It was obvious to me the first time I saw Apollo Soul live just how much of their atmospheric souls pour into the music they create. Their respective instruments feel like extensions of their bodies, and the cohesion of the group as a whole is unparalleled.
That night went late, rewatching shitty iPhone videos of the performance – then discovery of Boys Night, released last June.
Cole, Ellington and Jack are all 3rd year Jazz students at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Jazz and their guitarist Matt shreds with the foundation of a true bluesman. The combination of the four talents and their influences is worth more than the sum of their parts, the psychedelic love child of jazz and funk that they carry to term with every live appearance.
Be sure to keep an eye on these guys.
Cole Brossus is a bass-smacker. Matt Saunders leads on guitar. Jack Bastion plays the keyboard. Ellington Peet, who has the coolest name in the band, supports on drums. KCPR collected them into a room, and conducted the following interview:
We’ve got Apollo Soul, which is a psychedelic jazz funk band. Is that fair a fair fusion?
Jack: That’s what they say.
How did you guys meet?
Jack: Well, we can start off by saying that we’re all pretty close friends. I think that shines through in how we play with each other, because we all have known each other since the beginning of freshman year. We formed within the first quarter and our first show was two months into freshman year.
Cole: I wasn’t there for the first gig though. When we met, we went to Ellington’s house. That’s where I met Matt. Matt pulls up with a gig bag and a black Strat and I’m like, “Who is this guy?” Then he automatically pulls it out and shreds on me. And we hadn’t heard each other play, but we just decided to jam. Just us four.
Matt: Yeah I was just like, we’re gonna get this Cole guy playing bass.
And then you saw the bass face and that was the end.
Ellington: I was in love.
Cole: Me, Jack and Ellington actually study together. We’re 3rd year Jazz Studies majors at UCLA. We’re a pretty tight knit group.
I wanna talk about the bass face. Does it just happen? What’s the origin? What’s going through your head? I have to know.
Cole: I am an very excitable person. Many things get me going, especially when I hear something awesome from these boys and they’re just setting something up that’s like ––
At this point, Cole makes his infamous “bass face.”
Cole: And for those of you who can’t see I’m actually making an example of it. A lot of teeth showing and snarling. I make noise too! You might not actually be able to hear it but I am definitely screaming at some points.
Jack: It usually corresponds to this weird sort of sideways jig that he does.
Cole: And a lot of bending down. Tongue out a lot. Goin’ crazy.
Matt: Like Michael Jordan going to the rack, ya know?
Since you have so many different influences coming together to make this sound, what are some of your influences or favorite albums?
Matt: I mean that just comes from where we are as players, so if we just toss it in the pot, it works. I come from a super bluesy sorta rock background. I never even listened to jazz before coming to school whereas Jack is steeped in it.
Jack: Yeah, the three of us being Jazz Studies majors, we have the jazz stuff covered and the funk stuff covered and you interject Matt into it and we all have learned from each other. From listening and playing with Matt, I have picked up so many blues licks that have just really informed my playing more than I would have gotten if I was just playing jazz. I would assume Matt feels the same way.
Matt: Yeah! Rhythm ideas from Ellington, harmonic ideas from Cole. The whole thing.
Cole: Especially in the beginning. I think that Ellington and I specifically brought a lot of hip-hop influence as Southern California boys. Shout out to Long Beach, shout out to Mar Vista. From my childhood at least, that has been a huge influence.
Jack: Yeah, the instrumental beats. Both Cole and Ellington produce too.
Another thing that we were very curious about is how you know when a song is done, and how do you change it up for every live show?
Ellington: We try to read the audience, a lot. Sometimes they might not be down for a lengthy 25 minute improv session.
Cole: Not all Phish fans, eh?
Ellington: But a lot of our songs, we have a lot of set songs that we play, and then we have sections that can be as open as possible. So some of the tunes that we played here today, we can play them really straight forward and cut throat and dry or we can stretch out on them and kind of flip them. We’ve been trying to do all our songs differently when we play them.
Jack: A lot of times we just get on stage and improv. We just choose chords or a key and see what happens.
Matt: Thinking about when you know a song is ready, it’s not necessarily knowing how to play the melody or that this part goes here, but rather if the feel is there. We can just feel comfortable and know where we’re going and then expand on that. It doesn’t really matter where we go, as long as we can feel safe. But sometimes you’re reaching for this thing that keeps leaving you. Then you’re feeling stranded and you can’t connect. That’s when the song isn’t right.
Ellington: You’ve gotta ride the energy.
Matt: That’s when you’ve got it.
How did that play into Boy’s Night? How did you know when it was done?
Cole: It took a while.
Jack: It was a hard time recording.
Ellington: It was pretty much a summary of our first year together. We recorded over the span of pretty much a year and then dropped it in the second year of our existence. I like to think that the first song represents our start and then the end of the album is kind of where we were later on.
Jack: Cause we recorded the songs pretty much in order chronologically. So it’s kind of a trajectory of us. There’s just a big variety of styles throughout the album.
Tell me about your music video. I liked you on Facebook, as everyone should, and there was lots of talk it.
Cole: Shouts out to Facebook. We filmed it over the summer using funds from our kickstarter campaign. Shouts out to our donors for making it possible, and we used that money to film this video with our new friends and it’s quite fun. You should go check it out, there’s an M. Night Shyamalan twist at the end and you won’t see it coming.
Matt: Our friend who directed it is an integral part of our friend group, so it definitely reflects our sense of humor. It’s who we are as people, which we are also trying to reflect in our music.
Cole: Shout’s out to Boys Night. You know who you are.https://youtu.be/h9XuXnGHf4g