INTERVIEW: Brothers Rasputin

INTERVIEW:

 

 

Brothers Rasputin

 

 

THERE are few bands that have the personality, sound and magic of…

London’s Experimental/Soul-Surf clan, Brothers Rasputin. Frontman Mitch gave up his time and was keen to chat about the band. I was eager to learn about their origins and sound- who influences it and how their creative process comes together. The guys have just got back from a tour of Eastern Europe and are in no mood to rest yet. New single Been Meaning to Say is entwined with ‘Britpop’ vibes: it investigates the turmoil and bustle of London; how easy it is to get lost among the rabble. With all this in mind- a new E.P. will follow this year- I was excited to hear what Mitch had to say; what the band had in mind for the remainder of 2016…

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Hey. How has your week been? What are you up to at the moment? 

Great thanks. Just got back from our Eastern Europe tour: great people, great weather and dirt-cheap booze. A recipe for success!

For those unfamiliar with Brothers Rasputin; can you tell us how you guys came together?

I was a solo artist, a child Rasputin: using loops and I met Rommy when I got in his face during a performance. Obviously, he was instantly hooked. Rommy started drumming with me, but we found that using only loops was a bit constricting. Nick is a sound engineer in a studio, and a bass player (and my brother) so was the obvious choice. From there we were able to take the live looping, but open it out into more complex songs.

Your music is a blend of Funk and Soul; you have been described (affectionately) as “London’s favourite Funk-Soul sociopaths”. Is this a fair description? Which bands or albums have influenced your sound?

Well, it may seem like we’re sociopaths on stage, and I certainly have some kind of pathology, but there’s no lack of conscience. I just (always) loved bands and performers who react to the crowd and get people involved in the show. I think there’s a duty to entertain if you’re on a stage so it seems natural to get with the people and cajole them into a reaction. Plus, it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Music-wise, I’m a huge Prince fan (gutted when I heard; even though he hadn’t made a good record in over 25 years. The world’s a sadder place) and definitely take inspiration from his stage antics. We all have a love of old classic Funk: Bootsy, Sly, Clinton; but I also come from an American guitar background, so love Janes Addiction and the Butthole Surfers. Hopefully, this motley mix comes together as a ramshackle whole somehow.

The vocals of Brother Rapsutin are full of richness; high-pitched and beautiful. Which singers have been inspirations; did that vocal came naturally?

As I said, Prince is huge for me: the most expressive singer, with no boundaries of what’s acceptable. But also, Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle) has been a big influence- particularly his solo stuff. He uses the voice as an instrument, and can make the most unlikely noises; just amazing. There’s a cartoon quality to his stuff that I love. I love all the sound effects on the old Warner Brothers cartoons, and that comes into what we do, I think.

 

 

Been Meaning to Say looks at the rush and turbulence of the city: being chewed and spat out; buried under the stress. Being based in London; did anything particular compel the song? What is life like (in London) for a modern-day band?

Well, there’s no use complaining, as we love making music, so will do it whether or not we get monetary compensation- but it is tough, especially a city like London; a bit pricey to say the least. Saying that, though; London’s buzzing with bands and venues and, though it gets a bit saturated, there isn’t a better place for getting gigs and going to discover new bands. I’ve lived in Paris and there’s definitely not the music scene there is here- which is reflected in the amount of good music that comes out of England. (Saw some great bands in Paris too, though-Catholic Spray and The Idiots to name a couple)

London has so many positives for musicians. What are the best things about living in the city? Any particular venues or spots you guys are especially fond of?

One of my favourite places at the moment is Cafe Oto in Stoke Newington. I’ve seen some great shows there- Sun Araw, Neil Hagerty; Thurston Moore. It’s a real intimate place with a community vibe. I much prefer smaller venues as you really get to feel part of the show. Seen some great stuff at the Old Blue Last too. White Denim were mind-blowing there.

That’s the great thing about London: it’s 24/7 every day; the weekend, and there’s always something going on. You know if someone you like is touring that they’ll be playing in London. Have to give my favourite restaurant Tayyabs a shout-out too. The food is great in Paris, but you can’t get a good curry. The chops at ‘abs are unbeatable.

