Categories
Jazz/Blues Pop/Indie Pop Soul/R&B

Kimberly Davis (CHIC): From Brooklyn to the World

Kimberly Davis, the story of a girl from Brooklyn whose journey through music led her to become the lead singer in the most famous disco band there has ever been: CHIC.

With classics such as ‘Le Freak’ and ‘Everybody Dance’ ready to perform to the world, we got a chance to catch up with Kim before she embarks on CHIC’s UK tour this August.

As Kim joined the Zoom call from sunny New York, I was instantly greeted by a smile and energy as infectious as CHIC’S ‘Good Times’ groove, behind her, an incredible array of shoes covering her apartment walls.

James: Wow that’s a lot of shoes Kim!

Kim: Haha! Oh yes! It’s something of an obsession!

J: Have you decided which ones you’ll be bringing with you on tour?

K: Oh yes! But you’ll have to wait and see!

J: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! It seems like not long ago I was a student interviewing Nile Rodgers for our student TV show, so it’s fantastic to meet one of the other immense talents of CHIC.

Where do I start? You’re just about to go on tour, and over the years you’ve played with some absolute legends of music. I’m interested to know where it all began for you.

K: Well, my mother was musical, she was a singer. My father was a musician so there was always music around the house, whether it was auntie playing disco or grandma playing gospel. I would sit in front of the TV and sing the commercials or the theme songs to shows.

J: Do you remember the point in which you decided: “This is what I wanna do with my life,“?

K: I was always in the church choir and even sang at family reunions. My mom took me to see the movie ‘Fame’ about the NY School of Performing Arts. I remember seeing the students dancing on tables and singing in the hallway, and I thought, “There’s no way I’m not going to that school.” I went for four years and that taught me everything I needed to know.

J: For a lot of young people starting out the way you did, the music industry seems massive. Do you feel as if you’ve always had the confidence to tackle that, or was that something you had to learn also?

K: I had a lot of insecurities when I was younger, especially going from junior high to high school. I said to my music teacher when auditioning for high school, “I don’t know if I want to go because I’m not going to stand out anymore. I’m not gonna be the girl that can sing anymore, I’ll just be part of the crowd.”

K: She just said, “Are you insane?! You’re gonna learn from everyone there… the students, the teachers!” And that’s just what I did. Once I got past that fear of I’m not gonna be the stand-out singer, it was all a learning process. You never want to get too cocky. My last words when speaking to singers are always, “Be fierce, but stay humble.”

I wanted to ask Kim a bit about how she managed to raise her son for 17 years, all whilst working a full-time job and singing on the side. Surely there is no better role model for young musicians trying to make it today.

J: Something I think frightens a lot of young musicians today is this feeling that if they don’t ‘make it’ whilst they’re young, they might ‘miss the boat.’ But of course, you went away from the limelight for 17 years to raise your son before landing the lead role in CHIC.

K: I think everyone is always afraid of that, it’s bad that it’s something society has made us think. But I mean, think of all the actors that didn’t make it until they were in their forties. You’re never supposed to stop pursuing your passion. Your passion is what keeps you alive, it’s what keeps you going, so you can never give up and think, “Oh, I’m past my prime.” Says who?!

J: And surely taking a break from your music career must have come with a lot of life lessons, too?

K: Well, I never stopped singing. I had a full-time job but my hours were from 12 pm – 8 am. I would get up, take care of my son, go to work, sing during the daytime and then back to work again. Every day I was still doing something: an open mic night, a wedding… Now that my kids are grown up, I get to travel and do what I wanna do. Even though you may take a break, you never truly stop.

J: During that time, did you ever anticipate that in a few years time you’d be singing all over the world with one of the biggest bands ever?

K: (laughing) Absolutely not. I was a child when [CHIC] dropped most of their music, so I was singing along to all the classics growing up. Ralph, the band’s drummer and a good friend of mine, called me one day and was like, “What are you doing?” I said, “Dude I’m at work, what do you mean what am I doing?” And so he says, “You need to get down here right now, they’re auditioning.”

K: In the same day, I left work to go to the audition, got the gig and came back to my job to quit at lunch!

J: What was it like the first time rehearsing with Nile and the band? Was there a moment when you realised ‘Holy sh*t, I’m the lead singer in CHIC?

K: Well the guys in the band would tell me all the time, “You raised the bar for what we’re doing.” Initially, Nile wanted to stop doing CHIC. He was so depressed and sick about the band that he just wanted to stop doing it. They all just weren’t happy, so they said to Nile, “You don’t give up playing, you just switch up the band.” And so that’s what he did.

K: He switched up the band and now we’re family for real. We laugh together, we cry together, we live with each other more than our own families. So you know, we are family.

J: Do you think you joining the band installed a lot of confidence in Nile then?

K: Oh yeah, totally. He’s excited about getting back out there, and it’s gotta be a good thing because now we’re coming back out and people have been waiting. You know, this kind of music is infectious. Every gig is like a dance party. There are no dull moments, and that’s what we look forward to. I love the fact that kids 5 years old are singing “We Are Family.” That means someone passed down to them the songs just as my parents did to me.

