A Musical Melting Pot
Northern California’s very own hip-hop/reggae fusion group, SouLifted are turning heads with the release of their new full-length album Higher. The group seamlessly blends classic hip-hop sounds with reggae, jazz and soul embellishments. The result is a unique sound that all walks of life can enjoy. “It is music from the Earth for the people—a natural reaction to the world we live in and the things that influence our lives everyday,” explains Intalect1, who sings, raps, plays the melodica, turntables and assists with the production of their recordings. He continues by saying, “That is why each song we make is dynamically different in its own way. We believe in progression and that is where Higher came from.” Submerge recently spoke with Intalect1 about the beauties of self-producing their record, positive messages and starting a mosh pit in the streets of San Francisco.
First off, what happened with your other group Heart, Life and Soul? You and Lady Grace [vocals] are still doing that right?
Yeah Heart, Life and Soul will always be a part of what we do. That is where it all started for us, and we have a lot of unreleased material. We even play a few of our HLS songs during the SouLifted shows. We look forward to putting together a new HLS album that is produced by SouLifted, utilizing the talent that this group has with production and instrumentation. Right now SouLifted has really come together though, so that has been our primary focus. We need to spread the word that SouLifted is here and still pay homage to our roots.
So, how did things get to where they are now with the current SouLifted lineup?
Well, Zebulon [vocals, drums, production] and myself started making music together quite a few years ago. We did a few tracks together and they always turned out good. Our styles are different but they compliment each other well. DJ BePhlip [turntables] has been DJing with me since we first got turntables when we were like 15. We taught each other how to scratch and mix and he just took it to the next level with the turntables while I always focused more on the songwriting and emcee side of things. It was only natural for Lady Grace and I to work with these guys.
We actually met up with the rest of the crew from working at the Guitar Center store in Roseville, five of us actually worked together in Pro Audio at one point. Brian [Fleshman, keys, drums, production, vocals] and Zeb met first, and he automatically fit right in with the crew like he was always a part of it. Brian had some great production skills and his unique songwriting seemed to be the missing link for the group to really come together.
Scott Rodell [keys, guitar, vocals] and Steve Leonard [bass, guitar] are the two newest additions to the group and they have really added to the SouLifted sound. Both of them are very talented multi-instrumentalists and they often switch instruments throughout our live sets.
That’s a large group! Where do you all live? What do you consider your “hometown” as a band?
We consider our “hometown” to be the Foothills. We all live between Auburn and Sacramento pretty much but we definitely rep the Foothills. It is a beautiful place to be, and we all somewhat grew up around here. Zeb is from Georgia, Brian has lived in Florida and Canada, Lady Grace in Arizona, and Scott on the east coast too. I was born in Sacramento, so I got to show my love for Sactown!
How would you describe SouLifted’s style of music? Is it hip-hop first then reggae, or vice versa? How does it differ from Heart, Life and Soul’s sound?
SouLifted is a musical melting pot with many different styles of music but it all revolves around our hip-hop roots. So yeah, at heart we are a hip-hop crew but with so many diverse influences. But that’s what hip-hop is all about—taking what ever you have and what you love and turning it into something unique and full of self expression but still from the street. We definitely do add a strong reggae element to our sound, but not as much as with the HLS music. SouLifted seems to blend all of our different musical interests into one dynamic style of sound. Zeb’s got that classic hip-hop style mixed with some experimental and pop sounds, and he is also an amazing drummer. Brian is like a composer, with more of an electronic background and melodic style, with skills on the keyboard and drums. Lady Grace has that soulful voice and adds some spoken word poetry into the mix. Scott’s music has a jazzy, classic rock feel—almost like The Beatles meet the Beach Boys with a more edgy indie sound. BePhlip comes from a hip-hop turntablist background, but spins all kinds of music. Steve plays in a funk band, a cover band and a more rock-style band, so he can pretty much play anything. I have more of the reggae and dancehall sound, but I have always mixed in a hip-hop style. So although the hip-hop and reggae influence is really apparent in our music, SouLifted cannot be defined by one or two genres.
How long did Higher take to complete? How was self-producing it?
We started Higher toward the end of 2006 before we even realized what it would become. We started recording some tracks together and decided that we were going to put a new project together. Everything just fell into place from there and the album really started to take shape in 2007. We are all pro audio guys so we have had some good experience with recording, engineering, mixing, and mastering. We actually recorded the album ourselves in three different small studios with most of our own gear. It was really amazing to be able to self produce this album because it gave us the ability to make it sound the way we heard it. We spent a lot of time mixing the album and adding the subtle effects and instruments that make it such an interesting album, I know there were times when Brian and Zeb spent a couple of days straight just working on one song. So it was a grueling and intricate process, but very rewarding! We all put our creative input into this album and that is what makes it so unique and original.
How is the “Soul’d Out Tour” coming along?
The tour has been very successful so far. It is all self booked and promoted just like our record- independent. We played two nights in Tahoe at the Biltmore, and that was a lot of fun. It’s crazy when the place doesn’t close and they serve alcohol all night; it’s like the party doesn’t stop. None of us are really big drinkers, but we can definitely hold our own! It was real dope to see our name on the marquee for the 1st stop on our tour. Definitely a good weekend with good shows both nights. San Francisco was the next stop and that was amazing! We played for four hours straight on the streets of PIER 39 right in front of the Hard Rock Cafe and the response from the people was beautiful. We had consistent crowds of all ages and ethnicities that at times reached over 400 people, and we sold the entire box of 100 CDs that we brought. There was also a crazy group of dancing teens that rocked out with us and we even started a small mosh pit in the street. We did a small radio show after that back in Nevada City for Aaron Eisenberg’s Skaters Paradise show and that was fun too.
One thing I’ve been very curious about is how you guys find inspiration for such positive lyrics in such a hard time with the economy going to shit, gas prices going through the roof, etc. How do you deal with all that and still keep your message so positive?
That is what SouLifted is all about. Exposing these day-to-day conditions and showing people how to go “Higher” to elevate above and beyond them. We are all influenced by these harsh living conditions everyday, but music is the way that we express ourselves and spread our message to the people who need it most. Too many people, especially the youth are misguided by the media (popular TV and radio) and we want to open their minds to some real issues that most pop groups won’t cover. We have always tried to keep the message positive, but we also need to speak the truth. So not every song is about 1Love or peace and unity, our songs are about real issues that affect our lives. It’s also hard being an independent group in today’s economy”¦ With gas prices going through the roof we need to start finding more sustainable ways of transportation. We carpool as much as possible! Overall, we have to strive to be ourselves and keep our heads high despite the way our system will try to mold us, and we have to be positive role models for the youth of the world that will be the next generation of musicians and politicians. If we make a change today, they might listen tomorrow.