In Session: The E-Block

ALBANY – Releasing their latest EP, Green, on April 1st, The E-Block have created something that is surely no joke. A four-song concept record, the themes are quite easy to not only distill, but enjoy as listeners are given a wonderful musical back-drop of sonic textures. With certain songs, such as “Greener,” the vocal delivery is so astounding that it could easily make people – such as this listener – wonder if the melody will ever reach its peak. Combining soaring vocal prowess with a definite know-how of each instrument, as well as a firm demonstration of their songwriting and arrangement abilities, James Soren and Luke Pascarella of The E-Block have really put their talents on display.

It was my pleasure to get a chance to sit down with these two to discuss their latest efforts, as well as their musical influences, and where they see the band going from here. To catch our talks, continue reading on!

Lucas Garrett: Thank you, guys, for sitting down tonight! Let’s introduce you to our viewers.

James Soren: I’m James, the sax player in the band.

Luke Pascarella: I’m Luke. I’m on guitar and vocals.

JS: He also fills in on all the other instruments you hear.

 and talking about your new album.

James Soren: Of course.

LG: It’s one of the coolest things I’ve heard in a while! Why don’t you tell us a bit about the album?

Luke Pascarella: This is sort of, loosely a concept album, for us. This started from when we were all in different places at the start of the pandemic; trying to put together songs. A lot of them are acoustic-based, like with the song, “Greener.” The origin of the sound, conceptually, is really influenced by organic sounds. Trying to mix together our singer/songwriter feel and our more bluesy R&B influences.

LG: I loved the album; it was over before I knew it. That’s the one thing I didn’t like about it, but that’s because I enjoyed it so much. I feel – the way you guys write and the way you made this album – it made people that might not necessarily the R&B genre… it made it very accessible; very enjoyable to listen to…

LP: That’s great to hear.

JS: We listen to all sorts of stuff. I don’t really think of us strictly as an R&B band – it’s easy to say that, we’ve been settling into calling ourselves “indie R&B.” Nobody knows what that means. This album is different because we really stuck with the acoustic-base for everything. And, then we built out the songs; more vocal harmony, makes it feel more R&B. Maybe that’s the possibility, it’s never too far away from stuff that people enjoy.

LG: The song, “Greener,” comes to mind. I’m hearing the vocal go higher and higher and higher. I was like, “What’s going to happen here?” But, it was really impressive – all around. Every instrument; every vocal was like, “Holy, f*ck. That’s great.”

JS: He’s screaming on the vocals!

LG: It’s really, really, really good stuff, guys.

JS: Thanks! “Greener” was the one that started it – that was the impetus for everything else.

LG: It has a neo-soul vibe; a really interesting vibe. There’s nothing wrong with however you need to express yourselves, musically. But, I’m telling you, when I heard this album, I thought, “I’ve not heard anything like that around here.”

JS: That’s great…

LP: That’s really nice.

LG: I think it’s important that when you’re an original band that you have an original sound.

LP: That’s what we’re going for.

JS: Thanks for saying that. That means a lot.

LP: Speaking to the neo-soul inspiration, we’re definitely heavily into Erykah Badu and D’Angelo. That’s definitely our main influence. When we came together, that’s what I thought we’d be making mostly – neo-soul stuff. Through making the song, “Greener,” we found that after I showed James a little demo that we really both enjoyed… this Laurel Canyon vibe.

JS: I was gonna say – it’s the snobbiest way to say it, but yeah. Seventies Laurel Canyon and 2000s Electric Lady… all the stuff going on there; Soulquarians stuff. The two pillars of everything.

LG: It’s really nice stuff. As a guitarist and a songwriter, myself, I loved the vocabulary that I was hearing in the songs. What are your creative inspirations?

LP: As far as guitar approach, I’m definitely inspired by John Mayer for lead guitar. Also, newer guitarists, like Isaiah Sharkeyis a huge inspiration. An awesome soul guitarist that comes from a gospel background. In terms of the acoustic vibe, it’s Jason Mraz and Dave Matthews, with orchestrating the acoustic parts.

For the song, “Sunflower,” that was one that started with more of an electric guitar vibe. That was inspired by Mark Speer from the band, Khruangbin. Kind of incorporating that sound into the singer/songwriter thing, which was really cool.

LG: I’ve already said it, but it bears repeating – it’s a really unique sound. So, you made this album; what do you plan to do with it? What do you want to do with the record; where do you want to go from here?

LP: We really love making the record – we’re producers at heart, engineering and recording people. We want to make it a live experience; turn them into a show. Make the songs feel just as good as they did on the record. And, just recording live versions.

