WindStar Soul talks about new EP and more

Catch the Wind

Windstar Soul’s One Thought talks about their New Silver N Gold EP, Detroit’s music scene and plans to tour SE Asia.

By David Sands

My first experience with WindStar Soul came earlier this year when I showed up rather last minute to see a friend DJ at an off-the-beaten-path venue in the vicinity of Wayne State.  WindStar Soul also happened to be part of the bill that evening. And I was surprised and energized by the group’s funky vitality, which combined elements from a variety of different genres and had me dancing late into the night.

Flash forward a few months later, and they were playing Critical Moment’s April Foolin’ benefit show at Crow Manor. I got to know the members a little better and was impressed by both their deep love of music and their positive community-oriented ethic.

It’s an exciting time right now for the band, who are about to release their first EP, Silver N Gold, and embark on a tour of Southeast Asia. I recently caught up with One Thought (aka Tanya Meftah) to find out more about the group’s origins, their new recording and how they put the Soul in WindStar…

Critical Moment: First off tell us a little about WindStar Soul. How would you describe your band’s sound and your musical intentions?

One Thought: WindStar Soul’s music is about building community through thoughtful lyrics and intriguing sounds which blend hip hop, reggae, jazz and psychedelic elements. We are pushing boundaries here!

CM: Who’s in the band? And what can you tell us about your musical backgrounds?

One Thought: Our five-piece band consists of Jordan Mulka (JEM) on keys vocals; Tanya Meftah (One Thought)­ on guitar, vocals and MC duty; Travis Albright (TRAV) on bass, Keith Beber (K Money) on drums and percussion and Mike Vechelle (Arrows) on sax and flute. At the age of three, Jordan insisted on being taught piano, starting a lifelong relationship to the instrument; and she has been singing in choirs, with her family, on stage and wherever she has found herself since she discovered Mariah Carey. Thanks MC. One Thought grew up in a musical family, but started seriously playing music when she was living abroad in Vietnam. She discovered the power of hip hop through a Tribe Called Quest documentary, fell in love with the groove of funk and soul and has been hitting it hard writing in this style ever since. Travis Albright picked up the bass as his ticket to play in front of his high school marching band in 2008. He recently left his weekly jazz gig to delve into an exploration of hip hop, reggae, and funk grooves with WindStar Soul. Keith Beber is a multi instrumentalist who has traveled the world to study different styles of music. From Cuba to India, he is influenced by the culture which surrounds him. ­ Arrows hails from Michigan but spent most of his time on the West Coast playing in various bands and busking on the street.

CM: How did the band come together? Where did the name WindStar Soul come from?

One Thought: My fellow songwriter Jordan Mulka and I moved to Detroit to find musicians and individuals to connect with. We then started jamming with saxophonist Mike Vechello at cafes and events around town; this is where Travis Albright first heard Windstar Soul’s funky tunes. I met the band’s future drummer/percussionist Keith Beber on New Year’s at a drum circle. Weeks later, Detroit’s energy reconnected us at a Sushi restaurant where I asked him to jam. There was an immediate groove connection, which quickly led to K ­Money joining us for our next show. During the show, T­RAV, who was in the audience, asked to jump on the set with the bass. The jam lasted for hours and got the whole crowd moving. It was pretty much known from there on out that this was the perfect lineup of musicians to form our flashy mixture of sounds.

The name WindStar Soul came from a simple concept, JEM and I travelled across the USA in a WindStar van in which the first songs were composed… The WindStar van is a common vehicle we see in Detroit and we were a soul band… BAM: WindStar Soul. We also like the nature elements of the name.

CM: What role, if any, do politics and activism play in your songwriting and music?

One Thought: I believe that raising awareness through music is a musician’s right and duty. If we can reach people with our sounds, the power is irrefutable. I like to address issues of environment, society, and culture in our tunes. As a whole, WindStar Soul is about building a tribe that thrives on positivity and self respect. Our music brings people together. Having the ability to bring people of all ages, colors, types, etc. together is a strong platform to create deep change rooted in love.

