Pop-Preview: The Road to the Royal Family Affair

bill bodkin previews the festival developed by Royal Family Records …

Festivals are all the rage these days. Big one-day or multi-day bills filled to the brim with cold beer, fried food, the smell of Coppertone wafting through the air — and of course, great, live music.

Soulive, the amazing jazz/funk/soul trio, have been a vital part of the festival scene for nearly a decade. This year alone the band has and will be featured on the card for New Orleans Jazz Fest, Mountain Jam, The DMB Caravan (the New York tour) and the Bear Creek Music Festival.

This year the band will be heading up to New England, particularly the Green Mountains of Vermont, for their own festival — The Royal Family Affair.

From August 12-14, Bondville, Vt., will become the home to funk, soul, blues, jazz, rock, reggae and electronic music.

The card will feature Soulive and their many incarnations. Guitarist Eric Krasno will be doing a DJ set, his side project Chapter 2 and his original band Lettuce (which also features Neal Evans). Organist/Left Handed Bassist Neal Evans will perform with Soulive, Lettuce and perform on his own solo project (which feature Break Science’s Adam Deitch on drums).

Soulive: Neal Evans, Alan Evans and Eric Krasno

The card will be stocked with artists who are signed to Soulive’s Royal Family Records as well as friends of the band. Royal Family Artists include the electronic duo Break Science who will be performing with Jurassic 5 and Ozomalti alum Chali 2NA, the brass outfit The Shady Horns and the resurrected soul group Crushed Velvet & The Velveteers. Non-RF bands to perform include legendary NOLA musician Ivan Neville and his band Dumpstaphunk, jam legends Karl Denson and John Medeski, New York based-throwback rockers The London Souls, future roots reggae pioneers John Brown’s Body, plus electro acts Chromeo, Big Gigantic, and Paper Diamond. Also on the card will be The Pimps of Joytime, Zach Deputy and Jennifer Hartswick.

In addition to live music, there will be workshops throughout the daytime focusing on everything from drums to music production to songwriting to guitar, you can sign up for these events and get an education from the bevvy of amazing musicians who will be at the festival.

And if that isn’t your thing, why not go for a hike, enjoy the downtown or just hang with the amenities of the Stratton Mountain resort you’ll be hanging at.

To give you a better idea about what The Royal Family Affair is all about, Pop-Break spoke with Alan Evans, drummer of Soulive and one of the main organizers of the festival.

Pop-Break: You guys have been involved with so many festivals. This year alone, you’ve already been at New Orleans Jazz Fest and Mountain Jam in New York. What was the impetus, the inspiration to create your own festival?

Alan Evans: Well, a couple of years ago, we did this thing called The Royal Family Get Down [summer 2009] and it was a one-day thing right near where I live in Massachusetts. It was cool. It was us, Charlie Hunter, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings. It was a great day, the weather wasn’t that hot, it had rained. [After the first event,] we had planned on doing that annually. So the next year came along and we were planning it and we couldn’t get the venue on the same date and all this stuff wasn’t allowing it to happen. We said, ‘Well, whatever, we’ll figure it out again.’

Alan Evans

For the last few years, we’ve been going down to Florida to do the Bear Creek Festival. The guys who run that are good friends of ours and they know our desire to do a festival up where we are. So we partnered up and we’re going to make it happen. We’ve been a band together for 12 years, and you learn over time, it’s not necessarily about the amount of gigs you’re doing, it’s the quality of the gigs you’re doing. We want everything we do to actually mean something. It’s having our opportunity to do the whole Bowlive, Royal Family during the summer, outside. And we’ve done plenty of festivals — this is just our take on the summer music festival. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

PB: Recently, I’ve heard from a lot of bands from New York and even the Jersey Shore — reggae, funk, soul, jazz bands, that they can’t wait to get up to Vermont and play. How it’s an amazing place for music. What is it about Vermont that makes it such a hotbed for your type of music?

AE: Even before Soulive, Neal and I were in another band and Vermont [in towns like] Burlington, Braddleboro and a few other towns that we’d have a good show in. Then in Soulive, it was the same thing. Every time we go to Burlington, I hate to say this because next time we’re up there we’ll probably have a whack gig…hahaha, probably not, it’s guaranteed [to be a great show]. People just really love music there. Just love music, going out to see live music. I don’t know what it is, but as long as I’ve been playing on the road, Vermont has been one of those spots.

Alan Evans couldn't stop raving about John Brown's Body

It’s just a nice environment, too. It’s really laid back and mellow. I’m just hoping people get there and they can feel like they’re getting away … just relax and have a good time. It’s really beautiful there where we’re having the fest.

PB: Outside of band performances, there are a couple of other events people can take part in like workshops.

AE: The workshops are going to be a lot of fun. I’m just looking forward to hanging out and watching them like everyone else. [Adam] Deitch [of Break Science] is doing a drum workshop. I’m really psyched to see Neal’s workshop. He’s doing a songwriting and arranging workshop. It’s going to be awesome. Kraz is doing a guitar workshop, which I’m going to check out.

PB: The lineup is amazing. Are there any bands you’re personally taking time out of your day to watch?

AE: Hmm … wow. Honestly, man, I can say that about everybody. I mea,n this is our festival, so we were picking everyone — that’s who we wanted out there. I’m doing my best to check everybody out. I mean, John Brown’s Body, we’ve known those cats forever and I think they’re an amazing reggae band. They’re phenomenal. I’m really psyched to check everyone. Man, I’m making it a point. It’s going to be a great experience, I’m really excited.

PB: There a lot of bands on the festival that people know — you guys, Chromeo, Karl Denson. Are there any newer acts that people might not know that you think they should check out, or if people can’t make it up, they should be downloading?

AE: The London Souls, without a doubt. Those dude are just retarded … they’re ridiculous. That would be one for sure. Again, I’ll mention John Brown’s Body — those dudes have been around long time, but every time I see them I have a really great time. And Break Science, people are just starting to get to know them. We just did the Royal Family Balls at the end of our last tour and most night Break Science was going on last for the late night shows. And man, I check out every Break Science show. I was having a blast — those cats are sick. Woo, killing it.

For up to date information, lodging info and more check out the Royal Family Affair’s official website.

Pop-Break’s Road to the Royal Family Affair Series:

Interview with Break Science

Interview with The London Souls

Interview with John Brown’s Body

Interview with Karl Denson

Pop-Preview: The Road to the Royal Family Affair

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites