Remember when Refused dropped that record, “The Shape of Punk to Come”? Or is that an ‘old guy’ thing… Anyway, Soul Glo fits that description very well. An injection of black music into punk rock with a record so full of influences, intertextuality and loaded messages that you can’t really get around it in good conscience. Soul Glo is hardcore as it should be, on substance and not by putting it very big on their shirts.
Bands like Zulu, Scowl, Ballista, Gel, Move and so on (seriously, fill it up, everyone should check out these bands) show that hardcore is not dead, and also provides a platform for diversity, inclusiveness and a stage for the issues that are going on right now. So the new sound, and Soul Glo is part of that. The band is from Philadelphia, and there is clearly plenty to be angry about, and they show it with wry humor and a musical arsenal that rocks. Oh and live they are bold too.
‘Diaspora Problems’ has been out for a while now, and soon the band will also be coming to our capital city along. We asked Pierce Jordan to talk about it, so you can get to know them in advance. get to know the band.
Hey Soul Glo, how are you doing? What’s happening over there? How did Soul Glo get started and how did you get into punk/hardcore music yourselves?
Soul Glo got started in 2014. We got into punk and hardcore from our families and friends.
Did you like the second installation of ‘Coming to America’? And why did you pick the name Soul Glo, which as far as I know can only be a reference to the first film?
I thought it was just okay. It was nice that they restored the original cast but it wasn’t that funny. We picked the name as a reference to a classic piece of Black movie history as well as an explanation of how music represents an individuals innermost self.
What can you tell about that fantastic record ‘Diaspora Problems’. In your words, what is the album telling us and what was the process like to make this gem?
The album is telling you about aspects of my life and emotions and how they reflect a commonality of experience that any given listener may have the chance to tap into. The process was long, arduous, sweaty, and fulfilling.
What is your approach to music like, in terms of influences, genres, styles? I hear so much things on ‘Diaspora Problems’. From heavy metal to post-punk/noiserock, trap/rap and do I hear ska? Where does this all come from? And does this tie into the extensive list of guest musicians on the album.
Our approach to our music is collaborative and a result of all our influences. It comes from all we enjoy about music, but all we enjoy isn’t reflected on this album. There is much more for us to offer. The guest musicians are friends of the band. We admire their work and want them reflected as a part of ours.
Another thing I was dazzled by is the lyrics and titles. This complete play with brackets, capitals, etc. to add layers of meaning to every title, but also that a song can switch from aggressive hiphop-like lyrics (I don’t know how else to express this) to poetic expressions of dark emotions. So, can you say something about your approach to writing, and what inspirations shine through in your diversity on this album?
My approach to lyric writing is pretty much based on a combination of my influences, which include Audre Lorde for her emotion, sentimentality, and analysis of both, The Watts Prophets for their intertwined sardonic humor and vengeful anger, and Tim Kinsella for his technical use of alliteration and consonance. I’m influenced by the way people talk in the city we live in, Philadelphia.
The way I talk in interviews and around my friends and family is different because of the way I was raised. Some people are like this, and some people aren’t. I like to show both in my writing because we are all made up of different selves that come out at different times in order to survive in this world.
When I listened to this record the first time, I was blown away. I was taken back to ‘The Shape of Punk to Come’ by the Refused, thinking: here it is, the shape of punk to come. Punk/hardcore is undergoing a massive shift, and Soul Glo is in my opinion part of that movement, but what is happening in American punk/hardcore?
In the United States there’s both innovation and a lot of celebration and worship of previous styles from past years. I imagine we aren’t very different from the rest of the world in this way.
The hardcore/punk scene has historically been pretty white. I read on Brooklyn Vegan that you had said: “I wanted the album to feel like it was a very broad look at American music, and highlighting all of the best Black influences of American music.” To me, this can only be to the benefit of the music genre, which has only had some minor links to hiphop through hardcore. What would be the shift you’d love to see happen through music like yours in punk?
I’d like to see more perspectives and types of personhood represented within the genre and in all genres in general. That’s what pushes the forms forward.
There are some specific references on your album I understand, and I wish I could write the “Every Rap Reference on Diaspora Problems” article. Do you hope people will pick up on certain artists specifically?
I do. Everyone seems to hear the Cannibal Ox references but not many people have said anything about the 2Pac references.
So punk and hiphop are both styles that speak up against what is wrong in the world. I think that’s the most broad way to describe it. I would think that there is more than ever to speak up against (though I bet every generation says that), but your home country is particularly divided. What are the important messages Soul Glo wants to share with the world, what issues particularly come up in your music?
Though I’m sure it’s already clear, the message that I personally want to share with the rest of the world is that the problems that our country creates for those of the rest of the planet are largely not supported by the majority of the citizens of the United States. They don’t give a shit about us either.
How did you end up on Epitaph, what’s the story?
Essentially Jeremy Bolm extended all his resources to us and single-handedly changed our lives. This includes setting up a meeting with Epitaph, though the label was already aware of us.
You’re gearing up for a European tour. Have you been over the big pond before? What are your expectations? Are you looking forward to visiting the Netherlands?
We’ve been to Europe once before, and even though we had our share of difficulties, the shows were great. The Netherlands in many ways is the polar opposite of the United States, so yes, visiting again will be quite a treat.
So what are the future plans for Soul Glo right now?
A whole lot of shows.
If Soul Glo was a dish, not a fictive hair product, what would it be and why?
Not sure entirely, but it would probably be very spicy.