CM: What’s it like being part of the Detroit music scene? Any particular favorite venues or bands you want to mention?

One Thought: The Detroit music scene is very interesting. It has a lot of diverse original projects being released. I think it isn’t always easy for musicians in this scene because many places want live music but aren’t willing to respect the artists by providing proper sound and payment. So it causes us to constantly be in financial struggle. I think more bands need to come together in solidarity to make real demands to bars/venue, so they can stop being taken advantage of. “Exposure” is great, but we need to make a living. [If any band leaders are interested starting this kind of co-op in Detroit, please contact One Thought.]

One particular venue that we enjoy working with is Trixie’s in Hamtramck, great venue with awesome sound and the owners are musicians so they understand how to treat bands fairly and generously. That’s why we are having our EP release party there! [The release takes place at Trixie’s on Sunday, Aug. 28 at 7 p.m.]

CM: What can you tell us about your new EP? Are there any songs in particular you want to talk about? What’s the significance of the name Silver N Gold? Are there any common threads linking the songs together?

One Thought: This EP, Silver N Gold, is WindStar Soul’s first ever EP! We are super stoked, because it’s taking the inspirational vibes of Detroit and putting it into songs. The creative process and the whole formation of the project was here in Detroit! So the four tunes on this EP are really encompassing that. Silver N Gold comes from a song on the EP, and that talks about taking the old and putting new twists on it. I think that’s exactly what our music does: we have that old school vibe with a modern edge. It’s different but it feels so familiar at the same time.

CM: Tell us about the creative process for Silver N Gold? Any stories you want to share about the recording?

One Thought: Well, JEM and I wrote these tunes before the whole band was formed. But the songs themselves didn’t come alive until the group got together. Everyone put in their style and flavor to workshop and make it the special sound that it is now. The recording was wild, and so many stars in the sky aligned for us in the process. We were constantly discovering new parts and new concepts… a la the fact that our song “Grandma” is 8 minutes long!! It all came together so perfectly in the end, though!

CM: Your live performances often seem to have some deep improvisational moments, did any of that kind of energy end up on the EP?

One Thought: YES, totally! Listening to each tune endless amounts of time, we continued to add more. We wanted the EP to show that we were having fun, so we have little skits and quotes that really brings out the personality of the group. It’s a feel good album , so we wanted to make sure that came through with the sound. It’s not pretentious it’s just about gathering together and making music because that’s what we love to do.

CM: When does the EP drop? And where can folks pick it up?

One Thought: The EP is being released on August 28th. You can get it online at Bandcamp, Spotify, or iTunes. Because we are leaving on our tour to Asia, we will be printing hard copies when we arrive in Saigon. We have an amazing artist working on the album art (shoutout to AJ Kessler!!).

CM: What can you tell us about the release party?

One Thought: This is about to be the most epic show that we’ve ever done. I know y’all have been out to our crazy parties before but imagine that times 10!! It’s our first EP ever! We are so proud and excited, and of course RELIEVED , because it’s been a huge production. It is also our last show before our tour in South East Asia. So we are going full out for this! You can buy our EP on digital codes that night! All funds are going towards our tour! Appreciate you!

CM: What can you tell us about your upcoming tour. When and where does it begin and end?

One Thought: WindStar Soul is flying in to Saigon, Vietnam on Halloween to stay there for at least 8 months. We are not only going to play shows but to grow musically as a group. WE are going to be setting up a studio as soon as we get there to use as a home base for recording and practice. From there will be be playing shows in Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and anywhere else the opportunity arises!

CM:Tell us more about your relationship with Saigon.

One Thought: I lived in Saigon working as an urban gardener and musician for four years. It is paradise there, and I’m looking forward to sharing that with my band mates who have become family to me.

CM: Anything else you want Detroiters to know about WindStar Soul?

One Thought: Everything we do, we do it together. There is no band and crowd. It is a unity of humans coming together to celebrate the good things in life!! We are so grateful for all the support we’ve got over this past year. THANK YOU!!!

Curious about WindStar Soul’s music? You can listen to some samples here.