When I take out my 1973 vinyl copy of “Aiye-Keta,” by Remi Kabaka, Abdul Lasisi Amao, and Steve Winwood and read the following credits… Remi Kabaka (lead vocals, piano, drums, congas, african drums and pot, rhythm guitar & moog drum), Abdul Lasisi Amao (saxes, flute, congas, percussion & vocals), Steve Winwood (keyboards, lead guitar, percussion, moog & vocals)… I’m blown away by the dynamical abilities of these astounding multi-instrumentalists, and develop a good sense that the music will be fantastic, even before I’ve given it a spin. In a different place, time, and style of music: the South Bay, 2011, electronica/dub/lo-fi/soul/psychedelic hip-hop; there’s another diversely talented artist applying an array of instruments, tools, and assorted goodies to a colorful music. His name is Jeff Laos, his music is Soulular. Laos explains, “Soulular is a funky blend of organic and inorganic sounds with original, interesting arrangements in a lush atmosphere – shaped by hard beats, deep bass and dub effects, with soulful harmonies and sexy melodies.” The maestro continues, “It is a strong mix of everything that inspires me and music I love and vibe out to. There are many elements to it [Soulular], with emphasis on psychedelic, hip hop, electronica, dub, glitch, drum ‘n bass, house, reggae, funk and soul sounds.” Laos is generally well known as the bassist of the South Bay-based band A Bear With A Car On Top. He also plays in two other bands, is an occasional session bassist, and teaches guitar and bass. He’s also a former Redondo Beach resident, hailing from Tucson, AZ, residing in Long Beach; active in the South Bay. But in the secret halls of his individual musical wanderings, he is Soulular.
His fingers at work. Photos by Courtney Vernick
“Soulular is an expression of my heart and soul,” he says. “I always try to create something I’m feeling deeply, and something I want to hear. It is not limited to any set tempo or formula or generalizations… the sound is full of bouncing, deep bass, sweet melodies, and lush soundscapes and atmospheres… with multiple feels under the same soulfully vibey vibe.”
Tinkering away in his halls, the soulful scientist deftly pulls from a range of devices and instruments to create his vision.
Laos expounds, “I use a MacBook, ableton live, pro tools, reason, midi controllers, samplers, guitars, basses, synths (software and analog), pianos, organs… as well as many, many effects and plug-ins… and I do all the vocals myself… and some of the vocals are sample-based.” Soulular is completely designed, arranged, performed, produced, and engineered by Laos in his home studio. His debut effort, “Embrace the Flow,” is an eclectic LP that journeys through an amalgam of musical styles and sounds, that somehow “flow” together. The prolific artist not only lives music, but has studied it as well. With a degree in Audio Engineering and Production from the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Phoenix, AZ, and another degree in Bass Guitar Performance from the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, Laos still feels he owes much to an additional campus; one tucked away in a corner of the South Bay in Torrance. “The Reef [Recording Studio] is a source of huge inspiration in my life,” he says. “Charlie [D’Agostino] (and The Reef) is one of the biggest supporters I have in my life and it is a huge asset in my creative growth.” Laos is currently working on a follow up EP to “Embrace the Flow,” and has already done some tracking and mixing at Reef Recording studios in Torrance. He says, “The vibe and feel is going to be down-tempo, psychedelic-hip-hop, dub-electronica; but I’m not a huge fan in trying to describe it. I’m hoping to be finished with it before or around late october 2011.” He’s also currently submerged in the depths of recording a new LP with A Bear With A Car On Top at Reef as well. And for a musician who can’t help but breathe and live the music, we can probably expect much, much more from Jeff Laos. “I like to think the future is bright,” he says. “I just try to maintain a progressive, positive goal-oriented outlook on my music career, without forgetting for a second why I create and play music in the first place – and that’s for my mind, body, and soul. Times are tough, but I am grateful for the opportunity and gift to be in the position I am in, and just continue to try and live a sustainable life and just embrace the flow.” While “Embrace the Flow” was initially centered around the studio, Laos is currently developing his Soulular project for live performance and touring purposes. Until then, the flow can be embraced via digital download (see below) while Laos paints soundscape expressions of what Soulular means to him. “I chose Soulular because I just felt it described how I feel about music, art, and creativity in general; and how I feel about my perception of life. I felt it was a name I was proud of, that fully describes the vibe I feel and want to go for. I also love that it associates to the idea of the collective consciousness – in terms of how each one of us have souls, and we express ourselves and our experiences throughout our lives in one way or another, and that is of the “soulular” nature (such as how cells act in a cellular way). I feel we as humans are put in existence to create and express how our souls resonate and react with the many experiences we encounter in our brief time in this reality… and how all of our action and thought and existence is merely a vibration amongst a great vibration in the bigger picture, and that is Soulular to me.”
“Embrace the Flow” can be listened to and/or downloaded at DirtyHippieRadio.com, soulular.bandcamp.com, and soundcloud.com/soulular. A follow up Soulular EP is projected for late October. Jeff Laos can also be contacted for guitar and bass lessons at Soulularmusic@gmail.com. If you embrace the Soulular sound, I also recommend Mister Dcell on DirtyHippieRadio.com. ER