Personifying the Rock and the Roll! Get Ready for Some Soul Shakers!
Interview with Elias and Brett of The Soul Shakers
After a chance meeting outside a club on Sunset Strip, a move to Nashville, Tennessee and now back in the land of Los Angeles, this blues driven raucous rock duo are clearly defining their brand of what's shakin. Their repertoire and live shows are guaranteed to raise your very soul and strike a nerve, regardless of your musical tastes.
Song River: A chance meeting outside a local club was the beginning. How important is it do you think for musicians to get out and watch other bands and maybe meet other musicians?
Elias Paul Ready (TSS) - I think it's extremely important. Not only just to keep your ear to the ground and know what's going but also to build relationships. There's also that needed sense of healthy competition that pushes you to take chances and step outside the box.
Song River: The sound emanating from The Soul Shakers reaches back into the roots of rock/blues. This style is a bit outside of what you were used to or is it?
Elias (TSS) - Frankly I think the blues/rock thing is something natural that we all have in our blood. But with maturity I guess we gravitated toward more of a timeless/retro or classic style of music. I've played a lot of different styles of music, and what we do is what just comes out naturally. Which is great because rock n roll is the perfect vehicle to express yourself. We've got love songs, breakup songs, songs about sex, drugs, and rock n roll. We don't intend on sounding like anything. The blues/rock thing is just what comes naturally.... along with the bell bottoms, Chelsea boots, scarves and velvet.
Song River: What is it about the grit and grind of rock that brought you together do you think?
Elias (TSS) - I'd say it would simply be fighting the good fight. Trying to get guitars back on the radio and people out to see live rock shows again. There really is something truly powerful and communal about live performances. And that's what we both love to do. We were both living in the same place at the same time, running the same circuit with a lot of the same friends, crossing paths and dating the same girls. It was inevitable.
Song River: Like our society has in many ways... did you both feel the lines of rock n roll had become far too blurred and convoluted?
Elias (TSS) - What lines? Ha, honestly it's hard to think of many current popular modern rock bands. I can't remember the last time I've heard a guitar solo on the radio.... aside from maybe The Black Keys, or The Darkness or Jack White. I feel like the rock scene has died down considerably in the last ten years or so. That changes absolutely nothing about what we do or believe in, though. We're doing what we love regardless.
Song River: Working with your chosen producer, Dan Malsch, did he get what and where you both wanted to go immediately or did it take him a bit?
Elias (TSS) - Dan is a great guy and fantastic producer. He took on the project immediately and we all vibed out right away. His studio is fantastic and he's a fan of the project which obviously is everything. Brett and I had pretty much everything laid out and ready to record. Dan had some great suggestions but I think his strong point with us was letting us do our thing. He was really focusing more on getting the right sounds.
Song River: How about the director getting the visual down for the first video/music single "Here To Have A Good Time?" Did Shane Drakes vision sit right away with both of you?
Elias (TSS) - I actually wrote the treatment for the video and came up with the story line—basically it’s a condensed version of Brett and I running around town, kind of coming out of a rut, and linking up in this "moment of salvation" if you will, when we get to our safe haven and rock out with people we love. Shane is an amazing director and an amazing person. He works very quickly and knows exactly what he's going for and gets it done.
Again, I’d like to say that the video is just a quick inside look at our lives. There were no paid actors, everyone in the video is a friend of ours, and it was shot at the bar I worked at and booked bands at in Los Angeles.
But yes, Shane is somewhat of a genius. He has an amazing eye and his sense of improvisation is impeccable.
Song River: Music follows politics and social climate. We are hearing a resurgence back to true punk and rock n roll. Is it a duty or just a natural inclination do you think in the music world that politics/social climate march with music being produced?
Elias (TSS) - I'd say so. What better way to get your point across than to put it to a tune that's going to stay in people's heads? Shit, we have a national anthem don't we? In my opinion, though, it's done better when it's not so in your face. There's a fine line between being clever about it and also being afraid to say exactly what you want to and playing it safe.
John Lennon knew how to do it. It was almost like his own little game. It made people listen for what he was going to say next. So I'd say it's more of a dutiful thing than not.
Song River: Live. When you perform is there a sense of being as relaxed and carefree to just groove to the sounds as it feels like there is on your studio cuts?
