Their [AgapéSoul] quenching mixture of funk, soul, and jazz creates a seductive vibe as only the late Prince Rogers Nelson, could sway it, but with melodious chronicles that expound on music from a contemporary perspective of life in abstract.
The album, Conversations, crests at a high voltage where melodies and instrumentals link gracefully. The album is a compilation of 10 singles, performed by core members of the group, Aaron Green (drummer), Cam Perridge (guitarist), and Zoe Ellis (vocalist), along with guest performers, who have the bravado to grace each single with hues of ingenuity.
While creeping subtly down memory lane, Anders talked about the first song that he played as a bass player.
“I remember the day I figured out the baseline to Steely Dan, the Black Cow. Yes, from the Aja album. The day I figured that baseline out it was a major moment. I wasn’t serious about playing bass. It was something fun,” says Anders. “Steely Dan’s music is really challenging. It’s not the usual formula of pop-core progressions. The day that I heard it, I knew I was on to something."
Anders was 15-years-old when he fell in love with the whimsical tones of Steely Dan. He continued from that moment of being in awe to calibrating his own harmonies. Before becoming an eminent bandleader, Anders shaped his distinction as an immaculate sideman. He performed alongside legends Tower of Power, Zigaboo Modeliste, and Booker T. Jones, in addition Grammy-winning songwriter Bonnie Hayes, and two-time Grammy-nominee Ledisi. He reproduced songs for wildly popular video games Karaoke Revolution, Guitar Hero and Rock Band.
Although he’s already performed with luminaries in the music industry, Anders would love to hit the stage with sonic vocalist, Lalah Hathaway, Michael McDonald and Bonnie Raitt. If Miles Davis and Prince were alive, he’d create futuristic hits with them, too.
“A friend of mine had a studio that got contracted for Karaoke Revolution. No one knew what it was at the time,” says Anders when discussing the auspicious steps that he took, to landing the contracts for the game that is now used by Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft, Nintendo DS and Wii, to name a few published platforms. “I was initially hired as a contracter to help him find musicians, and as a bass player, it turned into me producing some of the sessions. I hired musicians; I sang on stuff, I played bass on some stuff. That was Red Octane, and then when Guitar Hero happened, they contacted us. Then, Guitar Hero and Rock Band-- For five years, I basically lived in the studio and worked on those games. That was also the catalyst for making the first AgapéSoul album, because I was in the studio working on and reproducing the classic songs. You had to reproduce them exactly. I thought, ‘This is cool, but it would be so much fun to make music. It felt free to create music and make it the way I wanted it to be. My friend that owned the studio told me that since I helped him, I could work in the studio for free. When I made the first record, the only thing that I paid for was an engineer.”
Presenting the best milieu, AgapéSoul debuted their album in 2012 called Believe in Love. In 2018, they released another superlative piece called Conversations. As with any heavily anticipated masterpiece, Conversations is like the sacred lotus flower, budding with metaphoric missives of purity body, speech, and mind. The album landed unpretentiously on UK Soul Chart Top at #1, and #1 on Mi Soul Connoisseurs Chart, while hitting UK Soul Top 30.
“That was kind of a big deal to me,” says Anders. “We have a big fan base in Europe from the first record. There were parts of this record that I made specifically for that market. People in Europe appreciate music on a different level than they do here. The record came out July 15, and three weeks after it hit, it became number one in the UK. That was a big deal for us. Right now, its number two on the Indie Soul charts with no record label. It’s just a small team of people that believes in the music. We’ve been able to get it heard and reviewed by some great people.”
The album is doing numbers, literally, whether nationally and internationally. Anders confirms that it’s an honor to be heard and appreciated by his listeners. “I want people to hear it and feel something, he says, “Whether it’s good or bad, heartbreak or something, if you make music that people don’t feel, you fail. I want as many people to hear the music and feel something, hopefully good [stuff]. The next thing, I would want to travel and play this music in front of people. That’s sort of similar and separate, because when you perform the music live, there’s an engagement that happens. It’s so different than the rest, and that’s part of the concept of Conversations. We are having a conversation just the way you and I are having right now. A conversation happens among musicians and singers when we’re creating the music. A conversation happens within the band and audience when we’re playing the music. All those forms of conversation are important to me. The third thing would be, to make enough money to quit my day job.”
While balancing both worlds, Anders is motivated to do his music. “I have a wife that’s chasing this dream along side of me. She pushes me to make sure that it happens. I know I’m incredibly blessed in that way.”
A longtime friend and influencer of Anders told him that if he’s doing the music for money, he may as well throw it [his career] in a trash can and set it on fire.
“It’s hard to monetize what we do, and the business isn’t what it used to be. As an artist without a label and without a lot of these things, it’s difficult to get your music heard. Making money can’t be your only motivation. I have done many gigs and done many things through this band where I’ve made no money and it’s cost me money. If I don’t invest in myself, how can I expect anyone else to invest in what I’m doing?”
