BY Jane Spietz
WHAT: The London Souls
WHERE: Waterfest, Oshkosh WI
WHEN: Thursday, August 27, 2015 – Gates open at 6 PM
COST: $10 before 6 PM, $15 before 7 PM, $20 after 7 PM
What better way to end the 30th anniversary of the Waterfest summer concert series than to bring in the raw, explosive talent of The London Souls! The dynamic duo of Tash Neal (guitar/vocals) and Chris St. Hilaire (drums/vocals) has the ability to create an energetic wall of sound that is irresistible. These Brooklyn-bred boys formed The London Souls in 2008. Their brand of blistering, tear-it-up rock’n’roll is reminiscent of the Beatles, Cream and Led Zeppelin. I was hooked the first time I heard them. Don’t miss this!
I communicated with The London Souls recently as they were in Italy finishing up the last leg of their European tour.
Jane Spietz: You are currently touring in Europe with Lenny Kravitz. Where are you today?
Chris St. Hilaire: Rome!
JS: What is it like to tour with Lenny?
CSH: Very inspiring. His songs were huge when we were growing up, and he was one of the only people doing what he was doing. His band is the real deal and it’s an incredible honor.
JS: Please share some of the highlights of your European tour.
CSH: We played a 3 a.m. set in a bull fighting ring in southern Spain for a packed audience, and crossed paths with Los Lobos who we’re also huge fans of. And in Holland, we got to play, and have our album played, on 3fm radio, for something like one million listeners. Opening for Lenny in huge arenas in Spain and ancient cities in Italy has been amazing as well.
JS: How was the band formed?
CSH: We met in NYC, and the way we played and wrote made sense together early on, so we started booking shows and making records.
JS: Which artists do you draw your musical influences from?
CSH: Music is a deep well. As musicians and songwriters, we are both influenced by all kinds of music. Michael Jackson, Chuck Berry, Miles Davis, Astrud Gilberto and The Beatles of course!
JS: Earlier on The London Souls teamed up with producer Ethan Johns at Abbey Road Studios. Talk about that experience.
CSH: Ethan was great to work with. He is a fantastic musician himself so he understands that perspective, but he is also a brilliant producer, from a long line of brilliant producers. It was pretty cool to walk across that crosswalk every morning. But it was a focused setting, so we didn’t take it in like tourists. We knew we were there to work.
JS: As a duo, how do you manage to produce such a full, powerful sound?
CSH: It’s a trade secret.
JS: In the past, the band has had additional members. Have you considered bringing anyone else on board?
CSH: We play with other people all the time, and we are open to collaborations in general. But for now we are pretty content with less cooks in the kitchen.
JS: Tash, you were the victim of a hit-and-run in New York City in 2012 and had to undergo multiple brain surgeries. When you were told that the recovery process could be lengthy, you said that this news only fueled your determination to participate in rehab to enable you to play guitar again. Amazingly, The London Souls were back playing in a very short amount of time. What was that process like?
Tash Neal: It was definitely one of the most life changing and life defining periods of my life.The kind of accident I was in, I have my whole life to recover from. However considering I wasn’t supposed to walk and talk for a year, it was a miracle that I was playing shows so soon after. In fact our first show was a month and five days after my second brain surgery. It was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had. Music healed me and helped me gain my stamina and strength back.
JS: You will be playing the ‘Brooklyn Invasion’ Aug. 8 at the Brooklyn Bowl to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles performance at Shea Stadium. What does that mean to you?
TN: It’s an honor to play the 50th anniversary of the Beatles playing at Shea. The Beatles’ influence on music and songwriting can’t be overstated, so it’s always a pleasure to revisit that musical world. We’re very excited to play with some great musicians who will help us honor this anniversary.
JS: Talk about your latest release, Here Come The Girls.
TN: We’re very excited to finally have our album, Here Come The Girls out. We’ve been so proud of it and had finished it very soon before the accident, so we couldn’t put it out immediately. This album represents not only our growth and songwriters and musicians, but as arrangers as well. We’re beyond thrilled that people can hear it, and we’re around.
JS: The London Souls will be part of an amazing lineup at the upcoming Life is Beautiful Festival in Las Vegas in September. Who are you most looking forward to seeing there?
TN: Stevie Wonder!
JS: I read about The London Souls’ involvement with Beatles for Little Rockers, A Children’s Music Workshop, that took place last March in Brooklyn. I feel that encouraging a love of music in children is so vital for their overall development, so kudos to you. Please talk about this wonderful event.
TN: The event was really wonderful. It’s really inspiring for us to see kids inspired by music, especially when it’s at a concert that we’re doing. It was a great to play Beatles songs for the kids and have them have their questions answers about instruments and songwriting. I hope we do it again absolutely.
JS: It is so exciting to have The London Souls perform at the finale of the 30th anniversary of the Waterfest summer concert series on Thursday, August 24th! What do you hope that the audience will take away that night?
TN: We’re so excited to play Waterfest! We’re gonna perform at our best and we hope the audience is ready to have a great time. We can only hope they walk away feeling good and inspired and wanting to listen to more London Souls’ music.