Jazz Stars Play San Francisco for the Shoes

Soulive talks about playing the Bay Area and more

Not long ago, Bay Area-based writer and photographer Seher Sikandar sat down with soul/jazz trio, Soulive, before a Bay Area show. The Buffalo, New York natives are made up of Neal Evans on keys, Alan Evans on drums, and Eric Krasno on guitar. The boys discussed rib shacks with vegan grannies, interlocking arms and prancing with The Stones, chilling in garbage cans, and the innanets, naturally. 

Any favorites from "Up Here," your newest album?

EK: The one I like right now is “Too Much,” which is a song we did with Nigel.  It’s hard for me to really pick one, but that one I’m having fun with right now; I feel like it’s something that has meaning to it but I [also] like the music of it.

NE: I would say “Backward Jack.”  I think there’s some really cool sonic stuff that happens.  I like tunes where you’ll hear stuff that’s recorded and you think there might be some instrument that’s playing some type of sound.  Like, when Ryan starts his solo – I actually figured out that the organ is making this one kind of pulse – you can’t even tell it’s an organ.  There are all these little kind of aural anomalies that happen in the tune, which I really dig – and it’s got a really dope groove.

AE: Wow, the new album.  Man, that’s tough.  I mean, it’s hard to pick a favorite.  “PJ’s…”

EK: That one is magic.  I didn’t think that would happen when we recorded it.  Yeah, I forgot about that one.

NE: Yeah, “PJ’s” has such a dope vibe…

AE: Yeah, I mean, it’s funny because – pretty much the whole album – but that tune, when I listen to it I forget that it’s us, you know what I mean.  I just think it’s so dope – it’s just some straight magic.

You’ve collaborated with tons of artists.  What’s a collaboration that’s pushed you to grow into a space you hadn’t previously envisioned?

NE: I think there’s an easy answer for that.  It would be the one with Dave Matthews, which was an Ani DiFranco song we covered and then had Dave Matthews sing it.  “Joyful Girl” was the song and the coolest thing was when he came out and sang it with us in Vancouver.  He had twin daughters so he changed the lyrics [for the recording] to “I do it for the love it brings cause you’re a joyful girl.”  But live he actually said, “I do it for the love it brings cause I’m a joyful girl.”  That’s what I was hoping he was gonna do on the recording – so he said that and the whole place went nuts.

EK:  And a lot of people that have heard [the song], that either don’t know Dave Matthews or aren’t really fans of his are like, “wow, he sounds so different on that track.”

NE:  It does sound different.  We [also] changed the feel of her original tune and so because of that, the lyrics had to be sung a little differently.  So I think overall it was just kind of a challenge.  It’s a really great tune – and he loves Ani DiFranco as well, so it was an honor for all of us.

What have you been listening to these days?

NE: One band I really love is called French Kicks – they’re a band out of Brooklyn.  I just picked up their latest – I have all of their albums.  Rock stuff.  Man, really great songwriters.

AE: Actually, last night I just put on some James Brown, Live at the Apollo, Part 3.  Yeah, that was killin cause I hadn’t listened to that stuff in a really long time.  We’ve been kinda doing this James Brown medley at the end of our show.  So it’s really cool to go back and then listen to some actual James Brown stuff that’s like similar tunes but different versions – he has so many different versions.  But this sh*t I was listening to last night was – Oh. My. God – it was so insane, so insane. 

You’ve been to the Bay a number of times; San Francisco or Oakland

NE: We haven’t spent much time in Oakland

AE: I’ve been to Oakland a couple times, never played there.

No Yoshi’s?

NE: Yoshi’s has been wanting us to play there for years – I think we’re gonna do it at some point.

EK: I think we might just do a trio.

In that case, what’s your favorite part about San Francisco?

EK: You know, I always get really good clothes and sneakers here.

NE: My spot is Huf.  I’ve been down with those cats since they opened up   Like, I think it’s been maybe six years.  It’s funny, too, because this is a sneaker town, like a hardcore sneaker town.  But you would think that when you’d come here you wouldn’t find stuff cause there are always sneaker heads here, but surprisingly it’s a place where I come and you always find stuff.

AE: Food.  Food and kicks.

Where’s your favorite place to eat?  I love food, too.

NE: Here? I don’t know…oh, no! I’ll tell you a spot – what’s that German…?


NE: Suppenküche.  You have to go – really killin.  That would be my spot – my new favorite spot.

EK: I’ve had a lot of good food in San Francisco.  Usually, I’ll also hit the little sushi boat place.

NE: The spot’s right in that mall [Miyako Mall in Japantown].  Those spots are killin – get into them if you can stand in line long enough.

EK:  That place, though, if you go a little bit before the rush and you can sit there – the sushi comes around on the boats and you can grab different pieces. I love that.

NE: The sushi boat, always – we’ve at least got to go there once.

NE: Also a killin barbeque spot I was taken to.  It’s like a shack.  It’s a cool spot and it’s rated like the best barbeque in San Francisco.  There’s an old lady in there – she doesn’t even eat ribs, she doesn’t even know how good they are – never had em in her life.  And it’s slammin.

