As daily observers of all market sectors, MODERN TRADER often chronicles the evolution of the business of music, particularly in the context of publicly traded entertainment companies and the soon-to-be public music industry disruptors. The proliferation of digital and streaming music platforms has certainly changed the industry. The selection, immediacy and value of on-demand music is great for music fans, but has resulted in less revenue margin for the musicians.
Lollapalooza rocks on
New York Times columnist Mike Errico noted in a 2016 story titled: Touring Can’t Save Musicians in the Age of Spotify, that record labels have followed the money in the contracts they offer to recording artists. “In the pre-digital era, labels profited only from the physical recordings they funded, but as that income began dwindling, a new logic was applied to the artist-label relationship,” Enrico wrote. ” Labels argued that by promoting the recordings they owned, they were also promoting the artist’s career as a whole, and were entitled to profit from the full spectrum of artist’s revenue streams — the 360 deal, named for the totality of its coverage. Artists today are not only touring more to make up for their own lost recording-sales revenue; they’re also being compelled to by the labels that also stand to profit. This makes it a great time to be a fan of live music.”
While we appreciate all music genres, the music of rock legends like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Cream form our musical core of MODERN TRADER’s demographics. As artists are indeed touring more, it has never been easier to see live performances rooted in rock and roll, and contrary to popular opinion, today’s proliferation of music festivals are not just for the tweens and twenty-somethings.
Lollapalooza’s 26th lakefront festival in Chicago this past August illustrates this. Sure, popular, hip-hop, rap, pop and electronic dance music fills the majority of the stages; but of the 170 performers over the four-day lineup there was enough new and old-school rock and roll to soothe the savage sexagenarian (see “Lollapalooza 2017 Rockers," below).
The London Souls: New music for old souls
Our favorite performance at Lollapalooza this year was from Brooklyn’s The London Souls. Fresh off a tour with The Who, the Souls brought their classic rock roots to the BMI stage in a soulful, hard-driving performance that was as memorable for me as back in 2008 when Lolla headliner Radiohead went long on Fake Plastic Trees along with an incredible light show, augmented by an unrelated fireworks display in the distance.
The Souls killed in Chicago this year, opening with their take on Little Richard’s “Lucille,” several songs from their eponymous debut album and sophomore set Here Comes the Girls, as well as a soulful cover of William DeVaughn’s “Be Thankful for What You’ve Got”. The two-man Souls featuring Tash Neal (mostly guitar and vocals) and Chris St. Hilaire (mostly drums and vocals) bring a big banging sound and lot of heat to the stage.
And as it turns out, the unmistakable influences of the Beatles, Zeppelin, Cream and Hendrix are at the core of The London Souls. They are a band that rock and rollers need to know, so we caught up with the Chris St. Hilaire to talk about his rock roots.
Modern Trader: How old are you guys?
Chris St. Hilaire: We’re both 31.
MT: Who’s writing the music and the lyrics?
CSH: Well we’re both doing both. When we first started, we loved to just play together, and we’d just get together in a room and come up with stuff or try stuff at shows that would turn into songs. And then, as we grew as songwriters we started writing songs individually and then presenting them. So Tash writes a lot of songs individually and presents them and then I help finish them. I help arrange them and add the parts and harmonies and then we both go back and forth on lyrics.
MT: Other than percussion, what other instruments do you play?
CSH: We both play most instruments. I play all the piano and keyboards that’s on Here Come the Girls, and I play about half of the bass. But we’re both bass players.
MT: Who are your favorite drummers?
CSH: That is always a hard one to answer. Every day I could pick five and then the next [day] pick a whole different five, there’s so many. One drummer that had a huge influence on me is Max Roach. And of course I listened to Mitch Mitchell a lot when I was first learning drums because my father’s a guitar player and he showed me Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck. So Mitch Mitchell was some of the first drums that I learned. Like the song, Fire. Once I’d learned a bunch a Mitch Mitchell, I looked into who he listened to and started getting into jazz drummers. He was listening to Max Roach and Elven Jones so then I started tracing it back to the source.
