The Soul Clap phenomenon is a groovy, eclectic and ultimately inspiring one. Boston bred chaps Eli Goldstein and Charles Levine have energized a lackluster House scene with a shot of funkdafied adrenaline. Known for creative sets that span multiple genres and rollercoaster bpms, their philosophy that ‘House has many hats’ has never been more evident than now.
You got a shout out from Pam Grier on Twitter!
Charles: Pam Grier?
Eli: I didn’t tell you that. She saw that we were working on music with George Clinton and retweeted it.
Charles: Foxy Brown shout out!
I’m curious because for the past fifteen years I’ve been going to New York several times a year, and would go to let’s say, the more traditional soulful parties…
Charles: Like the Shelter. We call them the deep heads.
Eli: Deep for life.
Explain to me this whole movement you’re a part of that I’m assuming stems from Brooklyn mainly? This whole kinda Nu Disco, Indie-ish Deep House thing. Where did this come from?
Eli: Me and Charlie are from Boston but we grew up going New York, going to the deep nights like the Shelter, Body & Soul and Deep Space. And even before that the Boston DJs were bringing us those sounds like DJ Bruno, Pete Moss and a bunch of guys that were really involved in the New York scene. So that’s where we came from – this New York “deep for life” sound.
Charles: Five years ago or even longer, there was all this stuff going on with all this indie and dance stuff. And that sound used to trickle down to us in Boston. What’s going on with Wolf + Lamb is different from that, because they came from a Minimal Techno place, which was a cool scene when we first wandered into the Marcy Hotel in 2007. What we were doing as deep & disco guys, we brought into the Marcy when they were already trying to transition into that direction.
The Marcy isn’t really a hotel…
Charles: The Marcy Hotel is basically the venue where the Wolf + Lamb collective got its acclaim. It’s an afterhours spot in Gadi’s loft that over 10 years of ingenuity and a kind of Burning Man/DIY attitude turned into the perfect space to party in New York and really feel free. We were so moved by hanging out there that we knew we had to return, and luckily for us they turned out to be like-minded guys. Then they took a shining to Eli and I and our pursuit with Soul Clap.
So as other members of the Wolf + Lamb label and Double Standard (which is a sub-label) grew, the sound got further and further away from where it started in Techno and further and further towards things like New York Deep House and Jazz and Funk and Disco and Nu Disco, and even created new genres.
So the party in a way dictated the sound and built its audience that way.
Eli: They had been into Minimal Techno in the early 2000s, that was what was cool and the underground sound. They started building their audience like that and getting a lot of international people in New York. And then they got tired of it – it’s a lot of dudes and they felt that the music was getting kinda stale and they started going in the direction of Deep House.
My brother lives in Boston, but I never knew where to find the underground parties. And yet here you are building on a thriving scene. What is it – some kind of secret society?
Eli: Boston is very sceney. There was a deep for life scene here, like the Sunday party Utopia. There was also a place called The Loft in the ’90s which was the gathering place for the New York sound.
Charles: While we were there to hang out and dance and lucky enough to be invited to play a few times over the years, we were more focused in Cambridge at this place called the Phoenix Landing. They also had a competing Sunday night party that was more like the kinda Chicago-Mark Farina-white boy House. But once that fad had passed, things started moving towards the Minimal thing. We had a residency doing more of that kind of thing on Wednesday nights, but our hearts were all still with the deepness. I think that’s why we really fell in love with the Wolf + Lamb guys.
Not to make your heads big or anything, but I love SmartBar and have been going there for years several times a week and have seen a million guest DJs. The DJ booth is usually a sausage fest, even with the so-called heartthrob DJs. The two times I’ve gone to see you there the DJ booth was PACKED with all females!
Charles: We had a joke once saying we’re your girlfriend’s favorite DJ. We wanted a t-shirt saying that. We also appeal to moms!
Eli: We both love our moms!
Charles: It’s not uncommon for Eli to get into some real smooth, slow dance R&B, some real nostalgic jam, reggae, vocal or beautiful. I think because we’re not afraid to go there.
Eli: I think what made us conscious of it now was really Wolf + Lamb. Because they had come from this Techno thing and made this conscious realization they wanted to have female energy at their parties, that they wanted to have girls dancing. I mean, everybody enjoys it more. That’s one of the Top 5 DJ Rules: If you get the girls dancing, the dudes will too.
