Since The Soul is really gaining traction in the Lankan music scene, we’d like to know a little more about who’s behind it all. Tell us a little bit about you.
We’re five members in all; Khazim, our guitarist and one of the oldest members of the band and our band leader; Sarani, our multi-instrumentalist who mostly plays guitar and hits those keys when he can help it; Uvindu, our groovy-bones bassist who happens to be Sarani’s brother and also a multitalented instrumentalist; Divanka, the youngest member of the band and the hardest working, is our drum-feel machine, and last but not least; Dave, the oldest surviving member of the band, our lyricist and vocalist.
There are five of you guys now, but that wasn’t always the case. How did the current line-up come about, and what inspired you to make music together?
The band started a long time ago with three members who are no longer a part of the line-up, but life and The Soul goes on, so after many changes, these five boy-men you happen to know as The Soul are the ones powering through. The band’s really been a decade in the making if you look to the beginning however, this latest line-up has been together for two years.
We are all friends who have met at different moments in our lives, but we’ve bonded mostly through music and occasionally through mutual friends. And that’s really been first and foremost to us; friendship has always been the key – understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses and accommodating those things.
As for the eventuality of making music together, having been friends for a while, it really just felt like the natural next step – it was just high time we made music together.
What genre would you describe your music to be and what are some of the genres you pull from to create your work?
If you’re looking into our influences, it’s a mixed bag; we like rock, reggae, some pop, psy, blues, and experimental. Some new music and lots of old stuff. It is a long list because we enjoy listening to all kinds – even Japanese music, Arabic, Pakistani, and Indian – literally anything that catches our ears and imagination.
As for our own genre, we haven’t really put a name to it because we make music purely based on how we feel first. But people have told us our music is best described as a fusion and as world music; however we are not sure at all.
In writing original music, how have you as a collective decided on the themes and messages you want portray and communicate, and if you had to, could you pick one out of your repertoire that is your best or favourite?
Dave is our resident lyricist; he does the writing and the rest of us collaborate on writing the music together.
We’ve mostly focused on themes that are about life, love, politics, trips, but over the years, as we’ve grown, certain topics that we once felt were important were subject to some change and some others have remained true, but interpretations have changed.
Our best or favourite is difficult. It is hard to pick songs as they are like our little children and are the outcomes of our emotional states. It’s not possible to single out a few because we don’t record until we are entirely happy with something, and there are songs that we park until we get them just right and all the boys are feeling it.
How has your music evolved since you first began playing together?
As far as original music is concerned, we are becoming tighter as a family, the five of us. That has helped us refine our sound so much more. It is a humbling experience to be a part of this and work together as we do. As we play together, we learn and add more dynamic touches to our music. We have also, rather subconsciously, added more of a Sri Lankan touch to our music and a bit of a tribal feel.
You recently launched an album, on 28 December to be exact, with a hugely successful launch party with Nihara Shanell Jay as the opening act. How did you come to this decision of putting together an album?
We’ve been performing together for a while as we mentioned, and at the end of it all we realised that if we were just going to be a cover band it wouldn’t have made us happy. So we knew what we had to do.
This recent one we launched is our first crack at a Soul album. So it’s special, and we learnt a lot.
It took about two years of creating material and recording, but the process for us as individuals was longer.
The content included riffs and words we have had for many years; it is an emotional album for sure and we are really happy to say that the reception has been good. We can’t wait to start album two – hopefully, the process will be quicker.
Could you share with us, briefly, the music-making process? What is it like for you going from writing, recording, and eventually performing what you’ve created to an audience?
The process really isn’t anything concrete; sometimes we all do it together in a room, other times it starts with two or more members in the band and we then take it to the rest of the group. All our friends and families inspire us – some of our friends are musicians and play in other bands.
But one thing that has remained an absolute is that before a song is recorded and released, everyone in the band has added to it and eventually we play our songs live, when we feel they are ready, and test it.
What has been your biggest challenge as a band, and do you believe that you’ve been able to overcome it, and if so how?
Settling in a line-up in a country where there aren’t too many musicians around is a hassle that we have overcome, thankfully, for now.
Also surviving financially as musicians – mainly making original English music here – is a challenge. The money and market is just not big enough, but thankfully our fans always show up and give us great support.
Speaking of our fans, we simply can’t not mention how they recently came in their numbers to help us raise some cash when we were short, to send us to the Maldives. It cannot be said enough that we simply adore and love our friends and fans.
You are making a name for yourself, and that includes a lot of public appearances and of course performing live quite a lot. Have any of you ever dealt with performance anxiety?
Yes, some of us do feel a sort of anxiety mixed with a whole load of other emotions. It is such an amazing rush before gigs. The more the gig has a meaning, the better we feel, but we have definitely played our share of meaningless gigs – those can really take a toll.
What’s your ultimate direction for your band? Is it fame and fortune you seek or is there something different in mind?
We just want to make as much music as we can with this chance life has given us five to be together, as a unit. Everything ends, so we need to make the most of this.
Also, playing in as many countries as we can – that would be just amazing. Fame and fortune is not and has not ever really been the motivator. If we ever come to be musicians driven by the need to become famous, we think that’s when we will stop being musicians.
But who doesn’t like making a little money to live comfortably?
What is your best and least favourite part about this line of work?
The best part is making music with the people you love and sharing it with the people you love. The least favourite part is the slow growth of original music in the country as a collective group. But it is changing and it is growing faster than it has been for a while. So, fingers crossed.
Do you have any advice for hopeful future musicians?
Start the band. Play some covers but always focus on original music, make that the culture – for people to come and listen to original music. Also, if you don’t love it, why even do it? We wasted a lot of time not making original music, so get on that early!
Finally, what plans for the future?
Make as much music as we can for as long as we can and perform in as many countries as we can.
Also; world peace, better healthcare, more facilities for the elderly, better poverty management, resolving the economic debt crisis, cleaning the seas, and saving the forests and animals.
Vote for The Soul.
By Dimithri Wijesinghe