J: What’s been some of the most memorable gigs for you?

K: The most prominent one I would definitely say is Glastonbury. That was awesome. I remember Barry Gibb playing “Staying Alive” and everyone, even the security, broke out into a flash mob. Dubai was amazing and playing the Sydney Opera House was incredible.

K: Just travelling the continents with Nile is crazy. But I’m just helping him live his best life. When I sing “Get Lucky” he gives me this intro about how he almost died from cancer, and now he feels like the luckiest man alive. So I’m just helping him to relay his story and that’s all I need.

J: So I suppose you must feel like you’ve gotten to Nile pretty well?

K: Oh yes, he calls me his little sister. We did a song together and he didn’t hesitate to play on it. I said to him, “I have this song coming out and I feel like I hear you already on it.” I sent him the stems, he did the song and it went to number one. He’s just the best boss really.

J: Is there any advice you’ve always kept or maybe told your son in pursuing his own dreams? Is there anything you would say to your young self as a girl in Brooklyn?

K: It’s basically just: do not give up your passion. That’s just the bottom line. If you give up your passion, you literally die on the inside. If you’re someone that likes drawing and you can’t find a pencil or paper and that stops you, it’s not your real passion. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you should never stop. And again, be humble, that’s how you keep getting your blessings.

J: And in fact you started your own singing academy this year, why was that so important to you?

K: I’ve been trying to do it for so long, people have been asking me to give them lessons ever since I hosted open mic nights. I’ve never had a chance to do it, but this whole pandemic has given me the time to do that. I’m teaching these young people because I love it! Zoom is such a beautiful thing because it means I have students from all over the world.

J: It’s always a tricky decision for a lot of young people pursuing music. Whether or not ‘music school’ is the right thing for them, or whether it actually makes a difference at all.

K: Absolutely, I suppose the difference is that I don’t give out degrees, but I can help people at a more personal level. If there’s a student who has trouble hitting low notes, I can show them exercises that will help them. I can also put a student in front of people with a real status in the music industry or get them to open up for us.

J: That sounds incredible, and we’ll be keeping our ears close to the talent that you work with. Thanks so much for talking with us, and hopefully we’ll catch you when you come to London!

K: Absolutely, thanks hon!

If you’re in the UK, be sure to catch CHIC on their UK tour through August and September, and for singers searching for the perfect mentor, check out Kimberly’s Academy here.

Categories
Soul/R&B Why We Love

Why We Love: Black Pumas

Psychedelic-soul band Black Pumas captured my full attention with their transcendent GRAMMYs performance just a few weeks ago. My mouth hung open throughout the duration of their stage time and, accompanied by several colorfully encouraging words, I couldn’t stop shouting, “Oh my god!” 

I didn’t need any more convincing whatsoever; I grabbed my phone, saved their music, and followed them on social media. They very quickly had me in the palms of their hands, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. This group hailing from Austin, Texas serves as the definition of a powerhouse, and I have a good feeling that they will be the catalysts of a much-needed musical revolution. If you missed their performance or are simply entirely new to Black Pumas, I implore you to watch it immediately

Bandmates Eric Burton and Adrian Quesada, through the help of a friend, united in 2018. Shortly after the release of two singles (“Fire” and “Black Moon Rising”), Black Pumas dropped their fiery self-titled album on June 21, 2019. That same year, the GRAMMYs nominated them for the “Best New Artist” category. With a total of four Grammy nominations now under their belt, it’s absolutely criminal that they walked away empty-handed. To the GRAMMYs (and any other awards ceremony, for that matter): Do better. 

With sold-out tours, numerous television performances, and a recent achievement of taking the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Emerging Artists Chart, this is merely the beginning of a prosperous career for Black Pumas. This immense, ground-breaking talent that they possess is awe-inspiring. Everybody, and I mean everybody, needs to put this band on their radar. No ifs, ands, or buts.

The entirety of their discography is unmatched, despite it being just the beginning. Coated in a dizzying richness that provides a similar feeling to taking a sip of warm coffee on a cold morning, their music fully envelopes you. I am completely and entirely bewitched; whether I am just listening to their record (original, deluxe, and expanded deluxe!) or watching videos of their performances, I find myself falling more in love as the minutes go by.

Every single aspect of each song, whether it be the heavenly, euphonic vocals or the electrifying instrumentations, is expertly crafted. I cannot stress enough how one-of-a-kind this band is. Seriously, stop whatever it is you’re doing and listen to Black Pumas. Go on then; go!


To stay in the know, follow Black Pumas on Instagram, Twitter, and Spotify.

(Cover photo by: JACKIE LEE YOUNG)

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Reviews Soul/R&B

Review: Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams

The long-awaited debut album Collapsed In Sunbeams by the indie icon Arlo Parks has finally arrived! And it’s definitely a contender for album of the year already. As a black bisexual woman in an already oversaturated music industry, it is so refreshing and rewarding to see the success that Arlo Parks has gained since her music debut in 2018, becoming a contemporary to the likes of Phoebe Bridgers and Clairo, but a superstar in her own right.

