With all the bland, synthetic, tasteless, defanged, “music” in the market, and clogging the nation’s airwaves, it’s a blast of fresh air to receive music that has danger, intelligence, mystery, and balls. The band that puts the rock back in the roll and makes music exciting again, is LA’s All Souls. The quartet’s self-titled debut hasn’t left my car or stereo since I first stumbled upon it. Comprised of underground and desert rock veterans and cult stars, All Souls is the proper alignment of spit, polish, melody, grit, intensity and groove. All Souls is the new band featuring four talented veterans–Tony Aguilar (Totimoshi), Meg Castellanos (Totimoshi), Tony Tornay (The Desert Sessions, Fatso Jetson), and Erik Trammel (Black Elk). Their alignment produces a sonic solar system of colors, moods, and space. I was able to get bassist Meg Castellanos to break away from rehearsals for their North American tour with the mighty Melvins. Here’s what ensued:
How did Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees, Mad Season, Sunyata Records owner) “discover” you?
That’s an interesting question. One of my old friends Mark was visiting LA last year and was telling me about his musician friends up in Seattle that recently got signed to Sunyata. He thought I should submit All Souls so I reached out to Barrett. The deal was artist-friendly so we jumped on it. Plus, every other label rejected it! Their loss.
How do you describe your sound?
It’s definitely rock n’ roll. That’s such a broad term though. There are so many sub-genres. I guess the easy way to describe us is “desert rock” but I feel like we’re a little darker than that. We’re skirting on the edges of darkwave with a little bit of prog and accessible pop melodies. I could see us playing with Nick Cave, Mastodon, Tool or the Pixies. Our sound is that varied.
“Sadist” borders on the metal edge. And then there’s the song “Rename the Room” where the break down reminds me of Pink Floyd. We’re just playing the music we love. We all grew up listening to 80’s punk, metal, alternative, and prog. We don’t prescribe to any particular genre, which sets us apart but is not the easiest thing to promote. Some music fans are totally open to different sounds, but there are definitely certain bands and types of music where we would not be the right fit.
What’s it like touring with the Melvins? They seem to be great at picking up-and-coming openers?
I’ve known them since my San Francisco days. I met Dale and Buzz in the early 90’s when they were recording Houdini which my friend Billy Anderson engineered. We eventually all became good friends and Totimoshi ended up doing two full tours with them. Antonio also went on the road as Buzz’s guitar tech for a bit after we moved to LA. They were a big reason as to why we relocated to Southern California; Buzz was very generous and continues to be. I’ve always loved the Melvins. They have it down. It’s always a learning experience when we get to travel with them. And they’re easy people to be around. Their audience has always been good to us. I’m looking forward to this next tour!
Are most of your fans familiar with your previous work in other bands, or are they coming to you completely new?
I think at this point, because all of us have such a long history of touring and putting out music, fans may know us from our other projects. Hopefully, that will help. Even though it’s a new band, it’s not like we’re starting from scratch.
When did you move to LA?
In 2009. We got tired of living in the SF Bay Area. Everything was getting super expensive and many of our friends had already relocated to LA. Toshi, Melvins, Big Business and many other musicians we knew were living down there. It just seemed like a creative mecca, a place where you could collaborate and be supported. Our drummer Chris Fugitt moved down with us and we continued Totimoshi for a while longer. He eventually moved back home to Kansas City and we tried to go on with a few new drummers. Ultimately, it felt like it was winding down naturally so we started to put our focus on other things. Antonio started Last Days of Ancient Sunlight, then he and I formed Alma Sangre.
About two years ago, we started talking with Tony Tornay and Erik Trammell about starting a new band. We basically hashed out what we wanted to do before we ever jammed. We had a specific vision and wanted to be sure we were all totally committed. Touring is important and it’s not for everybody. Many bands break up because of it. It’s not an easy lifestyle. Fortunately, we have businesses and all work for ourselves so we can take time off to tour.
Los Angeles has been very good to us. Antonio and I were able to buy a home and open up a rehearsal studio (Eastside Rehearsal) in our neighborhood. All Souls practices there of course. It’s been really great to be a part of the music community down here.
How did you begin working with producer Toshi Takasi?
We met him along with a few different producers/engineers when we were down in LA doing pre-production with Page Hamilton (Helmet) for Totimoshi’s Milagrosa album. Toshi was recommended to us by the Melvins and we really liked him straight off. He’s a super funny guy and he really knows what he’s doing.