MT: More jazz drummers? Art Blakely among them?
CSH: Definitely, Blakey. He’s like one of the best, one of the most powerful drummers and band leaders of all time. Then I started listening to funk drummers like Zigaboo Modeliste (Funky Meters) and James Brown’s drummers like Jabo Starks.
MT: How about rock and roll?
CSH: Charlie Watts, I love. And Ringo Starr. Those are the guys that drummers, virtuoso drummers, always hate on because they’re not the most technical drummers, but in terms of taste and in terms of coming up with the best parts that fit the song, and to be the drummers in those bands. Like no one else could’ve done that. Could you imagine John Bonham being the Beatles drummer? It wouldn’t have worked.
MT: What about the frequent Bonham comarisons? You hear that quite a lot. Obviously you have to feel good about that.
CSH: Yeah, totally. Any rock drummer who’s doing what they’re supposed to should.
MT: Who would you call one of the more underrated or under-appreciated drummers, that’s performing today?
CSH: Nikki Gillespie is an amazing female drummer; she plays in a band called The Nth Power. She was in the Beyonce band for five years. She also plays with Maceo Parker. And she’s just incredible. She’s a huge inspiration to me. In terms of female drummers, most people know Cindy Blackman and Terry Lynn Carrington and Sheila E, and [people] like that. The sort of celebrity, sexy female drummers. But Nicky in my opinion blows most of them out of the water.
MT: Regarding the typical comparisons you guys receive: the Beatles, Zeppelin, Cream, Hendrix, White Stripes and the Black Keys; who is the greatest influence?
CSH: Tash and I identify most with the Beatles in terms of song writing and in terms and the interplay between us…our vocal blends and our harmonies. We just did a few shows with The Who and that’s one thing that I had to remember, everyone thinks of The Who as just a big, ballsy rock band. And they are, but the thing that makes them really special, is they have this really beautiful, angelic intricate harmonies, that go along with everything, that bands like Led Zeppelin didn’t have.
MT: How about the White Stripe comparisons? There’s not really a strong drummer coming out of the White Stripes.
CSH: I wasn’t going to be the one to say it. I mean I get why people may make that reference because they’re thinking of the two. It’s the duo thing, and same thing with the Black Keys, and when you actually sit and listen to the music, it’s really not coming from the same place we are coming from at all.
MT: What are the five albums that speak most to your musical roots?
CSH: First, I’d have to say probably Abbey Road, by the Beatles.
MT: That must have been a real thrill for you guys when you recorded your first album there?
CSH: Yeah, that was wild. That was totally nuts. Man, that’s really tough, I haven’t been asked that question. But I would add Fresh by Sly and the Family Stone, and Innervisions by Stevie Wonder, Band of Gypsies (Jimi Hendrix) and Rubber Soul by the Beatles.
MT: What about the business of music? Where’s the money today for you guys?
CSH: Mostly in touring. But even that comes and goes. Where most of the money is in licensing songs to movies and commercials.
MT: Do you two have a big goal? Is there something special you want to accomplish in the next couple of years, either musically or professionally with your business?
CSH: Musically I’d like to show people what’s possible. People think of music in boxes and they think a rock band is a certain thing and they think that a blues band is a certain thing and hip-hop is a certain thing. We pull from so many different places, and Tash comes from a background where he grew up in the church. And the music that his parents were playing for him was either gospel music, Motown, or he was listening to 90s hip-hop. I come from a background where it was rock-n-roll and old rhythm and blues. We can continue to merge those two and people who really get what we’re doing will see that. So, one of the goals would be to demonstrate that you can have a multitude of influences, and you can have a voice that encompasses all of that.
MT: Nobody accomplished that better than the Beatles.
CSH: Exactly, that’s one of the things I love about the Beatles. There were so many different things musically. Businesswise, I’d like to make a sustainable living off of it. [LAUGH] That might not be a very high goal. But I don’t think either one of us are particularly materialistic. We don’t want to have mansions and stuff. But it’d be great to make a living off our music.