Jeff Laos was born with a killer jump shot and an affinity for music. Today he’s Soulular, a one-man electronic music project that is carving out a niche where he plays his own instruments in a genre known for using samples and loops.
Soulular just wrapped up a successful tour of the northeastern U.S. and has been playing some festivals in Canada this summer. He calls his music “sexy psychedelic space bass” and it is electronic music that creates a real atmosphere. At times, it sounds like epic movie soundtrack and others a relaxing, ambient soundscape.
Call it bass music, call it psychedelic or even put it under the umbrella of dub, Soulular is finding an audience, even if this type of music is not destined for top-40 radio.
“(Soulular is) a fresh blend of synthetic and organic sound manipulation, with original, interesting arrangements and lush atmospheres – shaped by hard intricate beats, deep bass and spacey dub effects, with soulful harmonies and sexy melodies,” Laos said. “Deeply saturated with love and honest intentions.”
Laos began playing violin in grade school and although he did not like the instrument, he loved music and continued to dabble in it, eventually learning to play bass and guitar while in high school.
“He had a real affinity for it,” said his father Jeffrey Laos.
The elder Laos coached his son at Immaculate Heart High School on the Northwest side. Despite being a terrific shooter, the younger Laos’ true passion was music and after a year at Pima Community College, he decided to pursue it professionally. His first stop was the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in the Phoenix area where he earned a degree in Audio Engineering and Production. He got an internship in the Los Angeles area the next year and moved there to pursue a career in music. He has never looked back.
In Los Angeles, he played in a number of traditional rock bands, worked as a producer and sound engineer and was even a session musician for a short time. He started dabbling in electronic music, in part, to learn how to better use the recording software. He also found it was a great release for his creativity and soon became a near obsession.
“I had always been into producing music and really was doing it for fun and creative release while I was focusing more on playing in bands,” Laos said. “After awhile I decided to release a collection of beats I had made under the alias Soulular. And it has naturally taken off from there and I have completely shifted my focus to Soulular after that so the project really manifested itself very organically.”
While much of the music is computer based, it is all recorded on his Macbook, Soulular has gained notoriety for his actual musicianship. His ability to play bass and other instruments has given his music an organic feel and created a loyal fan base. So much of dub music is just the manipulation of pre-recorded sounds, and while Soulular contains much of that as well, there is also his own musicianship within the songs. He has released several albums, appeared on a number of compilations and has contributed numerous remixes for other artists.
Although he has played on stage before, the instruments are put away for live shows. Soulular is a man and his machines on stage, though he retains the feel of spontaneity that a traditional band might employ.
“The performance is definitely on the DJ side of things but I live mix and have my tracks broken into stems and I mix them live so there is an element of improv and I also scratch and mix in samples as well. I hope in the future to incorporate a live instrument into the performance.”
He’s also made a name for himself as an engineer. Although his focus is still on creating his own music, but he still does remixes and freelance mastering work. He has gained a reputation for being able to make recordings sound more dynamic and better, especially when donning a nice set of earphones.
While his style of music is not selling out football stadiums, it is rapidly gaining popularity. There is a huge fan base in both Denver and Austin, Texas, but more and more people are turning to dub and the variety of emotions an artist can evoke.
Part of Soulular’s appeal is his ability to mix a wide variety of genres, yet maintain a coherent flow from track to track.
“It is a fusion of a lot of elements,” he said.
While Soulular is his emphasis, music is his passion. Whether he is on stage, in the studio, or on the computer, Laos admits there is “no downtime” and by the sounds of it, he wouldn’t have it any other way.