my life in general was meeting Ghostface Killah. Such a huge influence musically and rhythmically. And also seeing the live Kendrick Lamar set was incredible. Truly.” Still, banging out set after set with their trademark enthusiasm has to be draining. What music do they listen to, to keep going? “We listen to Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Louie Armstrong for starters. A lot of times it depends on the drive what we are listening to. Sometimes Bombs Over Baghdad is just what you need generally.”
“We’re just lucky to be on this tour with them [Catfish and the Bottlemen],” Tash says. “They’re a great band but all we can do is be ourselves and we’re quite grateful to be able to play our rock and roll music for their crowd.” I get the feeling that the crowds in return will be more than grateful for The London Souls’ unique sound.
London Souls support Catfish and the Bottlemen at Exeter Great Hall tomorrow (28 October), limited tickets available at the Exeter Great Hall Box Office.