The album kicks off with an arpeggiated acoustic guitar and lofi ambient sounds underneath a poem by Parks, setting up the journey that by track 3 has already taken you all around town. Hurt puts the car into first gear, a great opener demonstrating those sounds we’ve become familiar with from singles like Green Eyes and Eugene. The use of sampled and chopped drums gives the track this slightly agitated feeling that goes in hand with the themes of Parks’ lyrics. Track 3 Too Good shakes up the vibes so soon with Motown inspiration through jazz and funk-infused guitar, really encapsulating sounds of the ’60s but wrapping it in layers of modern production. Arlo Parks already has smashed her sound out the ballpark, completely developing her ability to write and perform since her EP Super Sad Generation.

Hope sidesteps more towards that Jazzier inspired sound, really making me nostalgic for the iconic instrumentation of Amy Winehouse. It keeps up the pace and I think it’s here where it’s safe to say that Arlo’s control and flow of melodies are absolutely breathtaking. Each line she sings is just monumental, no line feels lacking or overfilled with words and syllables, she’s a natural storyteller. And every chorus she sings is an instant hit, I mean just in Hope the way she carries the lines “You’re not alone like you think you are / We all have scars, I know it’s hard / You’re not alone” just really pulls at the heartstrings. She’s open and honest and it makes for the best of her music.

Caroline and Black Dog, two tracks released in the buildup to the album take up your ears next. Caroline being one of the songs that carry the general DNA of this album, the production it’s laced with is a reoccurring sound within such a musically diverse album. Written about witnessing events unfold without context which is something we see on a daily basis (well, we usually would) where it does become something we don’t give too much attention to.

Black Dog is a more stripped back stylised song, Parks addressed the song saying “it’s supposed to make people who are struggling feel less isolated and start a conversation surrounding the prevalence of mental health issues in today’s world”. Especially after the toll that’s taken the people of the world over the last year alone, Black Dog becomes a statement about the obvious on how bitter the reality of depression is and how you can feel out of your depth whether you’re on the receiving end of the Black Dog or whether you’re observing someone who has that demon in their life.

It’s so cruel what your mind can do for no reason / I take a jump off the fire escape to make the black dog go away
At least I know that you are trying / But that’s what makes it terrifying

Green Eyes is such a ridiculous song. It’s just perfect what can I say? (That’s rhetorical) Here Parks tells the story of a past relationship with a girl that ended too soon because of the stigma of same-sex relationships from their own parents. I think although there are specific topics all throughout this record, there are some messages within that are completely universal such as the chorus’ hook “Some of these folks wanna make you cry / But you gotta trust how you feel inside and shine” it’s painfully true and such an uplifting message to anybody who listens to this track.

Just Go is perhaps one of the more traditionally poppier songs here, bringing a bouncier bassline like something out of a Mark Ronson tune, but with classical production emitting sounds you’d find on an Adele song. Reflecting on the song Parks said, “I wanted a breakup song that said, simply, No grudges, but please leave my life”. The contradiction of the civil wording of a toxic ending to the upbeat song makes it the perfect tune to vibe to if you’re having a hard time letting go of something, even when it is the abundantly right thing to do.

For Violet, is one of the darker songs on this record, it’s gritty like a Radiohead song but tunefully soulful like the rest of Arlo’s work. Eugene and Bluish take the reigns next. Bluish is about a relationship that smothers you, talking about when needing space “I shouldn’t have to ask you twice” and “You held me so hard I went bluish“, really enforcing that claustrophobic feeling.

Eugene tells the story of falling in love with a straight girl in a relationship, and how that unconditional infatuation can burn you right to the core. Continuing a darker element that was so strong in For Violet but with a warmer tone exploring that vulnerability.

Seein’ you with him burns, I feel it deep in my throat
You put your hands in his shirt, you play him records I showed you
Read him Sylvia Plath, I thought that that was our thing
You know I like you like that / I hate that son of a bitch

Porta 400 closes the album and brings more sampling back to the forefront, allowing the ending of this LP to be one that really does stick out but warmly wrap up the sound of Collapsed In Sunbeams. Porta 400 feels like after a series of unfortunate struggles, sitting on a hilltop watching the sun go down on an era of your life, breathing out and moving on. It’s the perfect credits to a film so somebody get onto making that. I think the chorus sums up the energy of the entire record; “Making rainbows out of something painful“, and in turn relieves whoever listens, helping them to find and make their own rainbows.

Collapsed In Sunbeams is a blissful journey that discusses life, the ups and downs, how you can be dealt a bad hand, but how your life is one of a kind. It opens it’s hand out to you with the simple message that is “you’re not alone“. At a time like 2021, there’s no better message to take on board.

Add Collapsed In Sunbeams on Spotify now.

Categories
Jazz/Blues Soul/R&B Why We Love

Why We Love: Richard Hawley

A former member of era-defining bands Longpigs and Pulp, is it any surprise that the solo work of guitar hero Richard Hawley would be any less than pure magic? But don’t just take our word for it, find out for yourself the reasons why Jarvis Cocker, Alex Turner and Paul Weller are lifelong fans of his music too.

