Regular visitors to this web site will know one of our regular themes is the universality of soul. Here at SJF we don’t believe that soul music is the preserve of the USA….. great soul can be produced anywhere, provided the intentions, commitment, passion and respect are there. Case in point is Dutch band TRISTAN, who despite being in existence since around 2003 have only just released their first album…. ‘Full Power’. The set’s a great mix of contemporary grooves garnished with flavours from soul’s garlanded past. Little wonder the set was chosen by Jazz FM as a recent ‘Album Of The Week’. Tristan are in London this week – signing copies of their album at The Soul Brother Record Shop in Putney on Saturday: so what better time to find out more about the band. We began by asking drummer , Sebastiaan Cornelissen about the band’s history.
Myself (Sebastiaan) and Frans Vollink (bassist) started with this idea of a band way back in 2003. We worked on some tunes but couldn’t get it to work the way we wanted it due to not being fortunate enough to find all your musical soul-mates in 1 day! We never thought so much about being commercial, or fitting into 1 style. This can be a problem actually when you get others involved who all of a sudden make you think what direction it should or not go in. We were a little confused I guess. Therefore it was put on hold every once in a while. We played a lot in jazz/fusion settings and by accident met Coen Molenaar (keyboardist) which was kind of a turning point straight away. We were basically a trio and we did tours with guys like Randy Brecker, Nigel Hitchcock (who’s in Incognito now) and Deborah Carter.
Take us from there then to the actual creation of Tristan….
A year ago we picked the group idea up again and for some reason it all fell in place this time. We found our singer Evelyn Kallansee who brought a lot of energy and good vibes into the band. Thomas (guitar) and Martin (percussion) were already the obvious choice for us since we had been working with them before.
… but what about the name, “Tristan”?
On try-out gigs they asked for a band name to put on the posters and the 1st thing that came to mind was my son’s middle name. We didn’t get much time to think it through but it stuck with us since. We kept Tristan mainly cause we like the sound and there are a lot of interpretations possible, like in our music. And my son would be disappointed if we changed it!
What kind of sound are you trying to achieve?
Anything true to our hearts. We love the sound of real instrumentation and live performances. But we also like heavily produced songs with modern ways of recording, as long as it doesn’t take away the vibe of the interaction we had during the tracking of the foundation of a song. Each one of us, you see, has a different musical background and we are all open to use any influence that pops up. We’ve been playing so much together now that it will have our stamp on it no matter what.
Lots of writers have compared your sound to Incognito – or the Brand New Heavies. What do you think of that?
Lot of people do say we remind them of Incognito, but that’s not my personal background at all for example. That’s more Frans’ thing perhaps. I’m totally cool with that though. I grew up listening to Allan Holdsworth, Toto and Level 42. But Martin on the other hand brings in a Latin feel here and there. We got Evelyn who listens and likes all sorts of things too. We’ve got lots of jazz, R&B, Hip hop whatever…I could go on for a while. I guess what Steve Lukather of Toto said about us is true… that our music has a 70’s vibe, brought to 2014.
Whatever, it sounds like the Tristan sound has its roots in soul – so, what’s the soul scene like in the Netherlands? And where do Tristan fit into that?
Holland’s always been open for a wide variety of styles and sounds. You see a lot of bands here now going back to vintage ways of recording, instrumentation and songwriting. Soul music is programmed regularly. We are not the average soul or funk band at all and this makes it harder for people to put their finger on what we are, but whenever they come see us live it’s usually not a problem anymore. It’s coz our bass player grooves so much!!!
Now the album FULL POWER – is it your first? And why the title?
Yes ‘Full Power’ is Tristan’s debut. The title stands for the belief we have in the music we make. The energy we put into it in general but on stage as well. Positive thoughts.
How did you start to put it together – who writes the songs, who decides on things – like production, running order and so on…..
Coen, Frans and myself each wrote the tunes. We usually go into my studio for a couple weekends to jam on these pieces and figure out the form and what not and then go back to the horn, string arrangements etc. So the basic tracks are pretty much live. We left the melody open on 2 tracks to let Evelyn play around with it and get another input. She also wrote the lyrics. I think for the next album we’d have a slightly different approach. 2 tracks on Full Power really actually date back to 2003!
What song on the album best represents your typical sound?
“Moontune” could be a good representative… it’s groove, energy and composition / arrangement is our real, sound and of course the liveliness and all the instrumentation including horn section and strings. “Keep on” on the other hand was more like a studio jam and really a good example of the interaction we like so much.
What do you hope to achieve with FULL POWER?
We’d like to see it as the first step to get our name out as a group. We like the fact that we did it all ourselves. No big record label or anything and just honest, real music. We hope this time next year it brings us to a point where we can release a new album and have even more opportunities to play outside our own country.
What are your future plans then – both long and short term?
Like I said, short term is getting our name out there and building up an audience so we can move up a notch playing bigger venues. Long term we are already writing new material. Also to have more songs to play live really. But we also joke about not waiting another 10 years again for the next record.