Archive | January 2012

soundCHECK 134 – January 26th 2012

It has been well documented that 2012 is the year the world will end. Quite how we are to collectively meet our maker has yet to be categorically revealed. But it’s happening, so get used to it. And you can forget about tying yourself into that 24 month smartphone contract. This is Armageddon, baby!

Happily, it’s looking like we’re going to make it through January unscathed. That’s a good thing, because February is usually the month where most people’s last dregs of stagnant willpower evaporate and well-intended New Year’s resolutions finally fail – which means you can go back to doing things you enjoy again.

But local hip-hop/jazz-funk fusion The Breaks Collective really are approaching 2012 with a steely resolve to make things change for the better.

“We hope to make 2012 one of our best years!” roars Matt Whitley, saxophonist in The Breaks Collective. It’s an emphatic statement; one that at first glance smacks of the kind of boil-in-the-bag ambition more at home in a patronising teambuilding chat from a gaggle of two-bit middle management, walking a tightrope across the simmering hell-pools of cliché and midlife crisis. But The Breaks Collective are the real deal; their ambition genuine. Anyone who’s seen them live will probably tell you the same. Most importantly, they have the talent to make 2012 the success they want it to be.

If you boiled The Breaks Collective down to their most basic elements you would be left with a hip-hop band from Barnstaple. But the manifold nuances of both their music and their make-up are such that a simplified summary of The Breaks Collective is not possible. For starters, there are seven of them. Seven. (The line-up completed by Jonathan Todd – vocal MC; Chris Moxey – vocal MC; Jules Moberly – guitar; John Bangham – keys; Jamie Adam – bass; Kieran Hennessy – drums.) I’ve been in bands. It’s hard enough trying to organise two people. Creating musical coherence with seven people takes determination, talent and a clear musical vision.

What about their genre? Hip-hop? Maybe. But theirs is a brand of hip-hop laced with all manner of musical intricacies, with genre-bending diversions that span the gamut from funk to jazz to soul. Yet despite this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to musical styles and live performance, The Breaks Collective remain a refined, super-slick outfit. They perform with poise; an incontestable groove and sangfroid that’s as capable of winning over music-shy middle-aged housewives as it is hardcore devotees to hip-hop, funk and jazz. Nice.

“Since 2005 we’ve been through many chapters of our story,” muses Matt. “We’ve played live at numerous festivals such as Goldcoast Oceanfest and Aeon and have shared the stage with Toots and The Maytals, Courtney Pine and Scratch Perverts.” It’s an impressive CV. But why is 2012 so important to The Breaks Collective? What are they hoping for?

“The big news is that we will be releasing two charity tracks: ‘Great Britain’ and ‘Poetry’. The two tracks are being released in April and all profits until the end of 2012 will be donated to the RNLI and The C Group, an injured Royal Marine rehabilitation charity based in Devon. They’re important charities, both locally and nationally and both have agreed to promote us through their vast networks.”

It’s a creative way of generating reach and adding a few more listeners to their growing fanbase. And in an age where revenue from independently released single and album sales is at rock bottom, pushing a charity’s cause is as noble a move as it is shrewd. “We created these tunes years ago and now we feel it is apt to put them to good use, especially as we hope 2012 is the year of national pride for Britain with the Jubilee and Olympics. ‘Great Britain’ is our modern anthem.”

But track releases are just the start. The seven-piece have signed a commercial manager (Adam Houlding), are in negotiations for slots at this summer’s Reading & Leeds Festivals, and are already confirmed for Aeon Festival 2012 and industry bash Backstage Conference 2012 in Exeter. There are plans for a national tour too. And the band are currently squirreled away writing and recording an album that will be released later this year – the audience of which will no doubt be bolstered thanks to a new deal with global music distribution agency INgrooves.

Apocalypse in 2012? At this rate The Breaks Collective will be providing the soundtrack.

Listen to The Breaks Collective and snaffle up their fact nuggets at thebreakscollective.com. Watch The Breaks Collective at youtube.com/user/thebreakscollective.

soundCHECK 133 – January 19th 2012

Not so long ago a band emerged from the ever-fertile musical womb of North Devon College (now Petroc) whose bullet-fast development from bleary-eyed fledglings to bonafide local favourites was unprecedented. No sooner had they dabbed off the afterbirth than they had asserted themselves as one of North Devon’s most exciting, enjoyable and fiercely promising acts. They were charismatic architects of compelling art-pop that glistened with rousing hooks, skyscraping in their melodic stature. Their name? Chasing Lions myspace.com/chasinglionsuk). To this day they remain one of the most affecting local bands I have ever seen live.

Unfortunately, when degree-based academia pulled the band’s constituent members to different parts of the country, Chasing Lions were stretched to breaking point. And break they did. But even if the sunken spirits of a grieving music scene could not be completely lifted, at least its weepy eyes were soon wiped dry by the wings of the phoenix from Chasing Lion’s ashes: Little Leagues.

Back then Little Leagues were a two-piece made up of Sam Gillbanks and Joe Morris, bass player and guitarist in Chasing Lions respectively. Happily their first demo was replete with the same brand of dovetailing melodies and pop aesthetics that were scrawled across the Chasing Lions blueprint. Then the duo went to university and it all went a bit quiet. But that’s not to say Little Leagues haven’t been busy. Oh no.

Now based in Falmouth, and with two new members bolstering the ranks (Will Harris and Lawrence Willoughby on vocals/trumpet and drums), Little Leagues have written an arsenal of new material and recently completed a small tour with a band called Canals. Better still, they are releasing a single at the end of this month. And the fantastic accompanying animated video is available to stream online right now.

Aural reference points include Youthmovies, Foals and White Denim. It’s a bold, assured and confident sound from a band with bags of potential – their shot of emotive, brass-laden indie administered with charming sang-froid. These boys are definitely ones to watch.

You can watch the video to ‘A Problem Solved’ on your internet-box at www.littleleagues.co.uk. Physical copies are available from 28th January. The CD artwork was designed by Harry Fricker with illustration from Adrian Dutt, whose names some of you will notice from local music circles. The band play at The Underground in Falmouth tonight (19th January) at 10pm. Entry is free.

Elsewhere this week there’s an acoustic evening at The Old Bus Station in Barnstaple this Saturday (21stJanuary). The line-up features three of North Devon’s most promising acoustic singer-songwriters: Simon Darling (myspace.com/simondarling), Scott Xander Linn (facebook.com/scottxanderlinn) and Daniel Adam (soundcloud.com/mkultrauk-hypnotizemem). The fee for this evening of acoustic bedazzlement? £3. Doors are at 8pm.

Got local music chat? Curtail my solitude at jharper@northdevonjournal.co.uk and I’ll write words for you.