The single melts ‘Britpop’-sounding anthemics and rousing Hammond organ. Was it important to give the song a positive vibe; keep it from being too tense?

We’re positive people. I like to sing about dark stuff, but you have to laugh at it too. There’s obviously a place for brooding introspective stuff but I think joy is a harder emotion to channel than melancholy. The world’s a dark place these days, but there’s always humour to be found. Brighten up!

You guys have a new E.P. out this year. What can you tell us about that?

We never really stop recording, so E.P.s seem the best format as you can just get them out and move on. After releasing the Get Over It E.P. last year we just carried on recording. We are lucky enough to have (a kind of) fourth member in Mike McEvoy: a real legend and great keys player; funky as hell. He has a rich history and managed to hook us up with some of the horn players from The Mingus Big Band. Lucky for us they had a few gigs at Ronnie Scott’s’ while we were recording, so came in and recorded on a couple of tracks (which Mike scored). A great experience and so good to hear a great horn section on our tracks.

Having Mike onboard really fills things out, so we were able to cut the other tracks live which give the E.P. a great feel. So, we’re currently finishing up mixes with that and the whole thing has come out with a real live, party feel to it.

After that (the E.P. release) the band heads to Eastern Europe. Are you looking forward to that? Will it be your first time over there?

We just got back! But, no, we went a couple of years ago too. Rommy is from Slovakia (used to drum in legendary Slovak Punk band Konflict) and we hooked up with some great people who asked us back. Life’s harder over there- so people party even harder- and are just really responsive-give them a good show and they give back!

I am always keen to see which artists are most important to a musician. Which acts/albums were influential to you growing up?

Yeah, we’ve all been obsessed with music from an early age. For me, I could choose any Prince album between ‘81 and ’88. But, if I had to choose, it’d be The Black Album; it was huge for me. Locust Abortion Technician by the Buttholes, Ritual by Janes Addiction; Check Your Head by the Beasties. I’m also a Harco Pront fanatic: his album Jibberish is amazing. I’ve been trying to track him down for the last ten years; he totally disappeared. The last few years I’ve been hooked on Bootsy: Player of the Year is the cream.

Are there any current acts- either mainstream or niche- that you would recommend to people?

Like I said; I saw Sun Araw at ‘Oto; also caught him at Corsica Studios in Elephant’- great little venue, and he totally blew me away. Like a lot of people, I was awestruck with Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly album; through that, I discovered Thundercat and Flying Lotus. Right now I’ve got Flying Lotus’ You’re Dead on repeat: beautiful and a great mix of the organic and electronic. Also liking the L.A. Priest album. I’d never heard of his band Late of the Pier but I found the track Oino online and got hooked from there.

For those who do not know much about you; could you tell us a secret- something nobody knows about you?

Me and Nick are distantly related to Andy Taylor from Duran Duran. My nan met him at a family wedding but unfortunately we haven’t collaborated. Yet.

As a band; what has been your career highlights so far?

The Mingus Big Band horn session was a definite highlight. Working with musicians of that calibre is humbling but amazing, really pushes you to work harder. We love playing live so just playing shows; especially with Mike (is just good times). Rockscape in Slovakia was brilliant: it’s great to go somewhere you’re playing to just strangers. Jam Cafe in Notts. was a real pleasant surprise and a great party.

Do you have any advice for any musicians coming through; those who are not sure if they have what it takes?

Well, what does it take? Seriously, you have to have a genuine and forceful passion for it. You have to make a lot of sacrifices along the way. But, if you love what you’re doing, you’ll do it regardless. So, my advice really is: if you don’t fundamentally love it, at some point, you’ll run out of steam. If you do, then it doesn’t matter how known or unknown you are; it’s just a buzz doing it. If it feels right, it generally is. The process is the point, not necessarily the result.

Finally- and for being a good sport- you can select any song (and I’ll include it here) – why is it special to you?

The Big Ship by Brian Eno. Very different to all the stuff I’ve listed in this interview, but just beautiful- and I can’t listen to it without getting a lump in my throat. So, introspective and melancholy- I’m totally contradicting myself here! Hopefully, that’s what you get with Brothers Rasputin- a laugh, a cry; a panic attack…and a good night out!