A young boy from Sheffield with a guitar on his back and a dream to become the next Elvis Presley ends up shaping music forever. Richard Hawley has surely woven his genius throughout not only the songs of various legendary bands but even more so through his work as a standalone artist. Moving on from his days as a Britpop legend, Richard Hawley’s later work takes on a very different turn. His songs have found a beautifully touching power all of their own. With tracks full of feeling and wonder, love and heartbreak, listen as Richard Hawley takes you away to another world in a way you never before thought possible.

Richard Hawley is very much the Johnny Marr of lush, orchestrated ballads. To be able to craft so many human emotions into his songs truly makes you feel part of something big and wonderful. I’d go so far as to say Richard Hawley is the Johnny Cash of his generation.

His debut album Coles Corner, our favourite of his many spectacular records, is pure bliss from start to finish.

Any die-hard fans of the Arctic Monkeys out there may remember the band’s side project/alias name, ‘The Death Ramps’, who invited Hawley to record with them in 2012, releasing their collaborative song ‘You and I’ as a B-side to the single Black Treacle the same year.

Arctic Monkeys frontman, Alex Turner, makes no secret of his admiration for Richard Hawley’s music for very good reason.

To play us out, Richard Hawley’s early song ‘Valentine’ from his Mercury prize nominated album Standing at the Sky’s Edge. Press play, lie back and be transported.

Categories
Soul/R&B Why We Love

Why We Love: Rhonda

Rhonda are a group from Hamburg, Germany with more than a few tricks up their sleeve. Their feel-good tunes are each a snapshots into past times spent driving in the sun through a dreamy soul-infused world. Exploring a new blend of neo-soul, rock and indie, Rhonda have set out on a mission to bring together both old and new.

The band formed from the remnants of rock band Thrashmonkeys after the group decided to split back in 2012. Four of the remaining members, however, decided it was time to set about on a brand new venture – one that would lead them to form Rhonda, a project which would craft fantastic new soul music for the modern-day. The band quickly became popular with some of recent histories biggest names, and in 2014, the band opened for Paul Weller at multiple gigs throughout Germany.

The band’s debut album ‘Raw Love’ is most notable for the song ‘Camera’ which launched the group into the spotlight. A cool and brilliantly crafted tune through and through, with some elements recognisable from classic soul records, a great voice and phenomenal guitar hooks.

Three albums now under their belt, with their most recent LP ‘You Could Be Home By Now’ released just last year, Rhonda are capturing more attention than ever from audiences across the world. Their recent work is an atmospheric exploration into the sweet-swinging sound of soul music, combining elements with the same great rock feel the musicians cut their teeth on.

For fans of The Arctic Monkeys or The Last Shadow Puppets, Rhonda are one such band with time-travelling abilities. Stick on your headphones and be instantly transported to a smoky soul club, with singer Milo Milone on mic in the spotlight.

Milone’s own solo projects are full of the same feel-good Rhonda energy, developing that same great soul-inspired sound and using her brilliant voice to tell stories of her very own.

Check out Rhonda and Milo Milone on Spotify now.

Categories
Jazz/Blues Soul/R&B

Premiere: FAZE – Carried Away

Offering up a standout blend of Funk, Soul and Jazz with even more elements thrown into that mix, FAZE are a band proving they aim to sound like no one else with the release of their debut single ‘Carried Away’. A truly unmissable playing style along with some fantastic vocals, these young but extremely talented musicians wouldn’t seem out of place performing alongside some of the outstanding artists who first inspired them.

To find out a bit more, we caught up with the 5-piece neo-funk band from London just after the release of their new single. Be sure to expect many great things from this group, there’s no shame being Carried Away when it comes to FAZE.

J: Here with me to talk a bit about their new single is FAZE’s very own Yazmine, Ryan and Indigo. Hey, guys! How’s lockdown 2 been for you so far?

Yazmine: Hey, James! Lockdown 2 has been less of a nuisance than Lockdown 1 so far. I’m still at work, so not much has changed for me! A pain we can’t rehearse or record properly, but we’re hoping to be free December 2nd!

Ryan: Lockdown 2 has been a period of adjustability for me to be honest! Being under lockdown is not ideal but being able to adjust to circumstances is key.

Indigo: It’s been painful, just as musicians were starting to get gigs again! Luckily, we’ve still got a couple of function gigs lined up in 2021.

J: So for those only just finding out about you, tell us a bit about the music you’ve set out to create.

Yazmine: We write wacky, funk tunes with elements from 70s disco, neo-soul and classic rock. Expect rhythmic keys, groovy bass, sharp beats, lavish solos and cheeky lyrics! Everyone so far has had a different interpretation, so we’re calling it ‘neo-funk’!

J: Have most of you been in bands in the past, or is your first experience writing with other musicians?

