From the JazzReggae Festival to the upcoming Ecochella, Apollo Soul has worked its way around the UCLA musical circuit. Yet with ethnomusicology students Ellington Peet on drums, Jack Bastian on keyboard and Cole Brossus on bass, and undeclared student Matt Saunders on guitar, all four Apollo Soul members are first-year students.
After six months together, the band is looking to expand the magnitude of its live performances by playing venues around Los Angeles and by adding visual arts to shows. Its first studio album, bearing layers of jazz, blues and rock fusion, is also in the works.
Apollo Soul will perform at Ecochella, which will be held at the Sunset Recreation Center on Friday.
The Daily Bruin’s Benjamin Pollock spoke with Saunders and Bastian about the band’s identity, their upcoming performance at Ecochella and future releases.
Daily Bruin: How would you define your music?
Matt Saunders: I come from a super different background than everyone in the band. I was schooled in blues-rock, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, British blues style. … Then I got here, and all these guys are talking about this crazy jazz stuff, and it has created an interesting dynamic with our music. It has made it not too out there, but it still has thought behind it.
Jack Bastian: It has allowed us to have diversity, because when we want a jazzier, hip-hop sound, I can take the lead, and when we want a blues-rock sound, Matt can take the lead. I’ve been listening to Matt and been realizing things about blues phrasing that I’ve never realized before, and it is starting to show through our playing.
DB: How did Apollo Soul start?
MS: I met the drummer, Ellington, at orientation, and we made vague plans to start up a band. I didn’t even know if he was good or anything. I just liked him; we were just friends. Then my roommate from orientation ended up being Jack’s roommate here, so that’s how we met Jack. The three of us decided to go to Ellington’s house and jam since he lives nearby, and it was awesome. We just needed a bass player. We found Cole through the jazz department.
JB: We really started out as a band that played at parties. At the beginning, we played a lot of covers. Our first gig at The Treehouse went really well. Not to toot our own horn or anything, but we all thought they liked us. After the show, Matt, Ellington and I got into a little group hug and we realized that the band was actually real. At that moment, we thought that we had the potential to go somewhere cool. It was a special moment at the time, and I think it has held true.
DB: Have you been recording any new music recently?
MS: Yeah, we’ve been in the studio a lot lately. We recorded two demos, and we got two tracks down. We’re working on an album, and we should be done with recording in the next six months or so. Mixing may take a while too. We’ve done a ton of over-dubbing and multitracking. We’re going all out.
DB: Do you have a name for the album?
MS: Cole and I have been talking, and we do have a tentative name. I think this is going to be the one. We’re thinking about calling it “Boys’ Night.” It is kind of what we say whenever we party and hang out. It makes sense. It is our go-to phrase of our (first) year.
DB: The band recently played at the JazzReggae Festival. What was that like?
MS: It was a lot of fun. The stage sounded really great. The sound guys nailed it. It was the first time we’ve ever played through a PA system, and it was really cool.
DB: You guys are playing Friday at Ecochella. What can we expect?
MS: Well actually Jack isn’t playing, but we’ll have Nate Schwartz, a (second-year) guitar player in the jazz program, taking his place. He’s a total renegade, but we’ll miss Jack.
JB: I’m sad that I won’t get to see it. Having two guitar players as opposed to one guitar player and a keyboardist will be really interesting.
DB: What is the band’s goal for the future?
MS: We just want to finish this album and make it super good. Even though we’ve only been a band for six months, we’re not messing around. We just want to nail that, and continue to grow as musicians. We’re in Los Angeles. The world is our oyster.
Complied by Benjamin Pollock, A&E contributor.