You guys have done a lot of touring. Funny tour moments?

EK: Sam fell into the recycling bin – that was one of the funniest things that’s ever happened. [laughs]

NE: He got drunk and like, he tried to take on Al –

EK: No, he charged at me and then I moved out of the way –

NE: But then he went after Al! Remember –

AE: No, no – I pushed him into the bin.

NE: Oh, that’s right –

AE: Cause he was messin with you [points to Eric] –

NE: And then he came after Al and Al just did the thing and –

EK: The loudest thing you’ve ever heard –

NE: It sounded like a bomb –

EK: Lights went on –

AE: Cats were running down from the club, you know –

NE: Like trying to check it out and the whole club’s out there and Sam’s in the street in a recycling bin with his feet up in the air.

EK: And I was on the ground laughing.

AE: Oh, man.

Ten years strong now – congratulations.  What have been some of the most gratifying moments of your career?

NE: Meeting The Stones, I would definitely say.  Going on tour we played with The Rolling Stones five times.  I think those were some of the coolest shows.  I mean, how many people get a chance to play with them or see them and then meet them?  And Charlie Watts comes back and says “hi” to us every time.  You know, just cool – cool as hell.

AE: Yeah, you know, growing up everybody knows: you could say The Rolling Stones anywhere in the world and most likely cats are gonna know.  So that’s actually kinda amazing that we got to just hang with them and talk.  They’re all just super cool cats, you know, just down to Earth.

NE: First time we played with them, I walked out of the Tower Theatre in Philly with Ron Wood on my arm.  That was cool.  Like, he just kinda walked out and he was just like holding my arm.  And we walked all the way to the limo.  Cool as hell.

EK: And Stevie Wonder sitting in with us was one of the best.  In LA he came to our show and he jumped on stage and started singing and playing harmonica and did a whole bunch of different tunes.  That was a major moment – that was like 2005.

AE: I remember I didn’t sleep, like – that was insane.

EK: That was like, I called my parents…

AE: He came out on the encore as well.  Stevie sang with us and we get done with the show at The House of Blues and we go upstairs backstage.  The scene was so bizarre.  I remember hanging out and these women walk up on me, and I might as well have been Stevie Wonder, you know what I mean.  I’m thinking, “I’m not, I’m just…”  And then, Ryan, our sax player and I, went to this party across the street at the Hyatt and people were just buggin, I mean buggin OUT.  Just the fact that Stevie Wonder was right next to me.  His energy, like, just…spread.  It was the cr…I didn’t sleep for like a day and a half.  It was crazy.

A lot to be proud of. How about something still on your bucket lists?

EK:  I’ve always wanted to backpack through Europe.  I’ve always heard about kids doing that, like, after college.  Even though we’ve done that playing shows, but maybe doing that with a bit more freedom.  I’d like to do a train tour, where we actually travel on a train.  I’ve been talking with some people about actually putting that idea into motion – I know it’s happened before.  I’d [also] like to headline Madison Square Garden and Radio City. 

NK: I’d like to put out my first solo album.  I wanna score a major motion picture.

AE: I still wanna jump off an airplane.

Any random facts about yourselves?

EK: Random fact: I have a metal elbow.  I have big huge scar, I have a metal reconstructed elbow. I played basketball in high school and I got flipped over a guy’s back.  I landed all my weight on my elbow and I crushed it.

NE: Our dad played for the Buffalo Bills.

EK: Oh, yeah.  Their dad’s famous – look up their dad.

NE:  I got two puppies!  Kras and I both have long-haired Chihuahuas.  You can see my pups on Facebook.  Random fact: I’m married, just had my 4-year anniversary.

EK:  And, their dogs – have Dogbook pages.

AE:  Wait, now this is some sh*t!! [excitement stirs in the room]

NE: Kras started this Dogbook page, I thought it was his girl!!  Yeahhhh!!  I woulda never signed up for…Dogbook.

EK:  Alfonso got me on it…

NE:  See Kras looks all hard and everything, but gets on Facebook at home and signs his puppy up.

Parting thoughts, final words?

NE:  Check out Royal Family Records. 

AE:  It’s constantly changing, we’re like updating (the website) all the time.

NE:  It’s a really interactive site.  We’re on there all the time.  Check out our Twitter and Facebook, you know, be in contact with us cause we are accessible and we very much like having the interaction with fans and friends.

EK:  …feedback on what we’re working on.

Looks like you got your individual solo albums coming out soon?

EK:  Yep, mine’s done and will be out late July / early August.

NE:  I’m finishing mine up – it’s basically done.

EK:  Ledisi’s album’s coming out soon and I produced a few of the tracks on there.

NE:  Soulive, we’re gonna go back and record another album.

EK:  And the new album will be more towards Winter or Spring.  Basically, it’s all royalfamilyrecords.com, you can get it all on there.

Seher Sikandar is a Bay Area-based photographer and writer who covers art and lifestyle events. Check out her portfolio at rehescreative.com.

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