Once we recorded with him, we didn’t feel like we need to record with anyone else. We trust him so much and he has so many great ideas. He helps me with my vocals and adds really interesting ideas into the mix. The overall sound we produce kind of makes him a fifth member of the band. Totimoshi went on to record Avenger with him too and now he’s working with us for All Souls.
You kind of alluded to this in another question, but you have a desert rock sound. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but it’s that Palm Desert sound. What’s your take on it?
There’s a lot of space and atmosphere in the desert; it has a particular energy to it and that energy lends itself to creativity, I think. A lot of great artists and musicians came out of there and people continue to gravitate to that place and what it’s spawned. Being in LA, we love going out to the low desert towns to decompress. It’s only an hour and a half away. We play there occasionally too. There’s definitely a sound that came out of there that influences rock n’ roll to this day.
What do you think of Jesse Hughes and his recent comments?
I don’t pay attention to him. I think what he said about the students is horrible. And it sucks because I’m a big Josh Homme fan. Tony Tornay, our drummer, went to high school with Josh and has known him since they were kids. I love his music and I think we’re all pretty influenced by Queens, but I can’t get behind EODM or any other asshole that thinks carrying automatic weapons is a good idea.
How did Danny Carrey’s contribution to the track “Sadist” come about?
Toshi’s worked with Tool quite a bit. Erik Trammell, our guitar player, is really close to Danny Carey. Antonio and I met Danny and hung out with him and his wife a handful of times. I think through Eric and Toshi, we were able to wrangle him into playing with us and add some percussion. He’s playing the tabla intro to “Sadist/Servant.”
I just watched the video for the track “Never Know.” Who produced and filmed that video?
I came up with the story and co-directed it with my friend Rene Gomez. Rene was operating the cameras and Jacob Mendel edited the video. His editing was amazing and that’s where it all came together. I’m really proud of how it turned out.
The message seems to be about a trans person’s struggles with identity. Is that the theme?
He’s actually a gay boy that cross dresses, a drag queen who I saw perform and befriended. The theme is that things are not what they seem. The story is about a man and woman meeting up for a date, but in the end, the woman reveals herself to be the man. All is one. Life is an illusion.
You’ve all known each other for a long time. What was the impetus that finally brought you together and away from your other bands and projects?
I think we were all finally ready to start a new project. Tony Tornay’s band, Fatso Jetson is still going strong and we actually did a short tour with them in the UK this past January. Tony is doing double duty with his bands. Last Days of Ancient Sunlight was Antonio’s rock band and that kind of wound down. Eric was in Black Elk and was moving around all over the country. He finally settled back into LA. We’ve always loved his guitar playing and we were super happy to scoop him up.
Do you think as All Souls grows in popularity that each member will have to focus on this band solely?
I think Tornay can juggle it pretty well. He’s played on Desert Sessions and was also in a project with Linda Perry for a while. He’s really good at doing all his different bands without problems. Mario Lalli, the lead singer, and guitarist in Fatso Jetson is going to get busy with Yawning Man so we’re just going to have to make sure we schedule everything properly. And Alma Sangre, my other band with Antonio, will be on hold for a while as we all focus on All Souls and see how far we can take it.
Are you trying to get your music in films or commercials? Your music is very cinematic and seems like it would lend itself to those kinds of projects.
That’s where the money is. We’re still looking for a booking agent! It’s hard for a lot of bands right now. The label support isn’t there the way it used to be and there’s not a lot of money to be made from record sales. Most bands are on their own until they reach that next level like Mastodon or High on Fire has. Then again, bands like The Melvins have been kind of doing their own thing without a lot of help. The Cobain connection may have helped early on, but it’s really about their perseverance and hard work. We’d like to follow in their steps. Management could help us get on better tours, music placements, and more though.
Who writes most of the lyrics for your band?
I’d say Antonio writes the majority of them for now, but I contributed on “Reveille” on this album. Tornay is writing lyrics for a new song.
How does social media figure into what you do?
It’s a tool for sure because we only have Monica doing PR for the record release, but the tour is up to us. Tony Tornay is really good about posting on different platforms every day throughout the day. We know that we need a consistent and a fresh presence. It’s a great tool for any band. All of us definitely take advantage of it.
Are you getting good feedback on the album?
Yes, it’s very positive. People are not only receptive to it but also seem to ‘get it’ and see it as something that’s important coming from a new band.—DOUG TULL
All Souls will be appearing in St. Louis on May 24th at The Ready Room with the Melvins.