When I met a fretless jazz bassist called Richie Smooth I knew it had to be destiny. The two of us played as a duo, moved in together so we could focus on music and went busking regularly around Birmingham playing jazz standards and original compositions. We put together the first EP “Mice In The Walls” with the help of musical friends, and then went on a quest to find a band, feeling we could not make the sound we were after with just the two of us. When we jammed with Hamish we instantly recognized his talent and it was a no-brainer that we should get him involved. The three of us then went through a painful process of finding a keyboard player and a female vocalist that met the standards we were after. After auditioning 8 singers, with no luck, we were beginning to lose hope. But then Heather came like an angel from heaven and wowed us with her versatile melismas and primal growls. We then started to gig with temporary keyboardists for a while until we stumbled across Dan. We recognized his mastery of chords and skilful syncopation instantly, and finally, after a lot of blood, sweat and tears, we had become the ensemble we were after. Hamish moved in with me and Richie, and we created the music house, or what someone once described as a “cultural hub of wonder”. The biggest room of the house is now the band room, complete with a drumkit, keyboards, a saxophone, an accordion, a clarinet, a bass, and 5 guitars.
What song of yours is the one you like the most?
Unfortunately our recordings are some way behind the music we have been playing live. But my favorite two out of the recordings we have are these.
This one is jazz-rock:
And this one is avant-guarde electronic:
How do you write your music?
It started through a bit of a painstaking process, because I was doing most of the writing by myself and i’m too indecisive. I tend to come up with a million ideas around one theme and then spend most of my time cutting it all out again. Nowadays the writing is done more as a collective process with the band, which is a lot quicker. Someone tends to present an initial idea, and we jam on it and add to it.
What influences do you have?
I think in the band influences vary greatly. The bassist and I are big jazz fanatics. Richie loves Charlie Parker, and my favorite artist of all time is probably Nina Simone. Heather is probably more influenced by country, and Joni Mitchell style stuff. Hamish has always been a die-hard techno man, and Dan specialises in classical I guess. But regardless of our primary backgrounds, we all love all sorts of music and there is huge cross-over.
I like how our sound has developed in quite an interesting way – with influences from jazz, rock, prog, and electronic music among other things – and how it never seems to settle into one pocket or niche.
What´s the craziest experience you have had with your project?
Ha, well we’ve only been together a year, so I guess we haven’t had time for anything too crazy to come up. But I can tell you a funny experience off the top of my head. Our first gig we played as a band we were very low budget and bohemian. We pushed all our instruments and equipment there in supermarket trolleys. Got some very strange looks from people in the street, and also from people in the audience. Was a far-cry from the limousine’s you’re told come with the rock-and-roll lifestyle. I suggested we do the same for all our gigs, but it turned out the rest of the band weren’t too happy with the idea of walking for weeks to play gigs in other cities. Such half-arsed commitment to the bohemian image ‘ey, tut tut
What plans do you have next?
Well we are planning to record some more music over summer – we badly need a catch up; and hopefully a video at some point soon too.
Our band also runs a night at one of Birmingham’s main venues (The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath) called Birds of Paradise, where we host up-and-coming alternative artists from Birmingham and across the country. We’re hoping to grow this night and make it one of the main events on Birmingham’s musical calendar.
Mention something you don´t like about your project
Getting ripped off by promoters, and the battle to get out of the toilet circuit generally.
Mention the biggest sacrifice you did for your project.
Well personally I have given up working a job and my financial security. But I like it that way. Every true artist needs to live in poverty at least once right? hehe
What band, music project or solist from your city do you like? (Why?)
There are a million to choose from. I’m going to say Antelope because they headlined our first Birds of Paradise event in February and were amazing live. They got the room rocking.
If your project was a car, what model would it be? (Why?)
One of those three-wheeled ones that Mr Bean used to have that look pretty funny and are in danger of tipping over the whole time.
Who answer these questions? Where were you when you answered the interview?
My name’s Leander. I sing, and play sax and guitar in the band. I was on the train to London from Birmingham.