Yazmine: Yes, we’re all pretty experienced musicians. I’ve been in jazz bands, orchestras and rock bands during my time at school and college! I also write solo stuff but FAZE is obviously my favourite 😉

Ryan: I have worked with quite a few bands in the past – my main role is behind the kit though!

Indigo: Yep, I started with youth jazz bands, and I’m now playing with many bands of many genres, including neo-soul, blues and big band jazz.

J: A big question; Why do you all enjoy playing ‘neo-funk’? What was it that inspired you so much that you just had to form a band?

Johnny: Neo-funk is something fresh and exciting. It’s not a well-known genre yet, but we’re setting out to change that!

Ryan: Neo-funk is a fusion of some of my favourite genres which also allows room for a lot of creativity – especially from a drumming perspective. When the opportunity came around to join FAZE, I was excited to get on board.

Yazmine: I got inspired to form a band whilst I was at college, I wanted to get into function work and started a band with some of my mates at school. We all got pretty busy, and the function work fell through so I thought ‘Screw it! Let’s meet some new people’. I downloaded this app Vampr which is basically Tinder for musicians, I met Ryan first, he had some crazy drumming riffs on his page and lived nearby, so we set up a rehearsal, and the rest is history- haha!

J: How would you all describe your music taste, was it tricky finding people who wanted to write in the same sort of style?

Yazmine: I think we’re all heavily influenced by R&B, Gospel, Jazz, Funkadelic and Disco tunes – it was very lucky that we all connected so quickly and had that in common. I grew up listening to CHIC, Parliament, Jackson 5, Erykah Badu and D’Angelo, and I love them all so much. When you’ve heard so much fantastic music, I think you become like a sponge and just soak it all in! The tunes just came bursting out when we started jamming together.

J: So tell me, how does a band even go about recording and releasing their first single in lockdown? Has it been harder/easier?

Ryan: It isn’t the most straightforward process, but we’ve all had to adjust to new ways of doing things. It would ideally be a lot easier without restrictions!

Yazmine: We were lucky that Carried Away has been waiting in the wings for a while before we decided to release. We had to finish up mixing and mastering which could be done remotely by our friend CHRIS XYLO (he’s an absolute wizard!) Planning the single release has actually been easier since I’ve had more time to stay at home and work on it. Since more people are at home, I think we’ve all had time to listen to more music/ read more books/ discover more art, so we’re grateful for that!

Johnny: We’ve successfully recorded three lockdown sessions during this weird time which you can find on our YouTube channel, that process was interesting and was easier than expected thanks to Ryan’s spotless drumming. We’re saving our new tracks for recording after Lockdown so we can get them perfect, we are certainly perfectionists!

J: Tell us all about your new single ‘Carried Away,’ why did you decide to start writing your own tunes and what gave you the idea for this track?

Timmy: After a couple of months playing covers and function gigs, I think we quickly discovered that we could write. During rehearsals in-between songs I’d often play these soulful chord progressions off the top of my head, and we’d go off on this wild jam tangent with loads of improv, different feels etc.! We were all feeling the vibes, so I think it was that first original jam was when FAZE started.

Yazmine: I wrote this track after coming home on the train one night after a fantastic gig. The crowd was wild, and we all went out afterwards and had such a great night. I pulled a bit of an all-nighter that night and woke up the next afternoon exhausted but filled with such excitement. That high you get after you come off stage is exceptional, and the feeling lasts for days afterwards! The lyrics just started coming out, and I sat at my piano and wrote the first draft. I put it to the boys a couple of weeks later, and they brought the vision to life!

J: So this new song is all about ‘life as a musician’ and the highs and lows that come with the job – is that something you’ve all felt an especially relevant subject at the moment?

Yazmine: We know none of us can hardly get carried away with anything at the moment! For us, it’s about fantasy and hope as well as reality. We want listeners to be able to listen to our track and escape from the current world at the moment as well as get inspired for the future. Soon it’ll be all of our jobs to get out there and support live music again. We ain’t going nowhere!

J: What sort of things can we expect to see next from you guys? Any hints?

Johnny: Trust me when I say Carried Away is only the tip of the iceberg! We’ve got so much music written – about to record our next two singles. Our next track will be called MALIBU – think palm trees, indulgent groove and holiday fantasy! Whilst sitting on our sofas at home in the middle of winter, we can only dream – so why not!

You can keep up to date with all the upcoming music from FAZE on their Instagram and Facebook @fazebandofficial

Find FAZE on Spotify here.

Categories
Pop/Indie Pop Soul/R&B Why We Love

Why We Love: Biig Piig

Meet Jessica Smyth, better known as Biig Piig. Born in Ireland, brought up in Spain and now based in good ol’ London town, the neo-soul/hip hop singer has been gaining traction over the last couple of years with her silky smooth tracks and emotionally in-depth lyrics, taking inspiration from classical folk Irish music, Latin Jazz to modern indie and hip hop. But with that all in mind, you can’t hold Smyth’s music to just one style, I mean how could you with that diverse a range of inspiration? But her vibe is complete chill, as if you’ve stumbled into a run-down bar with the local jazz band pulling you in.

