No matter where they surface, disco and funk duo Soul Clap bring good vibes, soul, their Crew Love mantra, and a whole lot of win to each performance. After moving out of Boston to pursue their dreams of producing even further, they formed Soul Clap Records and joined with Wolf+Lamb to create their own joint label parties, Crew Love, in venues all over the world. Playing for a solid two and a half hours at the Movement Festival’s Beatport Stage a few weeks back, Soul Clappers E-Heavy and Cnyce took a few moments to unwind with us after their set to chat about their roots, their Crew Love parties, why they love Detroit.
What was the highlight of your set this afternoon? How was it?
E-Heavy: It was really fun. Playing at Movement is one of the best environments to DJ in the world.
Cnyce: Yeah, today was really incredible. We went into it thinking how we would top the last time we played, which was such an incredible moment for us. Last year was incredible…they told us as we were going on stage that there was going to be a tornado in a half hour. Someone told us on stage, “We might have to cancel your set.” We were battling the winds last year, so it was an overwhelming DJ set. It was incredible. I don’t think we had played to a crowd that big at that point.
Battling for your lives, huh?
E-H: Yeah, we were fighting off a tornado. It was tough! This time was really special, too. We weren’t fighting the elements but we ended up getting to play for like two and a half hours, so we got to really push different music.
Detroit is home to many techno and house pioneers. What do you think that artists can learn from the history of Detroit and everyone who has come out of Detroit?
E-H: Well, we always try to play a few tracks by Detroit producers…when we play here especially. And there’s a lot of stuff you can’t necessarily play other places that still works in Detroit, like that Theo song you played [points to Cnyce] is dope. It’s music that’s kind of weird maybe, but when you play it in Detroit, people actually know the song and it’s amazing.
We know that you were kind of inaugurated into the temple of Vinyl Connection. How did that happen, and how do you think it directed your sound and career?
C: We’ve been inaugurated into the temple?! I missed that ceremony. When is that taking place? [laughs]
E-H: Vinyl Connection, bro. So there was a record store in Boston called Vinyl Connection…that’s what you are talking about. There’s this legend of the story where you went to a normal record store and they’d tell you, “Oh, you have to go to Vinyl Connection if you really want the classics and the house music and the disco. But if you go to Vinyl Connection you better be ready because they will drill your ass. If you don’t know your shit, they’re going to kick you out of the store. They’re tough.” So we always wanted to go to Vinyl Connection and finally got the balls to go, and luckily they liked us. I guess we knew enough about what we were looking for and asked them for records. Vinyl Connection was the spot that when people came to Boston like Dimitri From Paris…it was just this amazing vinyl spot that Carol and Tom ran. Tom just knew everything about every record. If you asked him for a record, he would find it. And Carol was this old-school disco DJ from Boston when disco was big in the ‘80s and she had stools for chit and chat and you could sit in front of the desk and just gossip about music, and she’d teach us about music…so that was the temple of Vinyl Connection.
So do you think you learned most of what you know now from those experiences?
E-H: I mean, we learned so much, but then there’s also DJ Kon from Boston who we met maybe at Vinyl Connection, but we were also DJing parties together. We ended up DJing at the same places as him, so we met Kon like that. Once Vinyl Connection closed, Kon from there on kept teaching us about disco, and now we’re putting out a Kon release on our label—so it’s [come] full circle.
You guys seem to have a lot going on up there during your sets. What does your setup look like?
C: We try to use as many different options as possible. We use the CDJs connected, we use computers…but most importantly we still carry vinyl. That’s a real gamble because at a lot of places it doesn’t work and it’s just so frustrating to carry such a weight around with you always and have a responsibility, and then to show up and find out that it’s not working. It’s awesome because in Detroit they have that together, so to be able to play vinyl here, it’s like, wow—you set the vinyl free. When that was the only way to get music, to actually possess a record is such a power and is such an amazing ability, and when you finally get to use the record it is so validating. This year Romanthony passed away. He was a great electronic music musician, and is mostly known for his work with Daft Punk but his underground stuff was really dope, like his track “Hold On,” and we played that. Eli even read the poem!
