Get Ready: Drummer Alan Evans Talks Matador! Soul Sounds, Soulive & More


Welcome to another edition of The Art Of The Sit-In, where we mix it up with the scene’s most adventurous players and hear some stories from the road. For more, check out our recent interviews with Todd Nance, John Popper, Andrew “Red” Johnson, Jimmy Herring, Rob Barraco, Nicki Bluhm, Neal Casal and many more. (A full archive of more than 50 The Art Of The Sit-In features is here.)

By his own admission, Alan Evans never half-asses anything.

Best known for his drum work in Soulive and his affiliation with countless other groups as a musician and producer, it takes a lot for Evans to commit. But what he saw in Eddie Roberts, the whip crack guitarist from The New Mastersounds and for years now a good friend of Evans’, was a chance to do interesting music in a band that could definitely take flight.

Hence, the birth of Matador! Soul Sounds, who just released their first record, Get Ready, and have a healthy tour behind it starting March 15 in Pittsburgh and stretching to March 29 in Seattle, with more shows (including April 29 at New Orleans Jazz Fest) on the way.

The band finds Evans and Roberts joined by bassist Kevin Scott, keyboardist Chris Spies and vocalists Kimberly Dawson (Pimps of Joytime) and Adryon de Leon (Orgone). It’s heavy with jazz, funk and soul — a perfect marriage of its members’ various backgrounds.

We welcomed Evans back to the hot seat for his take on Matador! Soul Sounds, the new Soulive album and his beloved trio’s new Cinematic outlook, and other things he has going on. Read on for the details.

JAMBASE: So let’s start with Matador! Soul Sounds. How did this come about?

ALAN EVANS: Man, honestly, it just kind of came up quickly. Eddie, a while back, asked me to fill-in for [drummer] Simon [Allen] on some New Mastersounds shows. They had a few long tours and Simon couldn’t do all the shows — he had to be home for a few things. So I filled-in. And one night, Eddie and I were hanging out in D.C., we had a night off. We just hung out at a bar, drank some good wine, and talked about life and what we had going on.

I remember he was just kind of like, “You want to start a band? Would you be interested?” And I said yeah, sure. And I wouldn’t have said that lightly, because that’s not how I roll. But it just kind of came together. We came into the studio, recorded, and it took off.

JAMBASE: Have you known Eddie for a while?

AE: We actually came together on Jam Cruise. Eddie had sat-in with Soulive a few times but this was outside of that. We were in the Jam Room together and we took over the jam for a few tunes. It was one of those experiences, you know, when you just kind of connect. And then we got to hang out on the Mastersounds tour and got to really know each other. We learned there are a lot of similarities between us, especially as far as our overall drive. He’s not one to sit still, and neither am I. So, we’re now about to go on tour, we have an album, and it’s incredible. And it’s a great band, man — a lot of fun.

JAMBASE: Why do you think you two are so simpatico?

AE: We have similar influences and history, and also a common bond in the music we like to produce and listen to. We also have a very similar aesthetic as far as production and how we hear production. Man, I’ve always been a fan of the Mastersounds albums. He’s a great player; you always know when it’s Eddie playing. And that’s one thing I’m really drawn to: individuals, people who have really found and use their voice on the instrument.

But we just have a really good time together, too, and honestly, man, that’s what it really comes down to for me. You could be the greatest musician in the world. If you’re a jerk, then we have nothing in common. I can’t hang with you. It’s more about life than music. And Eddie and I have become close friends over the past few years. His work outside of music is pretty well documented — he’s a special dude.

JAMBASE: So it’s reasonable to think that Matador! Soul Sounds will have life beyond this tour and album?

AE: Oh yeah, man, oh yeah. The thing people know about me as a person is that I’m not a fan of side projects. I don’t get involved with them because by nature, they are side — they don’t last. This isn’t some all-star band. It’s a band that I plan to devote a lot of time and energy to. I take what I do very seriously. I don’t like to spread myself too thin — all of the energy I can give to a thing, it gets all of it. So this isn’t a one-and-done kind of tour. We’re going to do it as long as we can do it, and I’m excited about that. When Eddie and I were hanging out on the second set of Mastersounds dates I did, what I learned about him is that we’re very similar. He doesn’t half-ass anything and neither do I. I think that’s why it works.

JAMBASE: The shows themselves, will they focus on the album material?

AE: Yeah, yeah, definitely. We have some material that isn’t on the album, and also some covers and things like that. The majority of it will be the album. But we’re also planning on going in and recording some new stuff during the tour. Just to keep things going.