 

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Follow Brothers Rasputin

 

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/brothers.rasputin/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/brosrasputin

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/brothersrasputin

TRACK REVIEW: CB aka Country Boy- Beast Mode

TRACK REVIEW:

 

CB aka Country Boy

 

 

Beast Mode

 

9.6/10

 

 

Beast Mode is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdKQm3PyzL0

RELEASED:
21st  June, 2016

GENRES:
Rap; Hip-Hop

ORIGIN:

Houston, U.S.A.

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IT has been said in previous posts of mine…

the satisfaction I get when returning to artists: those who have survived the tests of music; continue to play and succeed. One of the worrying aspects of modern music is how fraught and unsure everything is. Not to labour the point (as I have before) but the industry is incredibly tough right now. Depending on how steely and talented you are- even talent cannot guarantee safety- will define how long you will ensure. Too many great artists have disappeared because of various factors. Whether financial strains or competition; the demands of being on the road- it is always difficult saying goodbye to a wonderful band/artist. Before I come to my featured artist; it is worth looking at originality and its importance; the artists coming out of Houston, Texas (where my featured act hails) and Hip-Hop/Rap of the moment. If we take a look at the mainstream right now: there are certain acts you know will be standing the test of time. Aside from the legends and regulars- those who have been around for years- a great many brand-new musicians are making some exciting sounds. I have mentioned the likes of Unknown Mortal Orchestra: Glass Animal (they have been around for a little bit) and Julie Jacklin are releasing music that gets straight into the brain; stuff that once heard, is hard to forget. I feel the mainstream/modern music stagnated a bit last year. Sure, there were some great releases: by and large, it was a rather lackluster affair. This year, for whatever reason, we have seen so many terrific musicians form.

Stalwarts such as Beck and De La Soul are charging hard; bright and original bands are showing the way- quite an exhilarating time. If you want to keep your head above water- making music sound like a torturous set of obstacles- you need to set yourself aside from your peers. We got into a situation where there was a heap of Indie/Alternative bands emerging. Each one, more or less, sounded the same. Sticking too closely to a Biffy Clyro-cum-Foo Fighters aesthetic: once you have heard the originals; you are loathed to hear a slew of second-rate replicas. Away from that, the artists that really deserved acclaim and support- the innovators and true visionaries- were receiving less airplay and column inches. Happily, 2016 has focused attentions onto artists that have something a little special about them. There are some great guitars bands around; more Electronic-based musicians are emerging; some tremendous Pop/Folk acts, too. A richness and variety is emerging: one that was missing in action year ago. Aside from the nature of your music and its genre: you need to consider other aspects. So many musicians are complacent to sit back and wait for gigs to come about. Others will do the bare minimum with regards social media output. Some release music occasionally: taking a long time to get something fresh into the market. This trio of concerns must be adhered like a gospel. Even if you have a P.R. company or manager behind you, it is vital to keep your ear to the ground. Study the market and look at the venues/spots that play your kind of music. Contact them and ensure they know your name. Social media is a vast and opportunistic thing that should be utilised by musicians.

It is not shameful or embarrassing asking for assistance. Reach out to followers with regards gigs and venues. One of the best ways to get your music heard and shared is to perform as regularly as possible. It may sound like an axiomatic point; a lot of musicians are being rather lazy in this respect. Facebook and Twitter and invaluable when it comes to sharing music and reaching out to fellow musicians. It is simple to keep yourself in the public attention. Regular updates and posts; hitting up promoters, venues, and contemporaries. If you do this, you are giving yourself the best chance of success- showing a great work ethic and determination. I know music-making take a long time. You do not want to rush releases, but given the competitiveness and packed nature of music, how long do you want to wait? Studio costs can be galling, so a more D.I.Y. approach may be needed. I am not suggesting you unveil a new track every week, but should be looking to have (fairly) regular releases. Many artists have failed to remain because they have taken too long to get music out. They may release an album with promise only to stay quiet for the next year or so- whatever happened to London Grammar, on that point?! Before I continue onto new points, let me bring CB aka Country Boy to your focus. Slamming out Houston, Texas, the Hip-Hop star has been setting the scene alight for years. Growing and maturing as an artist; developing and pushing his talent- there are few as hard and biting; memorable and intense. A God-fearing artist with a pure heart and an incredible talent; I am pleased to revisit the wonderful music of CB aka Country Boy. When I look at American-made music, my attentions often go to L.A. and New York.