JS: I think it’s important that we wrote and produced this album over a long period of time where we weren’t all playing together all the time, or playing shows like we wanted to all the time, but we were able to make this. Now, we want to feel what it’s like to play them more and really dig into them like we normally would with our songs.

It’s different because we’re going from the studio to the stage, rather than the other way for this. We started cutting some live tracks and hopefully we’ll be able to show some of those soon.

LG: Let’s talk about that a little bit. I know it’s really easy when you’re in the studio to be like, “I want this riff here; that riff here; that break here.” When you get to a live setting, it can be very tricky to orchestrate that. How many people do you have in your band for live settings?

LP: Me and James are the main staples – we’re at every live show. Then, our keyboard player, Devin Tetlak, goes back and forth between SUNY Purchase right now. Whenever he can make it to live shows, he’s there. Our rhythm section kind of rotates based on the show and who’s available.

JS: It’s a blessing and a curse – we have the privilege to play with a lot of really great players, but they’re not always around all the time. Everyone has lives, so as much as we love them and want to steal them, we ended up having this situation where we have a core group, but we play with a lot of people. We just try to make everyone, you know, sound best and hopefully everyone plays to their strengths. That’s what makes it nice. Each show is its own process to put it on and play with whatever players we’re with. It’s nice when we get a stable group like, but we’ve had the opportunity to play with a ton of great musicians.

LG: I’m really blown away by the sound and I really enjoy what you guys are doing.

LP: Thank you.

JS: Thanks so much for saying that.

LG: I talked about this with a friend of mine, recently. Before the pandemic hit, I wasn’t nearly as choosy as far as what I played for a show. Whether it was a three-hour thing, or you know… Now, I’m not really about the gigs, anymore. I want to make shows. I want to make moments, you know?

LP: Mhm.

LG: I think there’s a big difference between a three-hour show and a three-hour gig. They may sound the same, but I think it’s way different. Do you know what I’m talking about?

JS: Yes.

LP: Yeah. Over the course of the last year, we’ve been transition from doing only three-hour; half-and-half covers and originals. Now, we’re restructuring ourselves. We want to mostly play hour long sets of all our original music and orchestrate it like a show: have a strict set list and have the audience in mind. Having an experience with the audience rather than being background music at a bar. That’s been something we’ve put way more focus in to this year. That’s been way more rewarding, actually.

JS: It’s been awesome. It feels like, for as long as we’ve been playing together, that we’re a new band. Because, the new attention that we’ve put into prioritizing exactly what you’re talking about – making it a show; sort of building in moments like that. It’s been cool to see people responding to that. It’s been really cool that people want to do that with us.

LG: You know, I used to do those three-hour, four-hour gigs. They pay money and do well for some people. I’m at a point in my musical life where I’d rather take a little bit of a hit, pay wise, and make more of a moment…

JS: One-hundred percent. We definitely cut our teeth on all those gigs; I wouldn’t be the player I am and we wouldn’t play the way that we play together if not for those gigs. Trying to make each room work the way we wanted it to. Now, once you know what it feels like to have that moment, to create that… It’s hard to go back; you want to build that into every gig.

LP: Yeah. Trying to get the energy flow of a three-hour show into even a half-hour or forty-five-minute set. Try to make it feel like an opener, then the middle of a show, then a big closer. It’s so much fun to try and pack the variety of music we play into a half-hour; try to show all the sides we have.

LG: Sometimes that’s better! When people go to see bands that they love at these bigger venues, and the folks that people idolize, and are saying, “I want to do that” they’re idolizing the moments the artists or bands make with the audience. For longer gigs, I feel things stop being a musical statement, and start being musical diarrhea of the mouth.

LP: I definitely feel that. Everything is way more focused in a shorter set. Each note counts; each note holds way more weight.

LG: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about as we wrap the interview up?

LP: We’re nominated for a couple awards that we’re excited about. We’re nominated for the Capital Region Eddies Award; the “R&B/Funk/Soul” Category, and for the WCDB Awards, we’re nominated for “Rising Artist” and “Best R&B/Soul Band.”

JS: Which is sick. That station is near-and-dear to my heart – I was a DJ there for a little while. So, it’s nice that we get some love from them because I do love them.

LP: We’re playing at Lark Hall for the first time on April 27th. We’re opening up for Hanzolo and The Q-Tip Bandits. We’re excited because it’s a venue we’ve wanted to play for a while.

JS: We’ll be playing at Lost & Found in Albany on May 13th.

LP: We played there for the first time a few weeks ago, and it’s easily one of the best venues we’ve been to in Albany.

JS: Come through! It’s going to be good!

LG: Sounds great. Thanks, guys!

JS: Thanks!

LP: Good talking to you.

LG: Bye.

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