Smyth grew up in Spain and spent a lot of time in the Irish pub her parents owned there. Growing up around a pub setting definitely shapes you differently, as stated by Smyth before “I think you learn a lot about people when you’re surrounded by adults a lot of the time, they don’t treat you like a kid. Maybe that’s where the writing came from when I was younger.” And from living in Spain for so long, you start to learn the language which is where Biig Piig’s music gets interesting. Not only does deep classical Spanish music flourish throughout her work, but also slipping into the Spanish tongue giving her music this double-sided feel that’s irresistible. 

Biig Piig’s first single was dropped back in 2017 on Soundcloud, but that caught the attention of COLORS, who gave her a spotlight at their Berlin studios, helping her soon-to-be-fans find her sensual songs. Fast forward a year, and she released her debut EP ‘Big Fan of the Sesh, Vol. 1’ Further answering to the deserved hype and solidifying her fanbase. Tracks such as ‘Dinner’s Getting Cold Ft. Mac Wetha’, ‘Perdida’ and Flirt’ really demonstrated the talent Smyth has; lo-fi beats with velvet-like vocals to shatter dimensions.

Upon meeting Mac Wetha at sixth form after moving to London, the two have become good friends and regular collaborators within her own music and with their DIY Art Collective NiNE8. ‘A World Without Snooze, Vol. 2’ was released in 2019 and whisks you away to that special place in your mind where you can breathe easy and relax.

The track ‘Vete’ caught a lot of attention from the expansion of the smooth sound incorporating a cheeky bit of Sax to really hone in that chill Jazzy vibe. And thus Smyth signed to RCA Records, then immediately starting work on the final instalment to the trilogy. In November that year, she dropped ‘No Place For Patience, Vol. 3’. 

Really perfecting her sound here, it feels as if the journey had really taken you somewhere. The production of the song ties every little nook and cranny together into this ear-melting sound. Roses and Gold kicks off the EP, introducing some funky slap bass to shake things up whilst staying inside the proverbial box. Smyth does new things here but nothing feels out of place. ‘Lie to Me’ closes the EP and shows off some of the complexity to her lyrics; “I don’t wanna go, but this heart ain’t a home / Peace of mind, my peace is fucked. lucking out when he won’t listen / Risking trust to prove a point”. Smyth somehow just has this immense control of singing (in both English and Spanish) with such depth and on the flick of a switch completely nails these free flow rap verses which blend with her sound so perfectly.

Earlier this year, Biig Piig treated us to her political commentary of the 2019 snap election; ‘Switch’ which is a fitting title. This is a Biig switch indeed from her earlier work, fast-paced, angrier and with more drum ‘n’ bass inspiration. Smyth has said “I thought when I was writing it that it was about a relationship, but then I was like ​actually nah, it definitely isn’t. It’s that same hate but just for something else.” Switch is the kind of left turn an artist needs to take after solidifying their sound from 3 EPs worth of material. The track goes out of bounds but still suits Smyth’s voice, like something was suddenly realised inside her mind. The content of the song definitely needed a more prominent sound, so it all compliments each other ridiculously well really.

‘Don’t Turn Around’ was dropped in July this year and samples Love for the Sake of Love by Claudia Barry, more commonly known from being sampled in Montell Jordan’s Get It On Tonite. You may also recognize the directing style in the music video and you’d be onto something, frequent Beabadoobee video collaborator ‘Bedroom’ directed the song’s video, complimenting the sound of the track with a rich visual paradigm. Once again showing off her flow with some insanely catchy rap verses, bookended by delightful vocal hooks in the chorus. Lyrically being quite a jam-packed song as you’d expect with rap verses, but really shoving that emotion into the listener in a really exciting way. Smyth spoke about the song, saying it’s “my post-breakup, pre glow up tune. Finally getting to confidence through self-love and letting go of toxic relationships”. All we can take from it is that it’s such a good song and Biig Piig’s artistry really shaped it into something new and refreshing, leaving us with open arms for whatever her next outing may be.

Biig Piig is someone who needs no real introduction, just an open mind and a good pair of ears because no matter what the Irish-Espanol singer dishes out, it’s no doubt to be something that gets you hooked. In fact, Clairo and Billie Eilish have proudly announced themselves as fans, so why not join them? For once I can safely say that it’s right to believe the hype.

Like what you hear? Check out Biig Piig’s latest release and double single ‘Oh No / Liarh’ on Spotify.

Categories
Punk/Rock Soul/R&B Uncategorized Why We Love

Why We Love: Warmduscher

Twisted, funky and humorous. Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Warmduscher…

Formed as an impromptu band for a New Year’s Eve house party back in 2014 the five-piece fuses the talents of pre-existing bands Fat White Family, Childhood and Paranoid London, consisting of members Clams Baker Jr, Lightnin’ Jack Everett, Quicksand, Mr. Salt Fingers Lovecraft and The Witherer aka Little Whiskers. 