There are four core members in the band, and they all have the same inspiring goals and passions, to keep pushing and playing music.
“A lot of what I do is like throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall and taking stuff out. It’s almost like making a soup backwards, but you’re pouring a bunch of stuff in there and you take it out to make space for things. For me, its most important of how the music makes me feel. Sonically, and emotionally, it has to feel right.”
The 57-year-old formed his band 10-years ago. “I was going to put a band together, plays some gigs and have fun. I played in other peoples bands my whole life. I thought, ‘What would it be like to play my own music?”
He also shared that his personal sound is influenced by Marcus Miller, Willie Leaks, Jimmy Hassle [The Yellow Jackets], Freddie White from Earth Wind and Fire, Walter Becker with Steely Dan. “I grew up listening to a lot of music like Paul McCartney—He’s a very melodic bass player.”
According to the musician, the song that stretched him to completion on his latest album is the single entitled Conversations.
“I had the title of the record before we finished the first record. I had many diffident ideas of what it was supposed to be. I had an idea in my head, but it kept changing and evolving. I tried to write it with the singer in the band and we would get something started. Finally, she told me that I should write the song since it was my idea and my thing. She was pushing me to do it. I was in a bit of writing slump, but once I got it really going, and that song was finished, it was one of the best songs on the record for me. It got me out of my slump. I said what I wanted to say, in the way I wanted to say it. I felt like the message of that song was strong. I like to write songs that are about something bigger than just love and romance. That’s great. I like to write about those things too; but, in the world that we live in, I try to leave a mark, to say something important.”
In relevance to Anders last remark; it’d be unfair not to talk about his indicative piece from the thoughtful collaborative called Sweet Sticky Thing.
“When I was a kid growing up in the time of The Ohio Players, one of the first forty-fives that I bought in my life, it was the Ohio Players song, “Funky Worm.” This is way before “Fire” and “Rollercoaster.” My older brother hipped me to the “Funky Worm,” and by the time the other albums came out with the album covers that were super racy… I’ll never forget this because I got in trouble. When I was 11-years-old, my mother had a savings account. She was saving for college or whatever, so I decided to take my happy behind to the bank and take out eleven-dollars, so I could buy me some records. I bought the Ohio Players, “Skin Tight” and Graham Central Station, “Mirror.” I got in trouble because I went and took money out the bank, but that made the Ohio Players that much better because it wasn’t something I was supposed to have. “Sweet Sticky Thing” is just the mixture of Jazz, R&B and Funk, it was so seamless in that stuff. I just love that song because it reminds me of the energy and love I had for music when I was a kid, long before I was a bass player. I wanted to do it on the first record, but it didn’t fit. I decided when this record came along, one way or another, I was going to feel it. We recorded that in the first session. We did three songs for the record that day—“Sweet Sticky Thing,” “Changes,” “The Way That We Love,” we did those three songs that day and the vocal on those songs is first take. The whole idea of switching it and having a lady sing it, [Sweet Sticky Thing], Ashling Cole, who sings on that track is the lead singer of Graham Central Station. She’s a good friend. We had a really good time with that. I got the Snarky Puppy, Horn Section, to redo the horn part and make it ours. If I’m going to do a cover song, I got to make it my own."
Anders agrees that the songs are timeless, and even though they remake the original pieces of an album, they add a bit of themselves to the ballads as well as the instrumentals to make it their ode to the arts.
Musical styles change almost intuitively, but that hasn’t stopped Anders from sticking to his formula.
“I like a lot of different types of music. When I write or when I play, all that stuff is in there, and it just comes out. One of the best things about making this record is that I was bold, and I was not afraid to ask for what I wanted. I had people play on the record who were great players and great performers. If it wasn’t what I wanted, it was nothing personal, I paid them and kept going until I got what I wanted. I asked [renowned] people to play on the record that I had no business asking-- Two of my biggest musical influences, Tommy Sims (co-writer of Eric Clapton Pop Classic Change the World) and Geoffrey Williams. I knew that the only thing they could say when I asked them to be a part of the project is, “No.” It felt good to have people that wanted to be involved with the project. I learned from the first record that you shouldn’t let people tell you what you should do if it’s your project. I wasn’t initially comfortable being a band leader. I’ve been a bass player my whole life. I’ve been in the back-supporting things, which is a good vantage point to create music from because you must see and pay attention to everything. As a leader, you must be the guy that says, ‘This is what we are doing, and this is what we are not doing.’ It took me a while to get comfortable in that role, but now that I am, I’m not going backwards.”
Pointers for musicians looking to step beyond local: My advice would be to think outside the box. Don’t feel limited to where you are. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.
Sweet Sticky Thing
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