How was Big Soul formed?
Kelleth: Caroline and I met in college. We were at a party, and I saw her playing air guitar to "Purple Haze" by Jimi Hendrix, so I thought she was pretty cool. I was in a band called the High Decibels, but we already had a bass player. So after we graduated, I taught Caroline how to play bass, and we decided to start a street duo. But we were living in Buffalo, New York at the time, and when the weather got cold we decided we should form a real group and play indoors. But it was still too cold, so we decided to move to California
What were your early concerts like?
Caroline: Looking back they seem rather hilarious, although at the time I think I was mainly just terrified. We had very small crowds then and so had to produce almost all the of the energy ourselves, onstage. Of course later this became what people loved and remembered about us as a group. I don't think most people realize that our "wacky live show" was merely a survival skill created to keep us from throwing down our instruments and running off the stage in tears (although of course there was some of that in the early days too, at least behind the scenes).
What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
Caroline: Anything on AM radio, which back then was incredibly diverse and good: from the Rolling Stones to Joni Mitchell, Al Green, the Mamas and the Papas, Cream, Simon and Garfunkle etc etc.
Kelleth: I started playing guitar because I wanted to play "Yesterday" by the Beatles, which I still can't play. After the Beatles, I got into classic rock like Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, and the Who. But I guess it was the Talking Heads and early rap music that got me into dance music.
What are the non-musical influences of Big Soul?
Caroline: Loud 70s wallpaper, narcissistic parents, health food, basketball, freeways, puppets, and mime.
How would you describe Big Soul rehearsals?
Caroline: Very no-nonsense, very time-efficient. Which is a good thing, because we don't really like rehearsing. We have become famous in some parts for our "40 minute run-through special" right before a tour.
"Le Brio", which is known by a lot of people as "Branchez la guitare" is such an unusual song. How did you write this song?
Kelleth: When we first moved to LA, we were doing a lot of Chuck Berry covers and old rhythm and blues. We weren't bad, but weren't really original or exciting either. One night we got booked to open for this funk/punk band. We did our set, and the audience was polite, but when the main band started the audience went crazy and started jumping on tables. It was humiliating. So the very next day, I got together with Caroline to come up with a new sound. I started playing some fast rhythmic guitar riffs, and I said to Caroline, "Now say something in -- I don't know -- French!" The idea was just to do something crazy that would get people's attention. We never thought about it being a hit.
It's an interesting story, selling your CD to a French tourist, and then being discovered by Sony in France. Were you surprised by how this happened?
Kelleth: We had been disappointed by people who told us they were going to help us, so we didn't really have any expectations when we first got signed. And even when we got to France, things were slow for the first few months. Then we appeared on Taratata, the great French TV program for music, and suddenly we were famous. I can't say we were really surprised, because we always had delusions of grandeur, but it was very exciting and fun.
What's your funniest experience at a concert?
Caroline: When we were playing in this big theater somewhere in France, and the show was starting, and we couldn't find the stage, just like in Spinal Tap. (We had many other "Spinal Tap" moments, so many, in fact, that if you want to know what touring with Big Soul was like, you should just watch that movie.)
Kelleth: For me, it was at a punk concert in Normandy. Apparently the promoter hadn't done such a great job and there were only about 60 people there. But we said to each other, let's just play a great show for the people that are here. So we were doing pretty well, but I was a little bothered by this guy in the audience who was just standing completely still with his arms folded, looking angry, like he wanted to kill us. Then, halfway through the show, we started playing our song "Stop Your Bitching", and he climbed up on his friend's shoulders. It wasn't like he had to do that to see us better -- there was almost nobody there. And he started laughing, pumping his fists, and singing along to the song. He knew every word to the song. Then, as soon as the song was finished, he got down and went back to the way he was before.
In concert, you are just three musicians, but people say you sound like a much bigger band. How do you do that?
Kelleth: Part of that comes from the simplicity of our arrangements. We are all often playing the same notes, so the the sound is more powerful. In addition to that, we always have nine elves just offstage who are playing and singing at the same time as us.
Would you describe yourselves as musical virtuosos?
Caroline: I like to think so. Then again, it's all subjective, isn't it?
Kelleth: If you compare us to people who have only been playing music for a few weeks, then yes, we're amazing musicians.
What advice do you have for other musicians who are starting?
Kelleth: Be original and fresh. Ask yourself, am I saying something that hasn't been said before? If you can't honestly answer yes, then consider becoming a plumber, you can make great money doing that. But if you really feel you've got something different that needs to be said, then work really hard, don't get discouraged, and always ask yourself how you can get better.