New York rockers the London Souls have been sitting on their sophomore record, Here Come the Girls, since early 2013. Not because the duo were fidgety or stuck in the studio wasting away energy (à la another Chinese Democracy) — rather, the band’s singer/guitarist, Tash Neal, had to heal and recuperate after surviving a nasty hit-and-run car accident on Broadway in Manhattan back in 2012.
Calling in while backstage at the appropriately located Roundhouse (the classic London venue that was formerly a railway depot), Neal recounts those first moments after he awoke from a coma in the hospital following the accident and saw his nylon-stringed guitar sitting in the corner.
“I sort of motioned for it,” he recalls. “It was kind of instinctual and gave me really good comfort at that moment. I only played two or three chords, but it felt right and I kind of knew I was going to be all right. It happened to be in the room, and I was like, ‘I know that thing.’ I didn’t know much at the time, but I knew that thing.”
Fully recovered and eager to share, London Souls return to their city the night of the record’s release for a headlined show at the Bowery Ballroom on April 7.
“A lot can happen in two to three years, and we’re so proud of the record and happy to set it off that way,” says Neal. “It’s kind of perfect and I personally feel very fortunate.”
Here Come the Girls is a callback to early rock ‘n’ roll records where several styles are flexed and explored. Album opener “When I’m With You” is a Sixties rock/pop anthem that could rival anything found in the Hollies’ catalog, while “Crimson Revival” recalls cool Seventies FM radio gold in the vein of power-pop kings Big Star. And no rock record is complete without a Zeppelin III–esque acoustic beauty, as heard in “Isabel.”
For the past few years, London Souls have been testing Here Come the Girls on the road, touring with guitar heroes like Gary Clark Jr. and Warren Haynes. Performing and jamming with these seasoned guitarists motivated Neal and furthered his own playing.
“It’s more inspirational, because if you directly say, ‘I’m going to do exactly that,’ you kind of lose part of your sound, but they make you want to try new things,” he says, referring to his superlative touring mates. “It’s incredible to be able to play with that kind of magnitude of musician. You can’t help but be like, ‘Wow, I want to step my game up.’ ”
Now that Girls will finally see its proper release, the London Souls are ready to take it back on the road, playing theaters and festivals throughout the country and parts of Europe. Nurturing the record in the wake of the accident over the past few years was an unexpected plan, but it allowed for the songs to really grow into their best arrangements.
“You grow when you play so many live shows, and the songs grow as you play them live,” says Neal. “The songs are always percolating.”
The London Souls celebrate the release of Here Come the Girls on April 7 with a show at the Bowery Ballroom. Tickets are available here.