Monday, 02 July 2012 14:07
Fresh off a successful gig at Gainesville Fashion Week, we sat down with Savants of Soul founding member Alexander Klausner to talk about the origins and future of the Motown meets indie meets soul band.
Klausner pulls double duty as drummer and press agent while also taking journalism courses at the University of Florida.
By Greg Allard; Photo by Max Reed
Tell us about the origins of the band.
We have this Motown greatest hits record on vinyl at our house. We loved to listen to it at parties and such. So I'm sitting at the house listening to this record and I just had this huge urge to play this kind of music.
A few days later, I'm listening to The Raveonettes, thinking, "Hey, they've got their indie punk throwback to the early 1960s, why can't I have mine?" So I call up my roommate John Gray, and ask him if he wants to play bass, and I call up [INsite's own] Brandon Stern, who is an amazing guitarist. So it started as a three-piece, with those two sharing vocal duties.
It started out with this whole concept of, "OK, we're going to make soul songs, but we're going to make them punky with this indie sensibility in the lyrics as well. And if they're not catchy as hell, we're going to throw them out." Brandon wrote a couple tunes, which wound up being our songs "Emmanuel" and "You're All Mine." They were way different then. If you heard the original demo cuts, you wouldn't even recognize them.
We needed keyboards to add string textures and organs and other stuff like that, so Brandon suggested his friend James, who is another really talented musician. Someone mentioned our good friend Justin, who jumped on board immediately and we started really hashing out songs. We also brought in a female backup singer.
We were sitting there with two backup singers, a keyboardist and a seven-person band. The original vision of having this small, soul-punk outfit was long gone, so we're like, screw it. Let's make this a real soul band and get horns. So we grab a trumpeter, Patrick, who's still with us, and Chris, a great sax player, who isn't.
I had gotten word that this girl, Kylie Winkles, would be perfect for our sound. She begins singing this Fiona Apple song, I look at the other guys and just give them this, "she's in," look.
And we're going to name a new sax player real soon.
How did you come up with the name Savants of Soul?
Well, we were originally trying to think of a "The _____s" name. Figured it'd fit that soul thing we were going for. We ultimately thought we could be The Savants, and so that's what we were for a while. However, there was already a The Savants in Canada or something. When we made our Gmail account, John Gray had the presence of mind to make it different by tacking on "Of Soul" to The Savants.
How would you classify your music?
I always tell people we're a soul band. But we're not purely soul. It's got this punky tinge to it because that's the band's background and was kind of what we originally set out to do.
We're working on getting a single and b-side to that single mastered. The single's called "Darkness," one of our funky tunes. We went into the studio, at Medusa Studios, with the idea of making the song "You're All Mine" our single, but when we heard "Darkness" come out of the oven we were like, "This is the single, my friend."
We've been in the studio for a couple months really working and I think we've got a great-sounding product.
Tell us about your songwriting process.
With a seven-or-eight-piece band, it's nearly impossible to write songs efficiently, so with working on shows and changing members all the time, it's been hard to do. But there are two ways songs are written. Either A, one person comes up with a basic idea, or B, we just jam something out. "You're All Mine" was written way A and "Darkness" was written way B. Both songs turned out great, so I'm good with both methods.
Who are your influences?
There are too many to count. I listen to everything. I love American popular music from 1900 through now. Soulfully speaking, I'm a huge Sam Cooke fan. If I could just write one song as good as "Cupid" or "Chain Gang," then I think I could die happy. I'm also a big fan of The Supremes and guys like Arthur Conley.
What are some of your upcoming gigs?
We're going to be playing this cool event at 1982 called Summer SOULstice with Janna Pelle and The Half-Steps and some of the guys from The Legendary JC's on July 7. Then we're doing a show July 13 at this place called Gallery 21, which isn't a venue per se, but the guy who owns it is opening it up to us and letting us play there. We don't have a full lineup for it yet but we'll probably invite a couple of our friends' bands to join us. It'll be a fun time.
Janna ended up playing at Gainesville Fashion Week too. How was that experience?
A lot of fun. It's been a goal of mine to play at the Savannah Grande, which is now Villa East, since I was 15, so that was a nice milestone. And watching Justin run out and dance on the runway during "Land of 1,000 Dances" was one of the best things he's ever done. Justin brings this raw energy, this personality and this voice to the band. He carries the live show like nobody else. I love having him as a front man.
What draws you to this type of music?
At the end of the day, what draws me to this music is that it is fun, soulful, bluesy and gives me that opportunity to celebrate the music of the past and play music that means something to me.
1. Favorite band in Gainesville: Hundred Waters. Talk about bands that are pushing boundaries. Those guys sound unlike anything I've heard in this town and their performance is top-notch. You're doing yourself a disservice if you have not made it out to one of their shows.
2. Favorite place to eat in Gainesville: I gotta go with Manuel's Vintage Room. Often out of my price range, but that's the best Italian food in the city.
3. Best movie you've seen this year: I loved the The Avengers. Most fun I've had at a theater in a long time, but when The Dark Knight Rises comes out, I'm sure Avengers will be taking a comfortable seat as No. 2.
4. Average time to sleep and wake: Usually asleep by 1am, up by 9am these days.
5. Favorite eats: Mostly cheap food I can eat at home, like sandwiches, pizza rolls or cereal. But when I feel like treating myself, I'm going to Chipotle.