Deep Street Soul: Deeper than deep
Funk connoisseurs Deep Street Soul are back! AND back in business with their second album "Look Out Watch Out," on uber cool Freestyle Records, and boy do they carry on with where they left off! Sticking to their guns as this album is as rumbustious and downright dope as there last offering, which I absolutely adored. In fact, what I have said previously still stands tall and is as relevant as ever, "Australia is definitely where the funk is at these days" and Deep Street Soul are in the mix and sounding bone deep!
Deep Street Soul are funk DJ & drummer Sol Loco, bass player & soul aficionado Papa 'J' Hunter, Steve Cropper disciple' Matt 'MG' Green and Queen of the Hammond Monique 'Mon Cherie' Boggia. I was lucky to catch, in my opinion, to catch the absolute engine of the band, their incredible drummer Agostino 'Soul Loco' Soldati for a quick interview. Here goes!
EMRYS: Hi Guys, how are you and what you up to right now?
AGOSTINO: Well, apart from sweating it up in a ridiculous pre summer Australian heatwave, we've been busy gearing up for all things album number two. The official live album launch is taking place in Melbourne in early November so we're in full scale rehearsal mode. Â Its great to finally be playing the new songs out live and the feedback to them has been amazing across the board so it's just a really exciting time. Â
EMRYS: Glad to see you're sticking with the funk! The opening track Soul "Loco Suite" typifies this - as does "Stay down", "Fat Traps" and "Not Enough Dough." Was it a case of more of the same with this album?
AGOSTINO: We're a funk band, straight up. We love our funk raw, dirty and authentic. There's something satisfying about a crafting a smokin' funk instrumental - killer grooves, catchy hooks, a slamin' Hammond and raw production! What else do you need?
We felt we captured the band in an honest and accurate light with the first record so we didn't want to stray to far away from this with the new album. We certainly made a conscious decision to expand the sound somewhat as vocalists had become an essential part of our live shows over the past two years, but having said that, the band started as a funk instrumental outfit. I think we will always continue to have that as a basic foundation of what Deep Street Soul are and how we play music.
EMRYS: Three guest vocalists! What's the reasoning there? What do they each bring to the table"
AGOSTINO: Well it's actually four vocalists if you count the flip side of the 45. As we were writing and recording the album we had a really open approach to what voices and styles would suite the music. Â To be completely honest, going in to the first of the recording dates we still hadn't locked in any of the singers and really only had rough ideas of what songs might work with vocalists on them. Â For those songs we were careful to leave space for a singer to do their thing when it came time.
May Johnston filled in on vocal duties for a live show at the last minute around the time of the initial recording dates and we found her energy and style to be bang on what we were about so it was really a no brainer that she would have some role to play but at that stage she had not yet made the transition into becoming a full time member. By the end of the sessions she ended up singing on four of the five original vocal tracks on the record and is now a welcome addition to the band. Such an amazing and talented singer.
In regards to the other 3, deciding who would sing was easy in most cases; Randa Khamis (Randa & The Soul Kingdom) toured Europe and The UK with us last year and each night we would play the Viola Willis gem, "Sweetback." Â We both knew and loved the song so it just seemed like a natural thing to have on the album. Like the 45 from our last album, Shirley Davis once again guests on the B-side with "Masterpiece." Not only does she do a great take of this amazing Clarence Reid song but she had the honour of performing it live with the great man during a recent Australian tour, so there's some respect and love there also. Â The album closer "Fallin'" is on a soul jazz tip and kinda traces a line back to when we first got together and would do Sunday arvo [sic] Soul Jazz & Funk sessions at various cafes around Melbourne. Â When we tracked "Fallin'" we weren't exactly sure what we had on our hands or what we were going to do with it. Â Listening back to the desk mixes it occurred to me that it had the potential for a vocal to go on top of it and Roxie Ray (Dojo Cuts) was someone we new and loved & in retrospect was the perfect choice for the song. Â We emailed her the tune with minimal direction and two days later she had written and recorded a one take vocal performance that just kills me every time I listen to it (in a good way of course). The band have always been a fan of Donny Hathaway, Isaac Hayes and 70's period Marvin Gaye, so we just wanted to 'bring it down' a little for the closer and Roxie Ray pushes all the right buttons.
Looking back, having no singers lined up when we started recording the album and having no idea how the vocals or melodies would go was probably a bit risky, but ending up with four amazing soul sisters (all in our own backyard) doing there thing and doing it so well really helps make this album what it is.
EMRYS: How come Australia's got some of the best funk bands out there? We've got The New Master Sounds - where as you've got The Bamboos, Electric Empire and your goodselves. Is there something in the water or what?
AGOSTINO: You could also drop in the Transatlantics, Cookin On 3 Burners, Dojo Cuts, The Putbacks, Randa & The Soul Kingdom and the list goes on............ but back in the classic era of live music in Australia, I'm talking the sixties and seventies, there was a little know about but amazing soul and funk scene in this country. Â Releases were all very limited pressings and almost impossible to get your hands on now - I highly rate Renee Geyer's debut album. Â There was a real appreciation for the rhythm and blues based sound, with The Easybeats, The Loved Ones and Billy Thorpe covering Poison Ivy. Â The American influence that existed then carried through into the 80's and 90's but with a focus on rock. Â With our tiny population this saturation masked our appreciation for soul, funk and blues and much of it was forgotten. In recent years, the revival if you will has been facilitated by a number of things, firstly the bamboos started playing in Melbourne about the same time as the NMS dropped the Keb Darge album, they were a real influence for the current crop of Australian funk outfits and paved the way by breaking down the doors of venues that wouldn't traditionally host this kind of music. Â Secondly, Australia is a hell of a long way away from anywhere so technology & communication has created a healthy dialogue and the soul/funk scene has flourished as a result. Thirdly, people are re-learning how to record and create funk music the right way - there also may be something in the water down this way - I'm tippin' it's equal parts Hydrogen and Oxygen. Is that right?
EMRYS: Will we see you in thee UK soon/what are your plans for promoting this rather stupendous album?
AGOSTINO: You betcha! We had THE best time with the first tour, so the wheels are in motion for the follow-up tour which should see us in your part of the world in 2012. Hopefully we can add a few more countries to the itinerary this time AND I'm definitely going to be travelling light this time so I can fill my bags with more vinyl!
FOR MORE FROM DEEP STREET SOUL ORDER YOUR COPY OF BLUES & SOUL MAGAZINE'S END OF YEAR EDITION BELOW.
Deep Street Soul's new album "Look Out Watch Out" is out now on Freestyle.
Words Emrys Baird