It is rare I get to visit the other 48 states; let alone those far away from either (California and New York). Texas is one of the most prolific and busy U.S. states for music. We all know Nashville and the Country music scene. Many might be unfamiliar with Texas and the kind of music coming from there, in general terms. Historically, everyone from ZZ Top, The Tontons and Destiny’s Child come from Texas. American Fangs and Scale the Summit show what variety and quality comes from the state. In terms of the modern-day Texan acts: there is a good deal of wonderful artists emerging. Buxton (from Houston) are part-Rock, part-Indie and one of the most promising bands coming from Texas at the moment. Young Mammals have been friends since school and write songs that reflect the dichotomies and variegation of the city. The Wild Moccasins are another Houston band to investigate. Debbie Harry-esue lead vocals and legendary live performances, where confetti and balloons are released to the crowd, make them a stunning proposition. Surf, Indie, Alternative- and everything in-between- goes into New York City Queens’ music. Another sensational Houston band: the coming years will see them translate to the mainstream. Deep Cuts are a Latin boy band but one who make serious music. CB aka Country Boy is someone who gives Houston a definite flair and passion. Whilst the city has a great many bands: our hero is among the few great Hip-Hop/Rap acts in Houston. Again, perhaps stereotyping, when we think of Hip-Hop in America our minds go to New York, predominantly. The likes of Beastie Boys and Run the Jewels have ensured New York is firmly on the Hip-Hop map. Los Angeles, again, is pretty reliable when it comes to innovative and quality. CB aka Country Boy is an artist who has his own blend of fast-flowing Raps and thought-provoking lyrics; authoritative delivery and atmospheric compositions. Soul Full was the last album released by CB aka Country Boy (back in 2015) but the future is looking very assured. Beast Mode leaves you wondering what is ahead; will we see another record out this year?

Many reading this will be new to CB aka Country Boy. Even if you are not a Hip-Hop/Rap fan; you will find much to love. Inspired by the likes of Biggy, 2Pac, DMX; Project Pat, Fat Pat, Z-Ro; UGK, Scarface, OutKast, and Nas: if you are inclined to any of these acts, you will find much to love within the music of CB aka Country Boy. These musicians should be used as a starting point. Little hints and suggestions of each come out (in ‘Country Boy’s music) and will please those affiliated and fond of older Hip-Hop. CB aka Country Boy is a modern, forward-thinking musician that has a solid sound but always looks to change things up and adapt. Each song employs new compositional notes and lyrical themes. Inspired by events of life- our hero reflecting on the daily happenings and life events- Beast Mode is one of the most electric and instant songs CB aka Country Boy has created. Previous albums Soul Full and The Flood demonstrated how confident and consistent CB aka Country Boy is. Whereas Soul Full had softer, more restrained elements- bits of Soul and less intensity- The Flood was a more spiky and edgy album. Each record has its own sound and neither replicates the other.

Although CB aka Country Boy puts his stamp on both albums; the diversity and variated between them is amazing. Not one to keep things predictable: The Flood was a change of pace and embraced new themes and concerns. Soul Full had redemptive songs that looked at hope and brighter days. Paens to music and self-confidence came through in an L.P. of uplift and positivity. Sure, a few tracks had anger and negative edges, but for the most part, the record shows its author in a more reflective and optimism mindset. The Flood contained more danger, warning, and fear. As the title suggests: an album that was sharper, more uneasy and tense. Beast Mode comes from that album and is filled with confidence, braggadocio, and attack. Straight from the lights, haze and unpredictability of the streets: a razor-edged cut that is (perhaps) CB aka Country Boy’s most scintillating offering so far. Being in such key form and fine voice; let’s hope the coming months see the Houston hero plan some new moves.