E-H: Yeah, he wrote a poem that was about how when he started to become popular he felt that a lot of the pressures and the way the industry worked were getting to him and he had to pull back and keep it true to the underground instead of where the money lies. The poem is about this and was this amazing message to end the set with…
Especially in Detroit…
E-H: Especially in Detroit! And especially because this festival is about music first. It’s always been like that, and with so much money in electronic music now, to have a festival that can continue to be true to music is amazing. It’s an honor to be here. RIP Romanthony!
You guys don’t play with all these other genres so you naturally play the more underground festivals, but would you say that Movement is a better crowd than a lot of different festivals, or would you say it’s kind of the same?
C: I just think that this is so inherently American, and to be able to achieve with electronic music in Detroit is a wonderful thing. The spirit here is a wonderful thing, especially because the surrounding area is such a unique circumstance. If you travel outside the festival you really take in the state of the city, which is eroded incredibly, so the fact that Detroit is such a destroyed city…the spirit is so alive here in a really unique way that wouldn’t happen in New York City or Los Angeles. Here something really special can happen.
E-H: There’s just an amazing energy at the festival. Everybody is here for the same reason.
So what about Boston’s dance music culture? How did it shape you as artists, since a lot of us might not know much about the scene there?
E-H: Historically, Armand van Helden used to play at a place called The Loft and there was a big rave scene and underground scene in lofts and warehouses in the ‘90s and there were raves all around Boston. We had a club called Avalon and Axis—two clubs next to each other—that closed in the early 2000s and since then it’s been really tough because it’s just teeny little venues and you kind of have to have your own parties, like at friends’ houses or wherever. We got really frustrated in Boston and we traveled around and saw how cities were embracing music. I actually moved back to Boston now and I throw parties and there’s still amazing little spaces that can fit like 150 people that go off on a Wednesday night, but Boston has nothing on weekends. It’s all commercial, you know? You have to compromise on some level because there are just no cool venues in Boston. Producers are playing these underground nights and just really staying true to their music and doing their thing and just playing a little party for their friends, so there’s this really rich culture of producers in Boston now and really great house music and disco-influenced stuff…so it’s a great time, actually, for Boston, but it’s just still super-underground.
C: It’s a funny place. Unfortunately, it’s just like comparing Boston in sports. It’s the city where the sports team never really achieves—although we won the World Series. Your hopes are so high all the time and I think the music equates to that. Artists really want it, you know, and because of that there’s some real cool talent. It’s impressive. We’re the underdog city all the time and producers from there are hungry as fuck, and it’s like any other place where people see you doing well, they hate a little bit but also support, and now there’s so many artists like on this Dancing on the Charles compilation we did. I think they are going to blow up and it’ll be great. We’re proud to be from Boston.
Were the Crew Love parties kind of your thinking, too, in that sense—that you could move your parties to wherever you wanted?
E-H: Crew Love is with our Brooklyn homies Wolf+Lamb. That’s like our family of music. Boston’s our hometown, but we’re only just trying to tap into the music there because that’s a very different thing. We have our family who we travel with, who we spend our time with, who we live with, and who we make music with—and that’s what Crew Love is. We started our own label, but why are we going to throw Soul Clap Records parties and Wolf +Lamb parties separately? It just makes no sense! We’re going to play each other’s parties; it’s just how it is. It allows us to put No Regular Play, Tanner Ross, Slow Hands, Voices of Black, us, Wolf+Lamb, Pillow Talk, and Nick Monaco, who’s our artist, all kind of together. Barcelona—everyone’s playing. Winter Music Conference—everybody played. We’re playing Wavefront Music Festival in Chicago and everyone is playing the stage. We can really bring our musical agenda because it’s DJing, but really focused on the live performances from Pillow Talk, No Regular Play, etc.
When you play with Wolf+Lamb, it’s not just like there are two people up there. Do you guys ever talk before you get on stage?
C: Big conversation. Before, after, and definitely during! And sometimes it’s funny because everybody has their idea of how the party is going to go and everybody wants to bring it. Sometimes it’s flowing and sometimes it’s not flowing, so it’s funny. The party gets into the DJ booth as well.
E-H: Yeah, we’re all hanging out.
C: Follies ensue!
Photo by Jordan Loyd