Considering they sound like superhero rejects and were formed as a spur of the moment laugh they’ve now evolved into a fully solidified collective. In the 6 years since their formation they’ve worked with inspiration Iggy Pop, toured the UK and Europe and released three albums; with their latest release ‘Tainted Lunch’ being sandwiched between the two Fontaines D.C. albums on 4 x mercury prize nominated producer Dan Carey’s list of records.

There’s really not much that can be predicted from these guys with each track taking you to places you’ve definitely never visited before. However, they are kind enough to introduce you to their love of hellish humour and irony from the get-go as ‘Warmduscher’ is a German slang term for a ‘wimp’ but this insult far from applies to them, as their bold moves in producing dark and adventurous ‘fractured rock’ is quite the opposite of cowardly.

Now Like I mentioned, Warmduscher are hard to predict and for that very reason just as hard to define because they mash together so many different sounds; many of which no one would expect to hear together. One minute they’re dark disco funk on tracks like Disco Peanuts (I feel like you can begin to pick up on their erratic nature here without even needing a listen), then the next they’re storming macho rock on The Warm Smell of Florida and dark and grinding Midnight Dipper whilst also capable of bringing a surprisingly sweeter side in the melancholy boogie of Summertime Tears.

Despite being London based and clearly incorporating plenty of post-punk with their turbulent guitars and bouncing basslines, their frontman Clams Baker Jr was born and raised in Massachusetts and brings an American croon to the mix. When backed by their thick sound you feel like you’re trying to hitchhike in a heated desert which has resulted in comparison to bands such as the surprisingly English Alabama 3. Baker Jr sites the legendary James Brown as an influence, which really reveals itself in his narration-like vocals on the slow-burning intro of 1000 Whispers before reaching delightful screams that lead back into a smooth melody.

As well as capturing the soul of Brown in Clams’ singing there’s also that groove in the music on songs like Dream Lotion and the hip-hop infused Burner featuring Kool Keith- a song about getting your hands on some drugs (which I’m certain they must have done before writing this as well as many others). Standing On the Corner is one that instantly comes to mind as a trip fuelled track with psychedelic undertones lying beneath heavy riffs- accompanied by a mental music video to match.

Besides these varying sounds, there’s also the techno transportation of Uncle Sleepover that throws you right into a video game with its laser blasts and warping synths which is again quite a contrast to the likes of Tiny Letters; a song with a gentle melody at its core layered with those screams again, proving that whatever you listen to you’re taken to a new unknown destination.

The band have always embraced a real ‘go with the flow’ attitude as all members have other projects that mean they can’t solely dedicate their time to Warmduscher. They never had much time for rehearsals or multiple takes so recorded their albums by splitting them into halves and doing whole takes as they would with live performances- injecting real energy into their releases. Things are just as impulsive when it comes to actually being in front of crowds too; making lyrics up on the spot which explains such random lines as ‘I won’t pay for their discos, I’m not gonna buy their sandwiches’ and ‘trippin at the Weatherspoons’.

Recently, as they’ve developed further they have become a little more structured; reworking a few things where they can in order to get the best out of what they’ve got which has resulted in a beast of an album. They still continue to appear just as spontaneous to gig-goers in their manic stage presence though and I doubt they’ll be falling into too many generic conventions- still coming out with ideas ‘from the back rooms of your minds’.

It’s safe to say that Warmduscher really have their own way of doing things and thanks to this are one of the strangest things but also greatest things that I’ve listened to in quite some time. With their melting mixture of ideas, they’re bound to feature something that you love too, so take a listen to the madness yourself.


Warmduscher on Spotify

Categories
BRIT School New Wave Pop/Indie Pop Soul/R&B Why We Love

Why We Love: LANTA

Kimberly Anne, also known as LANTA, is a singer/songwriter from South London and a truly extraordinary talent. You may recognise her voice from Sam Feldt’s hit cover of Show Me Love, but despite her chart-topping success as a vocalist, Kimberly isn’t going to let anyone tell her what music she should be making. Someone who doesn’t need a leg up from anyone, now publishing songs under the pseudonym LANTA, Kimberly continues to create the same remarkable songs she has always done – oh boy you’re in for a treat.

I could talk all day about any of Kimberly’s old tracks back from her days as simply ‘Kimberly Anne’, but let me share the very first song of hears I listened to, one which stopped me dead in my tracks; ‘Bury It There’, released in 2012.

This track is, and I say this with no hesitation, nothing short of genius – a pure blend of acoustic pop with soul, beats inspired by different cultures and powerful lyrics fit for an equally powerful voice… Oh, how I envy you hearing this tune for the very first time.

The release of Bury It There and subsequent 5-track EP deservedly earnt Kimberly Anne much attention from the UK music scene and festival slots alongside the likes of First Aid Kit, Haim and The Rolling Stones.

After discovering Kimberly’s music, it wasn’t long before I began asking people ‘have you heard of Kimberly Anne?’ ‘You must have?’ ‘She’s incredible!’

Brought up on the music of Van Morrison, The Cure and Bloc Party, Kimberly taught herself to play the guitar before studying percussion for a time in West Africa – an experience which has given her tunes some refreshingly unique characteristics.

