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Exclusive Interview: Soul Juice Finds their Flow

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

Bouncing back from a short hiatus, Soul Juice supplies another round of tasty tunes with their latest album Perpetual Reflections.


Released on March 13, 2020, Perpetual Reflections is a 12-track odyssey into the nether-regions of your mind.

Full of psychedelic textures and hypnotizing grooves, the project is a step forward for the group, graciously placing them among the current soundscapes coming out of the LA and OC areas. Formed by Vocalist/guitarist Adam Upton while he was still in high school during 2014, Soul Juice started out as recording project inspired by the likes of Tame Impala and Vinyl Williams. About a year later, Adam united with a few friends to play shows all around California which allowed them to quickly gain recognition within the local indie communities.

Based in San Diego at the time, Soul Juice often collaborated with visual artists to create an immersive experience for their live shows. Notable artists like Stranger Liquids added another element of psychedelia to Soul Juice's performances which helped create a culture of its own. Long live analog media.

True DIY pioneers, Upton and his good friend Daniel Gayler from the band Shaman Rock decided to develop a full-fledged festival near Joshua Tree that could act as an oasis for the newfound culture they helped create in Orange County; thus, the Liquid Earth Gathering was born in 2017. To their surprise, the original turnout was more than expected which is why it still stands as a yearly pilgrimage for many people within the psych rock world. Over the years, Daniel has taken full reigns of the festival and rebranded it as Socal Psycheout. Don't fret, this years rendition hasn't been entirely canceled due to the spread of Covid-19. Wake us up when September begins, the fest has been rescheduled to Sep. 18 - 20th.

Soul Juice had big plans for this year. A West Coast tour in support of their new album was all planned out and a reunion at Socal Psycheout was also on the schedule. It's safe to say plans don't always go accordingly, especially when a global pandemic arises. With time, things will become more certain. The silver lining in this case is that Upton now has more time to write new tunes and rehearse a set for their upcoming slew of shows. We're juiced for what's to come.

I had the opportunity to chat with Adam Upton before the release fo Perpetual Reflections.


Here's what he had to say:

Q:  So you started up the band in 2014, how did you all come together that year?

A: Well, really what started it was, I was in high school and heard Tame Impala’s first two albums and was absolutely blown away by it. I listened to all sorts of music growing up, but something about Tame Impala’s music just really blew my mind. I was like, man he’s doing this all by himself, lemme try it. So then, I literally just downloaded GarageBand on my iPhone and recorded one song. I was like, that’s pretty tight sounds cool. From there, I went to audio engineering school for a little bit, dropped out, and got all my studio stuff. From there, I’ve just been recording. I get very bored very easily, so I’ve got grooves going through my head at all times. 

Q: Other than Tame Impala’s first few releases, were you inspired by any different artists/bands? 

I’ve always loved music and so many different kinds of music ever since I was a kid. Around that time, the things that were really blowing my mind were Tame Impala and MGMT’s second record was just sonically something else.  I’m not really sure, there were a bunch, but Pond’s album Beards, Wives, Denim and that whole psychedelic movement in Australia that started in the early 2010’s really blew my mind. 

Q: So how’s your journey been after recording, finding other musicians to play alongside?

A: It’s been a rollercoaster, literally a crazy rollercoaster. So I would say we started playing shows in early 2015 and we’ve played all over the place. From all over San Diego and LA, up to Oregon. We went on our first tour in 2016 and went up to Oregon and Washington and then came back down through San Francisco and Santa Cruz. 

In 2017, we threw our own festival called the Liquid Earth Gathering out in the desert. We booked all these bands that we knew and people that we were friends with and just threw this thing at an amazing property called Garth’s Boulder Garden. It’s like 600 acres of ancient shamanic healing land and we just decided to throw it. Everyone’s always like, how’d you do it and I’m like well we just kind of decided.  I just wanted to do it and hit up a bunch of people and everyone was down. We got insurance for like 200 people. On Saturday, we were counting all of the people and there were like 400. It kind of blew my mind, so I stopped counting. I was like alright, I can’t do this. It was super cool, really an amazing thing.

