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Soul Clap interview

Plus free track to download

Mixing booming West Coast hip-hop 808s, squelchy funk, sizzlingly sexually charged R&B and deep house, Boston's Soul Clap (aka Eli Goldstein and Charles Levin) have given dance music's most durable template a modern make-over, swathing it in a gold rope chain and dope white tee.

We caught up with them in the June issue of DJMag with the full interview below. Also part of Boston super-group SECT, with Sergio Santos and Dirtybird's Tanner Ross, the boys are offering a free track in the shape of the cosmically psychadelic Thieve $krilla.

You can buy the debut SECT EP now.

Joe: Can you give me a brief history of how Soul Clap came to be?

Eli: We actually met in High School, we were both already DJing, and we were at different schools, but we were both growing up around Boston. We had a mutual friend who introduced us when we were 15 or 16.

Charlie: Yeah, we knew each other from the rave scene already.

Eli: There was a big rave scene in Boston in the mid to late 90s. They played anything from hard house, like Badboy Bill or DJ Dan, to drum and bass to funky breaks to harder techno as well. There were even hardcore and happy hardcore parties too.

Charlie: This was like proper baggy, cap, jeans, candy bracelets, necklaces and colourful shit. Think American head to toe in Polo late 90s.

Eli: So we hung out a bit, we never really DJed together, maybe played a couple of parties, then in 2001 a mutual friend booked us in Washington DC. At that time I was still living in Boston and Charlie was living in LA and there wasn’t enough time for us to play our own sets so he just kind of threw us in together as a tag team and it just worked. It was cool, it was fun. I was playing more like UK garage with New York house mixed in and he was playing more disco house and New York vocal house. So we had this meeting in the middle and Soul Clap was born.

Joe: What were your early productions like?

Eli: We started messing around in 2003 and taking a lot of... it’s kind of funny because of productions have come full circle. Initial stuff we were making was kind of remixing R&B and hip-hop tracks and cutting hip-hop beats to make house beats out of them. It was house music but very much influenced by New York, R&B and hip-hop.

Joe: Which I guess is the sound of Efunk like on your recent mix that has everything from Miles Davis to Midnight Star on it.

Eli: EFUNK stands for ‘everybody’s freaky under nature’s kingdom’. We’re trying to bring basslines back to the dancefloor and change the way people dance. No more techno sidestep. We want winding ‘n grinding and romance. If people aren't getting laid at the end of the night we’re not doing our job.  I think Efunk is us finally being at a place where we’re comfortable making music. We broke out of our shell and discovered we have a sound of our own and now EFunk is taking it to the next level. It’s making a specific sound with a lot of specific influences like funk and West Coast hip-hop.  When we started producing we were doing the same thing but without the same effect. Before we had to make a sound which wasn’t necessarily our own but was more the sound of the moment. When we switched from producing using Logic to producing using Ableton then that’s when we were finally able to do it...

Charlie: Efunk isn’t really us trying to make a new genre, the mix was capturing the moment. Its more about the broken beat, not like having a house beat, but having a breakbeat like an 80s funk beat, then the hip-hop samples, the West Coast synths. These have been influences on us forever but we’ve only been able to bring them into our music in the last six months. The mix was really testament to where we are, to what our influences are and a chance to put all the songs we’ve loved forever onto a mix and share the sound that’s so important to us. Regarding genre we’re making a clear statement we do not want to be labelled tech-house.

Joe: Does a Soul Clap set go through that many tempo changes then?

Eli: It really depends on the gig and the length of our set. If we’re playing an extended set of four or five hours, no problem, we’re going to play all those tempos. If we’re booked for a regular time at a club we generally go from 110 to 120bpm but it varies. Honestly, I’ve been feeling a lot of 130bpm almost dubstep so we’ve been trying to get up there a little bit. It’s important to mix the tempo up because it’s something that’s been forgotten on the dancefloor a little bit and it keeps things interesting and lets people move in different ways rather than having the same beat all the time.

Joe: After electro-house perverted its original meaning you’ve also got a lot of 80s electro in your sound.

