It’s been almost two decades since Soul Clap (the composite of Eli “Bamboozle” Goldstein and Charlie “Lonely C” Levine) came to be in Boston, Massachusetts. Soul Clap is now a global brand in the disco and house universe, encompassing not only the duo’s DJ careers but also boasting a suite of labels (including the eponymous Soul Clap Records) and an ever-expanding list of parties and residencies. In a market dominated by European artists and labels, Soul Clap holds it down for The States.
Early hustles on the regional circuit and releases on the likes of AirDrop and Wolf + Lamb ultimately gave way to the duo’s exit from New England, landing them in Berlin in 2010. Eli chronicles the period, “for a few years we lived the nomadic life, without permanent homes, just living out of suitcases between Berlin and Miami with stops in New York, Boston or wherever else in between. By 2013 we both were in relationships and it felt like [it was] time to settle down. Most of our music community was in Brooklyn at that point so that’s where we went.” The duo now finds themselves split between BK and Miami, with Charlie having recently migrated south again.
Over the last seven or so years, the duo has also created a home for other American DJs and producers on their imprint, Soul Clap Records, and plan to keep growing via their EFUNK parties and label. Eli details: “US producers need a little more of a platform than Europe. In Europe there [are] so many labels and so many opportunities, and I don’t think there’s necessarily as much for disco and weirder deep house and live electronic sounds [in the US]. That’s really connected with the EFUNK parties too. . . that’s part of it — booking DJs from the city where we’re throwing the EFUNK parties. We build relationships with people and then it makes sense to put out their music.”
Charlie agrees, “for the labels [and] the parties, it’s kinda rare that we’re booking people out of the blue — cold booking. Especially for the label. A lot of labels are just reaching out and trying to sign music from hyped artists. For almost everyone [we bring on], we have a [deeper] relationship beyond the music and the work.”
Differentiating label projects can sometimes be a tough task, but the duo found that the trajectory of their sonic identity warranted new vehicles. Eli explains that, “[Soul Clap Records] took a while for it to find its identity. It started out as an extension of how we DJ, but also was a building block of Crew Love, where we were bringing in artists like Nick Monaco and other artists who were part of the Crew to put out music. But very eclectic music. Sometimes it was house, sometimes it was more of a downtempo thing, or sometimes it was a funk thing, and I think that over this time I realized that running a label isn’t exactly like DJing. Maybe with DJing it’s an advantage that we can go in all of these different directions and never really know what to expect. When people are buying music, it’s really hard for people to be loyal to a label if one release is completely different from the next one. Maybe we put out a funk record and get a bunch of people who are really interested in that, and then the next one is a house record and it’s like ‘well, what is this label?’. Over time, it became clear to me that we needed to focus what [the label was]. It happened organically too. [Soul Clap Records] became more of a disco, funk, and live label, but we still needed an outlet for house music and more club music, and that’s where House of EFUNK came from. House of EFUNK is like ‘take me to the rave’, and Soul Clap Records is the Mothership.”
Soul Clap’s investment in the American scene is enlarging in scope, especially due to their aforementioned House of EFUNK label and party series. The duo started things off this year with their third annual installment of EFUNK in Miami, and have just announced their sixth iteration of the party at Detroit’s Movement Festival. LA, Berlin, London, New York, Boston, DC and Amsterdam are all on deck for the party later in 2019. More releases are also surely on deck, with the first EFUNK EP (Soul Clap’s own Jupiter Crush) having released this year as well.
Despite having reached international acclaim through their multiple projects, Eli and Charlie haven’t forgotten where they are from, and make it a point to represent both their hometown and the USA on the regular. “I like to stand up for the US”, Eli exclaims, “the US has really strong music lovers, and people who love the music and know the music. And dance! In a way that’s maybe different from Europe. . . people in Europe have this attitude that [it’s just] EDM and people don’t get it over here. So I always like to be sure to explain that that’s not always the case. The [dance music scene has changed significantly] in the last five years in the US. I hate calling it post-EDM, [but] having all those kids get into electronic music created a whole generation of [listeners] who are more open.”
Commitment to geographical roots may be an essential component to the duo’s reputation and charm, along with their penchant for diverse sounds (as illustrated by their selections, productions and A&R). It may come off as cliché, but the work ethic and industriousness necessary to Make It in the dance music scene in the States is vastly different from the prerequisites of the European arena. Eli furthers the description of this dichotomy, noting, “. . . you really have to put in the work here to get it back. Whereas in Europe, if you’re making great music and DJs are playing it, they’ll just book you. [In the US], you have to throw your own party, you have to know everybody, you have to really build it up, and that’s something [we’ve been] doing and that we’ve been able to enjoy. That’s one of the benefits of putting in the work for so long.”
Indeed, Soul Clap is reaping the benefits of putting in the work. Not only as DJs, but as label curators, producers, venue owners, community members, and party promoters. Soul Clap is a modern day dance music institution and an American one at that. With that, we present to you our latest entry of the MIXED BY/ series.
Interview by Martín