First Look: The London Souls Give Psychedelic Rock A Fresh Coat On "Crimson Revival" [Song Premiere + Exclusive Interview]
The London Souls Photographed by Eddie Pearson for Okayplayer.
Until last night, The London Souls had never actually performed in London. Born and bred within New York City’s rich musical culture, the duo comprising guitarist Tash Neal and drummer Chris St. Hilaire cut their first record in their namesake city, but plugging in and performing for an English audience was crossed off their to-do list only hours ago. An American band with a British name–yes it’s a small surprise. But then it only takes five minutes with Neal and St. Hilaire to realize that the group has a talent for knocking down expectations.
The band’s journey began in an early-aughts Manhattan, ground zero for a much-hyped rock renaissance at the hands of The Strokes, The White Stripes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. But for Neal and St. Hilaire, things go much deeper than that. Growing up, home collections of jazz and Spanish folk were guiding their sonic journeys and at school the hip-hop of the mid 1990s was opening their minds to even more rhythmic possibilities. “So by the time rock and roll reemerged in the early 2000s, we had already found what we wanted to do,” St. Hilaire said.
What they were doing was writing more and practicing harder than anyone else around. Neal and St. Hilaire first met in 2002 while still in their teens and quickly recognized a shared commitment to the music. Songs came quickly, as did other bandmates, but since at least 2008 the heart of The London Souls has been the guitarist and drummer. “A lot of clowns ‘figured their lives out’ while they were with us. We just kept at it,” St. Hilaire said. As the years passed the duo honed their craft into a strain of blues that sways beneath delicate vocal harmonies and a keen sense of melody. The two men have spent most of their adult lives together as a band.
Now, The London Souls’ dedication is paying off in spades. Neal and St. Hilaire have formed a bond that players twice their age rarely reach and the band’s live show is like a fire—bright, hot and unpredictable. Neal flirts back and forth between rhythm and lead guitar lines, channeling both Jimmy Page and the gypsy verve of Django Reinhardt. St. Hilaire, for his part, is a bombastic, airtight drummer who’s somehow found the ability to croon out delicate vocal lines even as his hands are busy bringing his instrument to the brink of demolition. The London Souls play the hell out of their songs, but never show off or strut. The band is living proof that under all of rock’s image obsession and past its half-baked revolutions, there’s still some real music to be found.
On a blustery spring day in New York City Okayplayer sat down with with The London Souls to talk about their inspirations, frustrations, and wild stories from the road. Click through to get familiar with the two souls that make up London Souls–and get to know their muscular psychedelic sounds via the Okayplayer premiere of their infectious song “Crimson Revival.”