The London Souls, in spite of the name, are actually a rock duo from New York. Guitarist Tash Neal and drummer Chris St. Hilaire met through mutual friends as teenagers and bonded over music instantly. "We had the same open-minded tastes," Tash Neal says over the phone. "We both had a passion for John Coltrane, the Doors, Aretha Franklin, and Miles Davis, and we consistently wrote songs together since we met."
They picked their geographically false name simply because they thought it sounded cool. It was only after they started gigging that they appreciated how the moniker fit them. "We started realizing how it was Americans who inspired all the great English music and then it was reciprocated and the English bands influenced us."
London Souls' newest album, Here Come the Girls, is 13 tracks that, at times, sound like '60s garage rock Nuggets and other times reminds one of Lenny Kravitz. Neal said, while it was unintentional, there were definite connections and themes throughout the record.
"I was in New York, and I almost got killed and lived through it. I was in a coma for a week, but I have no memory of it. They never caught the guy who did it," Neal says. He was walking when he became the victim of a hit-and-run. "That's a point of great frustration, but I have to be positive about living through it. They said I wasn't going to walk again, and I did. They said there could be brain damage, and there wasn't."
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Part of his healing process during the months when he couldn't sing and was missing part of his skull came from hearing the album he recorded right before his accident. "I had no memory of recording Here Come the Girls. Listening to it and hearing these songs about spiritual longings we feel and about life and death were a great comfort."
After brain surgery and rehabilitation, Neal is feeling great to be back on the road making music and bringing the London Soul to Florida. The band will play the Coconut Grove Art Festival this Saturday, February 13, and return for the Okeechobee Festival on March 6. The Souls just performed on Conan too and are part of this year's Bonnaroo lineup. What can fans expect through all of it?
"It's a straight-ahead rock ’n’ roll show," he says. And he's grateful for every minute of it.
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The 53rd Annual Coconut Grove Arts Festival. Saturday to Monday, February 13 to 15. Peacock Park, 2820 McFarlane Rd., Coconut Grove. Tickets cost $15 for adults or $5 for Coconut Grove residents. Admission is free for ages 12 and under, as well as Metrorail Golden Passport and Patriot Passport holders. Visit cgaf.com.
Saturday, February 13
The London Souls - 5 p.m.
The Nth Power - 3:30 p.m.
Juke - 2:30 p.m.
The Deaf Poets - 1:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 14
Larkin Poe - 5 p.m.
Carly Jo Jackson - 4 p.m.
SunGhosts - 3 p.m.
Bora - 2 p.m.
Monday, February 15
Locos por Juana - 5 p.m.
Raquel Sofia - 4 p.m.
Mr. Pauer (Live Set) - 3 p.m.
The Oski Foundation - 2 p.m.