Central New York is a familiar place for Alan Evans. The multitalented dynamo has played with Soulive since 1999 with his brother Neal Evans and Eric Kranso and has ties to both Woodstock and Buffalo.
Evans’ latest project, Play On Brother (spelled out in capital letters on the band’s website), has been dubbed “electrified soul rock.” The current lineup, with Kris Yunker on organ and keys and Danny Mayer on guitar, has been together for just one month.
Evans sat in with keyboardist Beau Sasser at a weekly Wednesday jam in Northampton, Mass. “That’s one seed,” Evans recalls. Then he went to Santa Cruz to record and produce an album for the On the Spot trio with Mayer and they ended up jamming every Tuesday for a few weeks. “That’s the second seed,” he says, as Sasser and Mayer got together and started the group. When Sasser left to pursue other projects, Yunker, who has played with Mayer for years in other bands, jumped in.
“Kris moved here,” Evans says, regarding Yunker’s relocation from California to Massachusetts. “He drove across the country, got here on a Sunday, we rehearsed on a Monday and left for a three-week tour on Tuesday. It was pretty crazy.”
Evans’ band performs Thursday, Aug. 14, at Funk ’n Waffles. Play On Brother is also gearing up for a new album, Nothing to Say, with a Kickstarter campaign to fund the release. “We’ll be doing a monthly thing,” Evans says. “You never know what it’ll be. Music? A painting? You never know. We’re just having some fun.”
Jessica Novak (JN): How long has Play On Brother been around?
Alan Evans (AE): The name has been around almost as long as Soulive. The initial idea was that I play other instruments; I’m a songwriter and engineer, so it’s something that would cover all the bases. It’s been the name of my recording studio for a while and I also do graphic and web design. It got to a point that people thought the Alan Evans Trio would be like Soulive or a jazz group. They were shocked it was a rock’n’roll band. So I thought I should change this Alan Evans Trio thing and I racked my brain and came up with Play On Brother.
JN: How do you stay organized?
AE: Thank goodness for Google. It’s just balancing and keeping track of a calendar. My managers and my wife help. It comes down to communication. I’m lucky to have people who do their job to help me keep what I’m doing.
JN: What shaped you as a player?
AE: I started playing drums when I was really, really young, 9 months old, then guitar when I was 10 or 11. Funny thing is, I never had the moment in my life: I want to be a musician. It was just something I did. Especially with drums, it was easier for me to play an instrument than to carry on a conversation. Music was there for me before I was even vocal.
JN: You were out touring when you were 13.
AE: I’d go out for a weekend to play on the road and make more money in that weekend than my friends did all summer. I did that for a while and retired in 1996, and stopped playing music for a few years.
JN: Retired as a teenager? Wow! Why?
AE: I started playing in clubs when I was 11 and I just got burned out. I really needed to make some changes in my life. The good thing about it was that, for the first time in my life, I worked a real job. I got a real appreciation for what I do and what I can do. I was a waiter and bartended and others in that industry are artists and musicians. So they’d say, “We should get together after work sometime and jam.” So we did and these cats would be like, “Wait a minute. You’ve done this before.” And I met a lot of cats who would give their every limb to do what I had done. It was a real eye-opener.
JN: How do you play and tour like that when you’re that young?
AE: I skipped school a lot. I didn’t want to go to college, but one reason that was going to be difficult is because I fell asleep during my SATs. I had either just been recording or was just off the road, but I showed up, put my name on the piece of paper and fell asleep. The guy woke me up and I was the last person in the room.
JN: Your parents were cool with all of this?
AE: The only way it really worked is because I had super-supportive parents. Before I could drive, they were driving me to gigs and they’d hang out. And Buffalo was a four-in-the-morning town. You played until 4 a.m., would hang out, load out and go to a Greek restaurant for breakfast until 6 or 7 a.m. And I was playing with some of Buffalo’s best musicians when I was young. If you couldn’t hang, they’d be like, “See you later.” They saw something in my brother and I. It was a really supportive community.
JN: How is your brother Neal?
AE: He’s been doing some Lettuce gigs, doing film scores for HBO. He’s like a mad scientist with that stuff. He hangs at home and makes music. My dumb butt’s running around. But we’re doing what we love. It’s a cool competition thing. He’ll send me some tunes he wrote and I’ll be like, “Damn!” And I’ll send him something. We keep each other on our toes.
Play On Brother
Funk n’ Waffles, 727 S Crouse Ave.
Thursday, Aug. 14, 8:30 p.m.
Tickets are $10.
Visit funknwaffles.com or call 477-9700.
Advice from the Artist
“You can’t think about what other people think. Play what’s inside of you. I’m not in it for the money. I’m in it because I love it. And you have to be happy doing it. I’m a really happy person.”