Elias (TSS) - Really it depends on how prepared you are just before. It should be a carefree thing, expressive and fun more than anything. I usually just wear my guitar for about an hour before the show just to get in the zone. Also, the way we set up our live set list definitely lends to us being more relaxed. We'll come out guns blazing because that feels natural and you definitely want to cash in on the pre-show excitement/anxiety. But then we'll settle back and play some ballads in the middle of the set to groove out.
Song River: Elias, how difficult or was it for you to take the mindset of what you were used to doing in The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and cut it loose? Were you always more attuned with the root sound of rock even then?
Elias (TSS) - I've been a fan of all styles of music and have played lots of different styles as well. My first tapes and records were all rock from Steppenwolf, Hendrix to Lenny Kravitz. I'd say the style of music I was playing in Red Jumpsuit came purely from the teenage angst days. Trying to find yourself and be a part of something different and cutting-edge.
If you've been to the Warped Tour I'm sure you understand. It felt good knowing that we were giving a voice to millions of young kids and addressing issues they could relate to. Funny enough, people think it's all parties and sex and drugs in the rock music world. Red Jumpsuit was more about helping people and playing for the youth. A lot of our fans were just high school kids that were trying to find themselves.
Song River: Brett, just checking out some of your tunes on Reverbnation and noticed immediately the roots of rock, but there was something about the whisper of Santana and "Black Magic Woman" that kept creeping in between as well, especially on the tune "The Traveler" and then all Rolling Stones jam breaks loose on "Feels So Good." You seem most comfortable under some of the cool cats of rock. Talk a bit about your background.
Brett Hellings (TSS) - I grew up in a household that really loved music. My parents would always be playing oldies and Motown mostly. My mom loved the Beatles as well but my first real introduction to rock and roll was when my brother took me to my first concert… it was Stone Temple Pilots. I think that’s when my life’s decision was made. I’d been taking piano lessons from early on, but after that concert I started learning guitar and singing just about all the time, after that being a frontman was all I wanted to be.
I spent a short time at Berklee School of Music and then decided to go straight into the business by writing my first solo record—that’s what you’re mentioning here. I loved that record—even though I was young it definitely describes me as I was at that time.
That record brought me out to LA, where I started really cutting my teeth on the Strip. I toured that record for a bit, but really wanted to be part of a rock and roll band so I started one with my brother, named it Hellings, and put out a record. I spent a couple years with that project before I started just singing for all kinds of bands, until the Nasty Souls came along. The was the closest thing to a true blues/rock band I wanted, and after a four year career with them, touring and putting out some killer rock n roll, it ended.
All of it paved the way for Elias and I eventually working together.
That’s the band he used to come out and really see me in and think it made him believe that rock n roll was very much still alive. And I don’t regret a moment. I’m lucky to have found such a talented singer and songwriter, and all of our experiences, shared and separate, have lead to the creation of the Soul Shakers. I think now we’re at the peak of our game, and can’t wait to see what the future holds for us with the release of our debut Revolution Ride.
Song River: The Soul Shakers is currently unsigned and kicking some rock ace independently. Are you looking to keep it going that way or what would you both like to see happen come 2017? Plus, any tour dates so we can hear you live?
Brett (TSS) - It’s a good question. We have a smaller indie label helping to get us out there and giving us support to get our momentum going. It’s a funny thing—you love the freedom you have with your songs and vision when you’re independent, but the support of a major entity sure sounds nice sometimes. I guess it all depends on who it is and if it’s the right thing for us and our sound. We know that can take time to find, and we definitely wouldn’t get involved with anything that takes away from what we are trying to do. That can also be hard because, as you might have noticed, pure rock and roll is not the most popular style of music out there right now. We’re gonna continue to do what we do and when the right person or people come along, I think we’ll know.
We do have some dates coming up!
Jan. 7th @ the High Watt in Nashville w/ the Tip and the Starbenders. Also, Jan.18th @ the Viper Room back to our home in LA before NAMM
Make sure to keep up on our Facebook and website thesoulshakersmsuic.com for more details and shows! And of course to stay tuned for our record release in the upcoming year.
"Here To Have A Good Time"