Not too long after that, we took a break because some family members of mine had passed away and I had to go and help my mom and just be with my family around that time. From there, we kind of dissolved a little bit and fell off by taking a break. On my way back to California, I ran out of money in Colorado, so I decided to stay there for a year. We played one show out there that was pretty tight in this warehouse, but yea finally I just got the calling to come back to California. We recently just solidified a really great lineup. We’re all vibing really well and learning a bunch of songs. Our first show back is on the 20th and from there we already have at least 10 shows booked for 2020 and are working on a full blown West Coast tour. 

Q: It seems like you were able to pull off your festival with a DIY mindset, do you think San Diego has that kind of scene or did you have to go out and create that yourself?

A: San Diego has a pretty cool scene. From what I’ve realized, it’s mainly heavy psych rock bands like if you know Sacri Monti and Monarch and Earthless. Like I love all of those dudes, they’re all amazing people and they all fucking shred, but they don’t have a full on psych rock scene. I started playing shows in 2016 up in Orange County and met a whole bunch of bands up there and in LA that are doing the full on psych rock thing, like very Tame Impala inspired with a lot of phaser pedals. 

I started playing shows at this one venue called the Crystal Gallery and just all over Orange County and LA almost every weekend. From there, is where I met most of the people who were out at the Liquid Earth Gathering. Then I met visual artists like Stranger Liquids who did visuals and Slim Reaper who’s now done visuals for Brian Jonestown Massacre and King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. I just kind of hit all of them up. We had a spot and my friend Daniel from Shaman Rock helped me book some bands. We didn’t even really have a stage, it was just like a piece of tarp on the ground and a mixer off to the side with all of the mics going into it and then we had like six speakers surrounding the stage. 

Q: Have visual artists like Stranger Liquid or Slim Reaper, or just visual arts in general been part of Soul Juice’s performance since the beginning?

A: Well, that was the only one Slim Reaper did with us, but we did a few other shows with Stranger Liquids I believe in 2016. There was one in Orange County and one other one I can’t remember, but Andrew’s always been really sweet to us and really supportive to us, so I’m looking forward to hopefully getting him back on board in this upcoming string of shows. 

Especially with the psychedelic scene, the videos are very reminiscent of the early liquid light shows. A lot of the videos are very tripped out and it can take your mind to another place. I was talking to a coworker about this the other day. Everyone always thinks about psychedelic rock like, oh drugs you’re tripping out and taking acid all the time.  Most of the people in that scene, like yeah they’ve had experiences with that stuff but I feel like what the real thing is, you have one really profound experience, or maybe a couple, and from there with the music and the art and visual aspect about it, you’re trying to encapsulate those feelings and emotions and those visuals and sounds that you hear. You’re trying to encapsulate all of that into a cohesive piece so that the rest of the world will understand what that’s like as opposed to just constantly tripping your face off. 

Q: Would you consider the Liquid Earth Gathering to be your favorite performance with Soul Juice, so far? 

A: Huh, I’ve never really thought about which one was my favorite, but that performance particularly, no because we had a few mishaps, we fucked up a lot and we just had some overall drama going on, but the event itself was one of my favorite things that we were a part of. I would say that our favorite performance...we played a few shows at the Blind Spot, Liquid Light had a venue and those were always amazing shows. Honestly, I think one of my favorite shows that we’ve done were the ones at the Crystal Gallery in Brea when that was around. It was just a warehouse run by these dudes that were in a band called the Bonsais and their name variated after a while, but they threw shows every weekend. That was the biggest sense of community and the most amazing and well received audience we’ve ever played to. 

Actually, no you know what I just realized. Sorry, I’m the worst with not remembering and rambling too long, so stop me at any time. My favorite show we’ve ever played wass when we went on our first tour in Oregon. We played at this place called the Psychic Reader and that’s literally what it was, an old psychic reading building that these dudes bought or were renting. These guys that were renting it were in a band called Mood Beach. It’s very funky, like disco-y type stuff and we opened for them at that show and it was fucking packed. Literally the house was like sardines, you couldn’t move anywhere. That was the period of time when we were like heavily improvising because I think just before that we had opened for Kikagaku Moyo. We saw them improvise and it just blew our minds. So we just started doing that a bunch. 

So we were at the show just jamming and it was like energy volleyball. We were throwing out energy to the crowd and they were throwing it back to us. It was just like so intense and my eyes were closed because we were jamming so hard and for so long. I’d look up and people were just right in front of me, basically headbanging. It was amazing. 

