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Soulive: Cinematic Visions

Matt Inman | May 12, 2018

In October 2017, Soulive returned to Japan for a run of shows. Given their robust following in the country, the gigs were, as expected, an unequivocal success, and the trip gave the trio’s members a chance to catch up away from their responsibilities and range of projects back home.

They even started discussing the prospect of getting back into the studio and, much to everyone’s surprise and despite their hectic individual schedules, less than two months later drummer Alan Evans, keyboardist Neal Evans and guitarist Eric Krasno were recording what would become their first new music in six years. And, two months after that, they unveiled the Cinematics Vol. 1 EP. This was hardly an established group’s typical, drawn-out album cycle, but the expedited idea-to-release approach that has become increasingly attractive—and attainable—in the current musical landscape.

“Pretty much from the beginning of Soulive, I’ve wanted to do exactly what is happening right now,” Alan says, calling from Iron Wax, the Western Massachusetts recording studio that he owns and operates. “I was struggling with the idea of going into a studio and then having the record company or whoever tell you, ‘Oh, we’re gonna need six to eight months to set this up.’ Like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ All that time would pass, and you’ve moved on.”

“I’ve felt like that for many, many years,” Alan’s brother, Neal, agrees, while hunkered down at a studio session of his own in Brooklyn. “But then you say that and you fall into this trap of doing things a certain way, just because they’ve been done that way.”

Soulive aimed for a quicker album release with Spark!, their 2012 Melvin Sparks-inspired collaboration with Karl Denson, but got bogged down in the usual machinations of traditional music distributors. This time around, the band signed up for Brooklyn-based independent digital music distribution service TuneCore just one day after they finished recording Cinematics.

“We’re at a place right now where we just want to make great music and put it out when and how we want to,” Krasno says during a rare break at his Brooklyn home while preparing to fly out West for a run of shows with Phil Lesh. “We’re not trying to get on the pop charts or anything so, for us, it’s a freeing feeling to just be creative and put it out, and not put too much expectation on it—just try to make it something that we would really enjoy listening to ourselves.”