JAMBASE: Glad to hear it. Alan, switching gears to Soulive, we’ve been hearing a lot now about the Cinematics series, the first volume of which arrived this month. What finally prompted Soulive to release new music?

AE: Well, it’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a while and the timing hasn’t quite worked out. You know, we went into the studio a few years ago to do some recording, with a producer, and things kind of got sidetracked. That stuff was … well, who knows what’s up with that? So we chilled out for a while after that situation, and honestly, I wouldn’t say I got frustrated, but I just really wanted to do something with Soulive — put something out.

Finally, we were over in Japan at the end of last year and we started talking about it again. I suggested we get together in my studio, and we set two days aside, and we got in here. It just happened — that’s the way it always has happened with us. I don’t want it to be so long again, but if it’s another six years until the next album, well, so be it. There’s no sense in forcing something into existence. That said, we are really excited about what we recorded and what’s coming out. I’m really confident in saying it won’t be another six years until there is more.

JAMBASE: Soulive seems to have settled into a comfortable existence now. It happens when it makes sense, and when it doesn’t happen, it’s not being forced. Is that accurate?

AE: Yeah. When we were younger and on the road all the time trying to build this up, it was obviously the focus. But again, there’s no point in forcing anything. We learned that as we got older. And the great thing is that we’re all very fortunate that Soulive has given the three of us so much room to do things outside of Soulive. The majority of my time now is spent here, at the studio, with albums, working with people. I have a whole other career outside of Soulive but within Soulive, we’re also lucky enough that we can come back together and people still want to come and check us out. It’s a great situation.

JAMBASE: Will there be a Bowlive this year?

AE: I don’t know. That’s all I can say, and that’s something that we’re talking about. We do have some shows coming up — people already know about Philly and London.

JAMBASE: Alan, looking at some of your other affiliations, do you expect to be back with Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe?

AE: No, no, I stopped playing with Karl last summer. It was a good time. I just saw those cats the other night in New Orleans. It was my second stint in the Tiny Universe and it was a good time, for sure. But I’m not naturally a sideman — I need to do my thing right now, and right now that’s running the studio and obviously Soulive and Matador.

JAMBASE: Another band your fans always ask about is Playonbrother. You guys really had something going musically before you disbanded it. Any chance it returns?

AE: That’s a good question I haven’t really thought about. I wouldn’t say that it’s gone forever, but I’m not one to look back. I love moving forward, and I do that more than I look back. But every once in a while I’ll think about it. I had a guy in my studio the other day, an organ player, who told me he loves Drop Hop [2012, from the Alan Evans Trio]. So I put that on, and I’ll hear something that will jog my memory and it’ll stand out. But like I said, my plate’s pretty full. You never know.

JAMBASE: Have you always had a knack for production and the role you now play with the studio?

AE: Oh yeah. I mean, I’ve been an engineer since the late-’80s and I’ve recorded and mixed a lot of albums, including Soulive’s. But obviously with Soulive, going back almost 20 years ago now, a lot of the time we spent together was on the road. So at that point in life, people would ask me about production and I’d do some stuff here and there but it was always hard to juggle. It’s something I always wanted to spend more time on. Playing music live is big for me, but if I didn’t have that, I would definitely be doing this full time. I love the creative space, and I love being around other people who trust in me to facilitate their creativity. I love seeing the light bulbs go off, especially hearing the sound they’ve been going after — the sound that’s in their head — finally come out.

I also teach. Both my parents were educators and that really influenced me as an engineer. So it’s a lot of fun. But I can’t lie, it’s nice being able to sleep in my own bed and be around my family a lot and experience that.

[Matador! Soul Sounds – September 22, 2017 Full Set | Captured by Chris Cafiero]

JAMBASE: Alan you’ve always been gracious with your time with JamBase. Can you leave us with a sit-in story or two?

AE: Let’s see. The last shows I played with Matador! Soul Sounds were in New Orleans. Our bassist Kevin Scott couldn’t make one of the gigs, so Chris Stillwell played with us. Chris is one of my favorite bass players ever. He’s just an amazing person and a wealth of knowledge when it comes to music. We didn’t miss a beat — he learned our tunes and played like he’d been playing them for 20 years. I want to highlight him because as always he’s just one of my favorite people to play with.

Tour Dates for
Alan Evans

  • Mar
  • Mar
  • Mar
  • Mar
    • 21085 Knott Rd
    • Bend, OR 97702
    • United States
    • 140 Main Street
    • Marshfield, MA 02050
    • United States
    • 949-6292 Niigata Prefecture, Minamiuonuma District
    • Naeba
    • Japan
    • 2300 Oak Ridge Road
    • Arrington, VA 22922
    • United States