Q: As a modern psych group, what do you guys like to write about or are you trying to spread a certain message or energy? 

A: Well the energy that I’m trying to encapsulate is that very psychedelic feeling kind of when you’re late at night, out at a festival and you’re kind of out of it, you know. Just all of those feelings that you feel, like being in tune with all of your feelings and everyone else’s feelings and all of the energy around, trying to encapsulate that sort of feeling with the music and these very otherworldly sounds. I love classic rock and all of that, but there’s just something about the more modern sounds like synthesizers, phasers, and delays. You can truly make some otherworldly music, so that’s like the musical element of it. 

For awhile, lyrically, I was trying to write like really tripped out poetry where you’d read the lyrics and be like, woah what is that, that’s crazy, kind of leave it up to interpretation. But this most recent album that we have coming out in March, I tried to write a bit more honestly, you know just like how I was feeling about things and my reactions to things. Lately I’ve been trying to write a lot more honestly. I’m not trying to have such tripped out lyrics where you’re like, oh that’s a trippy phrase, you know. Instead, I’m being like this is how I’m feeling and it’s kind of intense or this is how I’m feeling and it’s great or like I notice you feel like this. You know, I’ve noticed a lot of my favorite music is very honest.  

Like Tame Impala, going back to that for the millionth time, Kevin’s always extremely honest whether he buries his vocals in the mix and you have to dig out what he’s saying or it’s right up front. He’s always very honest with what he’s feeling and I really, really respect that because it relates to something my creative writing teacher told me a long time ago. It’s like the things you feel like you shouldn't be saying or putting out there are the things you most definitely should because you never know who needs to hear that. 

It’s good to kind of explore those dark esoteric feelings that people might not be willing to explore. He equated it to like going to a viewing at a house. You know, you go into the house, you look at the walls, you look at the paintings, you look at all of the furniture, you can hang out for a little while, but as long as you don’t unpack your stuff, stay there and lock the doors, it’s okay to go into those realms and come out with an experience or a song or something that you wanted to share with the world that you once went through, which I thought was amazing.  

I tried to take that approach. There’s this song called “Moving Pictures” on our most recent record that came out in 2017. It basically encapsulates what I went through that year with my family members passing. It was really like the first time I dove into that place and kind of swam around and took it for what it was and then put it out in music. It’s now our third most popular song on Spotify and I have people messaging me about it all the time, so that really opened my eyes to, like look maybe drop the trippy phrases for now, it’s still fun to put them out there, but just be honest about what you’re feeling and don’t be embarrassed or ashamed of it because we’re all human.  

We’re all going through shit. We’re all here against our will and you know it’s very confusing and no one understands anything, really. It’s really nice to kind of drop that wall and be like look, I have no idea what’s going on, I cried the other day, and telling people about it. This is what’s going on and we’re humans. This is weird. We’re on this little planet in this infinite universe and it’s fucking strange, so let’s talk about it. At least know how we all feel about it,  instead of going through it and being like yup everything’s fine, we go to work, we go to school, it’s fine, this is how it is, this is life, this is normal. (Laughs) 

Q: After releasing your upcoming album “Perpetual Reflections”, do you have any plans for next year?

A:  Well, we’re going to be doing a tour following that. We have some shows leading up to our release party and the release date which is on Friday, March 13th. From there until about March 28th, we’re going to be on tour. Like literally right now, I’m booking the rest of those shows that we’re going to be hitting. So we got San Diego, Orange County, LA, Santa Barbara, SLO, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Oregon, and then maybe a few others. I haven't fully figured it out. We’re going to be finishing out the tour at Socal Psychout which is actually the festival setup by my friend Daniel who threw Liquid Earth with me. Basically, he continued it on and just called it by a different name. He’s been throwing it ever since and this will be his second or third year throwing it and we get to come back and play. It’ll be like a full circle moment. 

From there, it’s just another tour at the end of April going into early May. Then, I’m going to take a little break and finish working on new music. I literally always have music going. I already have an album’s worth of new music ready to go, so I’m going to take a break and flush some of that out. I’ll be going on a trip to see some of the national parks on the West Coast with my girlfriend and from there it’s wide open, I’m not really sure. I’m trying to make it happen. After taking two years off, I was just going crazy and needed to do something now, you know. 

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