After the release of her EP Ballads in 2017 and her feature in Sam Feldt’s hit dance track (although house was not really my thing), I eagerly awaited to hear more original work from the songwriter, whose talent can only be truly appreciated by listening to the songs she writes herself.

Years went by and nothing came. I wondered what had happened to Kimberly, as did most of her following at the time. An empty website, all social media channels gone and a youtube comment section begging for more incredible music, it wasn’t easy to track her down. Then in 2019, she relaunched as LANTA – a new name and a statement to the music industry that she wasn’t going to be snatched up by labels looking to ride on the back of her chart success. She wanted to make music that really mattered to her – and that we applaud!

Through her new ’80s soaked soul tracks, LANTA writes about the things that matter in her life, her sexuality, her mental health and her confidence – through this she is slowly becoming a role model for lots of young individuals and a much-needed voice for today’s openly gay black women, a role model she admits she never had growing up.

A new name for her music and newfound confidence, but the same brilliant songwriter. As a former student of The BRIT School who studied there around the same time as Adele, there’s nothing now standing in the way of Kimberly Anne/LANTA becoming just as triumphant. It’s still early days for her new musical persona, but with a voice and talent this big, she surely won’t go unnoticed in times to come.

Listen to LANTA’s new singles now on Spotify.

Categories
Jazz/Blues Soul/R&B Why We Love

Why We Love: Orgone

‘Orgone’ is a term best described as an esoteric energy or universal life force but more importantly, it’s an incredibly well-fitting name for this musical time machine of a band, that’s continually bringing a magnetic power to groove and soul…

I was genuinely taken aback at how well the West Coast collective capture the sound of classic 60s/70s funk, perfectly delivering an essence that I was searching for more of- specifically from current artists. Their time travelling isn’t just to the heyday of funk though, upon further listening, so many more influences surfaced from New Orleans jazz to modern hip-hop. Perfectly melted together, their sound has resulted in comparisons to not only legends such as Chic and Earth, Wind & Fire but also 21st-century stars like Childish Gambino.

I already recognised a few of their biggest hits (as you might too) but since properly discovering the band I’ve had their tunes playing non-stop. Blending from one to another as seamlessly as their styles are combined, I often find myself in a trance when listening to their mixing pot of sounds. Sometimes it feels like only a fleeting moment has gone by before I’ve made it through an album; always leaving me ready and raring to start the journey all over again. Their bold, flowing mixes and ability to take you to another time and place go to show that it’s not just me in need of their sound in my life as they’re guaranteed to satisfy any musical void that you’re looking to fill or just breath some new life to your playlists.

The California bands’ only consistent members since forming in 1999 are founders Dan Hastie on keys and Sergio Rios on guitar and engineering duties. However, the group has now stood at a solid five members for their last five albums, with Dale Jennings on bass, drummer Sam Halterman and singer Adryon de León joining Hastie and Rios in 2013 to form a more permanent set up. 

Many of their mesmerising tracks tell a story without a single word being sung but León takes things to the next level-shining brighter than ever on their 2019 album ‘Reasons’ with vocals on every track (We Can Make It is a personal favourite of mine). A variety of additional talents from Fanny Franklin to Jesse Wanger are often brought on board for vocal contributions as well; also helping to take things up a notch and ensure a consistently changing sound.

Always fresh and exciting the band are amazing in the studio where they produce their popping tracks and even work with artists such as ‘Queen of R&B’ Alicia Keys. The excitement doesn’t just stop there though as up on stage they really come into their element. Creating a kind of party atmosphere that would have fuelled Studio 54 back in the late 70s they clearly thrive off of their live audience grooving out to their glorious performances. Whether they’re in front of fans, working with top talents or on their own, there’s always an electrifying vibe in the room, as evident in the clip below-

In late September of this year, the band put out ‘Connection’, their appropriately named tenth record that instantly creates a relationship with its audience and bonds together all of their best elements. Kicking off with The Vice Yard you’re hit with powerful horns, sleek guitar licks and a pounding rhythm section; immediately locking you into the experience. The album goes on to provide a more futuristic vibe with tracks like Love Will See Us Through; evoking the the-sci-fi elements of time travel with electronic experimentation and making it clear to see why people are reminded of albums such as Gambino’s ‘Awaken, my love!’. Other stand out songs include The Truth, featuring a marvellously groovy riff and outstanding display of Kelly Finnigan’s husky voice, This One Time; a sweeping Motown dream and the reggae-infused This Space.

Although ‘Connection’ might be the finest exhibition of their greatest strengths it certainly wouldn’t exist without all efforts that came before, where these elements began to materialise. Whether it was using steel drums or synthesizers, Orgone have been making hits since the early days with their self-titled debut album back in 2001 displaying their ability to genre jump and produce superb songs from the very beginning. Truly breaking ground 6 years later with their full length follow up ‘The Killion Floor’ they’ve continued to create hit after hit and I don’t see them stopping any time soon.

Perfect for a chilled-out groove or conquering the dancefloor I strongly urge you to get listening Orgone anytime or any place and be transported by their universal energy.


Listen to Orgone on Spotify now