Eli: Yeah, going back to hip-hop, classic electro was always really important to us, you know, Afrika Bambaataa and Mantronix was a really early influence. It’s a nice way to bring in an 808 and those classic drums and also to break that four four. In terms of breaking a beat then I think electro is a safe first option.

Joe: How did you join the Wolf + Lamb family?

Eli: Basically the first time we came into contact with them was the summer of 2008. We ended up at the Marcy Hotel party and we didn’t know any of them, we were just hanging out having a great time.  It was really amazing, it was the first time we’d been to the Marcy and it really blew our minds but I guess, Charlie you met Zev right?

Charlie: I linked up with Zev and sent him some music, this was like Love Light, which was the record that made that connection and they went nuts over it. For us we’ve been in the world of edits for as long as we’ve been DJing but it was like a new concept for them, they were like ‘wow’.

Eli: In June on our podcast we’re going to be doing a classic Soul Clap mix month so each week we’re going to post another of our mixes from our history and going through them, that’s how we started doing edits.  When we were doing a mix we’d go and make custom versions of songs to put them on the mix, make it more interesting, add an accappella on top, extended a different part, take off some of the rap, whatever it was it’s something that’s come from our DJ mixes which have always been really important to us. And then it was like, we wrote Love Light, it’s a Stevie Wonder song, and one of our best girlfriends suggested we do that, and it turned into this project in summer 2007 so it took a while to get out, almost two years.

Edits are such an important part of DJing which is often forgotten – I mean it’s back in a big way now but we’ve edited everything. You’ll see in these mixes, we were already putting out hip-hop on our set. Wolf + Lamb Black 5 is coming next with ‘Extravaganza’ and two other tracks. It’s an edit of a Jamie Foxx track which came out four or five years ago when he was still awesome I think. It was a cool album, I’m not sure a lot of people know about it, it was kind of a grown-up R&B sound, not too poppy and annoying like pretty much all R&B and hip-hop is now. It’s also the last Wolf + Lamb Black for a while as we’re taking a break from edits. We’re still writing some but more as exclusives for our DJ sets. We have so much original material to get out right now so that’s our focus right now.

Joe: Who’s in your Boston super-group, SECT?

Eli: It’s Sergio Santos, Eli Goldstein, Charles Levin and Tanner Ross. Tanner, Sergio and Charlie all live together in this house in Boston. Sergio is probably one of the best after-hours DJs in our area, he‘s like this Boston legend, but he’s never really produced until recently so nobody ever knew him out of city. He’s got a couple of tracks with Tanner Ross, who is a Dirty Bird artist and also one half of Voodeux who had a pretty successful album on Mothership last year. So Sergio and Tanner started working together on some stuff, they have a release on Air Drop and also another that just came out on Mothership, and we all just ended up in the studio together one night and it just really worked so we decided to start this project where we can all work together in different capacities. One of us will start a track, then two more will work on it and another will work on the mix. Then sometimes all of us will start the track together and then we’ll split up and one of us will finish it. It’s really an amorphous thing but it’s really exciting to have this sound we’re building in Boston, it’s really our own, and we have this crew to work on it and bring our own ideas to the table. Think like Vision Quest but with Red Sox fans.

Joe: You released a free track ‘Beautiful Thang’ with Gadi to promote his new label Double Standard and I know you’ve mentioned about playing more vinyl again.

Eli: We’ve been DJing for thirteen years and so obviously vinyl is how we DJed for the first seven or eight years of it. We were both really hesitant to switch over to CDs. We got Final Scratch, the first version, when it came out but it was so buggy it was barely even useable. We’re the kind of DJs who would bring five crates of records to every gig and it starting to get to be a problem for our backs so we were always trying to get to the digital thing. To have all that music is great and we’ve been using Serato for touring for the last couple of years. I love Serato as it opens up this whole world of possibly for changing tempos, for changing genres, but it just feels like vinyl is getting forgotten. Most kids when they start DJing now they’ll download their music from the internet by going on a blog and it completely sucks all the value out of the music. It really started because Gadi was like, ‘I’m going to do a vinyl only label’. I think he wanted to go in different directions to Wolf + Lamb, which was really blowing up at the time, and really take it back in an underground direction and I think vinyl is his reaction to the feeling he might have been losing a lot of control of the way the music was getting to people. I think vinyl you have complete control how the music is getting out.