I mean electronic music is now and has been, like this masculine union. Just like jacking – it’s a very masculine and aggressive sound. And it’s a scene that came from gay roots! And now with Techno and Tech House there are no vocals.
Thank you! I’m a big old vocal queen, I live for that.
Charles: I’m with you! There are these moments where we’ve been in these establishments that are built around very mechanical beats and we literally shake the place up when we drop this vocal bomb. Like my girlfriend told me, “Yeah what about Ultra Nate’s ‘Free’?”, and I was like oh shit and found the Mood II Swing remix. We played it at Panorama Bar in Berlin a week and a half ago. Everybody else that night was playing this monotony in one way or another…and we’re playing jams like Giorgio Moroder, Gino Soccio and stuff and people were like, “What the fuck is going on?”
Eli: Panorama Bar is Berlin’s mecca of Tech House. A lot of DJs at this point are default. “I’m not going to take any risks, I’m just going to play tracky because no one is going to notice and it’s going to be fine, and no one’s going to say I did badly.” It’s taken us four years of touring to be confident enough to do something like that at Panorama Bar. I mean the spirit of that bar upstairs is diva vocals, but everybody’s scared to tap into it.
Have you ever gotten an opposite reaction?
Charles: There’s been tons of backlash, we have our fair share of haters. When you go into a Techno club and you slow it down, people freak out too. Somebody will be like “C’mon! More jumping! More jumping!”
It’s really hard to break people away from a mold or template of listening that they’re so used to. So just the concept of the varying tempos, the different genres within your set – how did you have the balls to try this at different places and get the promoters’ blessing?
Eli: There are a number of factors. I think first and most important is that there are two of us – we’re always going to back each other up. And the next step from that is knowing that we have this Wolf + Lamb crew around us. So we have Gadi, the A&R guy, who’s always pushing all of his artists. Miles Davis once said, “If I ever have to play the same thing twice, I’m going to quit.” You don’t want to just settle into a sound as a musician or a DJ who really cares about the artform. You want to constantly take in new influences and spit them out in a new way.
And this also came from the fact that we had been playing in Boston for so long in clubs where we have to play every genre, and Wolf + Lamb provided the platform for us to really present it.
We also had a really amazing agent in Europe that guided us the first few years and put us in all the right places and didn’t rush it. It was all about patience, and playing the small clubs over and over again until we had the fanbase to grow to a bigger club. That’s another thing that Zev and Gadi taught us, patience.
Let’s talk a little about WMC, I know you had a lot of gigs and I’m sorry I missed them. I’m definitely counting on catching you guys at Movement. I was lamenting the slowing down of what I guess you guys would label the “deep for life” parties, and yet on your side of the spectrum there is a growing audience.
Charles: I’ve got to throw in there though that those scenes rarely have a growing fan base. The people that we’re playing for is a much more young, vibrant scene. And while they don’t really have the same knowledge as the deep for life fans, they are open to it when we present it. If only there could ever be some kind of intermingling where the crowds are mixed up. But there isn’t and it feels very segregated. It was almost appalling when they split the WMC into two weeks.
I wish there was a way to integrate the two…
Eli: There are some guys that have started like Marquess Wyatt. We played Deep LA. And he’s been really cool – the same with Doc Martin. So those guys have been really supportive in trying to bridge this gap. And Francois K asked us to play Deep Space. I mean Francois has always been forward-thinking. We also played the Afternoon Delight party at WMC this year, we’ve known Aaron Dae for a long time. But even so, the first half hour of our set, everybody was kinda wary. It’s like they were feeling us out. Then all of a sudden – bam, the energy was there.
This is really refreshing talking to artists that are breaking new ground and doing things (for want of a better phrase) “outside the box”. Any key pointers out there for so many people trying to do it?
Eli: I think what I said before… having a family/crew behind you, patience and risk-taking.
Charles: I say don’t be afraid to go a little deeper and do some homework.
Eli: Definitely learn your history. This is something that can really set DJs apart at this point because a lot of kids are just playing what’s hot on Beatport or making what’s the new sound. But if you start digging and start learning the history of electronic music in general it’s going to open up your mind up to a lot of different kinds of music and to a lot of different influences.
Essentials: Look out for a new Soul Clap EP debuting on the new Soul Clap Records imprint. They are also working on a collaboration project with George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic. Coming out in mid-May is their new comp Dancing on the Charles made up of several Boston producers. For all things Soul Clap including their podcasts go to soulclap.us.