Joe: So your back has recovered then now?

Eli: No, my back is actually killing me right now! We’re on this huge road trip so I’m going to have to be popping so Aderol all afternoon and all night but whatever… The most important reason we’re going back to vinyl is because we love record stores. Boston record shops were where everyone met and taught us so much growing up. So we’re trying to keep them alive. Being able to tour Europe more we get to go to more record stores which is amazing. In the States there are very few record stores left so to have the chance to get all these awesome records that you can’t get on digital at all is really amazing. I find more albums are pressed on thick vinyl and have really amazing artwork. There are some labels that are really making the effort to make the vinyl nicer than the CD or the digital release.

It’s also the idea of moving away from the computer screen. We sit in front of computer screens all the time so having Serato at the gig to is kind of aggravating. We always turn the brightness all the way down then we can turn the screen all red so it’s not glowing in your face. For after-hours now we’ve stopped using Serato, if we’re going to play at after-hours late night we just play vinyl because it just feels better.

Joe: It also said in the press release to ‘Beautiful Thang’ that the vocals on it were done by one of you two…

Charlie: Cnynce man!

Eli: That’s Charlie.

Charlie: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We were fucking around in the press release for that. That whole EP got made in Miami at a compound we go to called The Beach Club and it was like, messing around. We had this melody in our heads and I’ve always wanted to sing on a record before. I think it’s really great to give it the human touch.

Joe: Singing, dancing and DJing. Is it the start of a live show?

Charlie: Yeah, we’re starting a boyband! If we can make Soul Clap some kind of live experience I think we’ll really win. Here’s the thing, we love DJing so it’s not like we’re going to get up there and play some Ableton set. We’ve been asked to before. The idea is, when we do a live show, its going to be something way better than when we DJ, we want to bring in live instruments, we want to bring performances and lights into it, we want it to be a whole experience if we do that. I think the plan is to tour the whole summer, from July to October, then come back home in the fall and work on the album.

Joe: Where are you going to write that, Boston or New York?

Charlie: I think a bit of both. Maybe at the Marcy, because it’s a great place, but we still want to keep some of that Boston energy, so probably back and forth between the two.

Joe: You also have an EP for Crosstown Rebels coming out in July. It’s interesting that you have a re-edit of Goldie’s ‘Timeless’ on there.

Eli: This is really exciting. Goldie was, I think, one of both our biggest influences, like, when we were 13 or 14 years old. It was so important, independent of us knowing each other. I remember having so many vivid moments listening to that album. One day we were just messing around with a sample from that album and it turned into something really cool. Then when we started talking to Damian about releasing something that was one of the tracks we gave him and he just loved it… so he said, ‘I think we can get it cleared with Goldie’, and we were like, ‘forget it.’ It was just going to be another of those weirdo remix edits and once he was like, ‘we can make this legit’, it was like shit. It’s a real honour to have an official Goldie remix.

Also on that EP is our first original vocal track. It doesn’t have us singing but it has an original vocal from our boy from New York. It was actually recorded years and year ago. We’ve been taking some cracks at it over the years but then finally on a flight to LA Charlie just sat down and got the ideas that went with it.

Charlie: We bought it off the guy for $40!

Joe: Is that the slow track?

Eli: ‘Satisfaction’ is the one with the vocal. The slow one is another funny story. Charlie will tell you.

Charlie: So I was just at home fucking around with my room mate, this is Sergio Santos’ girlfriend who also lives with us in the house, and Sergio is busting his ass everyday to build his profile and do good and get on nice record labels. His girlfriend comes out into the living room in the afternoon, we smoke a joint, lay down some lyrics and end up making a track that Damian thought was genius! It’s like, this dude is working 40 hours to be somebody, his girlfriend gets out of bed once and ends up on Crosstown Rebels!

Words: Joe Roberts