The swansong for The Flood comes in the form of Beast Mode. Glitchy electronics create a definite sense of purpose of occasion and atmosphere from the get-go. CB aka Country Boy is going in hard: in animal, beast mode; you can feel that declaration, venom, and swagger. Our man swings a baseball bat- in the video; a rather apt and necessary prop- and recollects picking up scars and wounds. Fights, metal bars, and concrete slam: the hero introduces us to a jagged world of violence and self-confidence; avoiding defeat and throwing down the gauntlet. Whether earned or not: the arms are out and the teeth are showing. CB aka Country Boy is like an animal and making himself large. Showing everyone who is boss; in Hip-Hop circles and on street levels, he cannot be overthrown. At the early stage, one wonders whether Beast Mode recalls youthful transgressions and reality; perhaps it is a natural default. “All I know” are words that reveal truth and provide clarity. Our man has always lived this way and seems natural tense and coiled. Maybe wary of attack and confrontation; a state of eternal confidence: this is the way things are going down. The lyrics spit and tumble: fast and free-flowing it draws you into its wave and suction. Electronics are fairly light but provide spike, bubbling emotions, and colours. It is a wonderful background that gives depth and drive- almost like a bassline moving through the song- whilst beats are fist-pumping and taut. Tattoos are telling the story and show where our hero came from.

Documenting his loves, losses and days: images flash in the mind and more truths revealed. CB aka Country Boy is blessed and God is in his heart. Lyrics looking at killing and death- confessing sins to a local priest- take your mind into unsettling territory. Whether referring to animals, challengers or something else: you can feel that electricity and snakebite; the heat is being turned up. Perhaps some lyrics get lost in the flurry and rabble; the clarity sometimes suffers because of the sheer energy of the performance. Beast Mode is a song that ticks all the boxes in spite of this. Props must be given to CB aka Country Boy who turns in one of his most accomplished and committed vocal performances. People are jealous and hating the hero: because of his completion and skills; he has been getting grief and facing some stern disapproval. Whoever is in his face and whatever is being said; our hero is having none of it. Throwing two fingers up in a rebellious fit: nobody wants to get in his face and incur his wrath. It is a tense situation and bold proclamation from one of Hip-Hop’s brightest stars. Perhaps (Beast Mode) is a documentation of local press and how he is perceived.

It does not matter if you support his plight and agree with what he is saying. Maybe some might be galled at the assertiveness and aggression; the triumphant mood and sense of ego. That is what Hip-Hop is all about; in its D.N.A. and blood. The Hip-Hop world is filled with people trying to get one up on you: it can be a savage and competitive market where Rap battles and feuds are a common thing. Pop and mainstream disputes seem childish by comparisons. Because of this; the abrasive and fraught reality of the culture; it is hardly surprising seeing CB aka Country Boy in fiery mood. If he were to accept this and be beta male; his song would not carry weight and conviction. Every listener will get hooked into the weight and addictiveness of the song. The head will nod and the arms move: it is an anthem that can get crowds singing and jumping. Beast Mode is CB aka Country Boy at his most forceful and hyped. In past songs, there have been some anxieties and fears addressed. Certain records have been reflective and introverted. Even at his most investigative and self-assessing there is a huge confidence and sense of occasion to things. Beast Mode sees the Texas native at his very finest. Few songs make me want to play them again and again for energy alone. Nuance and layers are rife throughout Beast Mode. The vocal is cocky but never too arrogant: constantly hypnotic and in-command. Electronics and beats come together splendidly through the song.

Every time I feature an America or international musician in general; it provides me opportunity to discover new towns and styles. As I mentioned at the top of this review: a lot of my U.S.-led reviews see me stuck in New York and Los Angeles. Not that I am complaining, mind. I love those areas and am never disappointed when N.Y. and L.A.’s finest come to my focus. Every now and then, it is good to recognise other states and cities. One of my biggest regrets is how few American acts I get to review- that hails from outside Los Angeles and New York. Having CB aka Country Boy back and large; it takes my mind to Texas and the music from there. I am a big fan of Hip-Hop and Rap but find few modern artists that really capture my attention and imagination. In the past, there have been plenty of examples that fill my stereo. I have noted giants like Beastie Boys. This year, there has been a resurgence and upsurge in Hip-Hop. Mainstream stars like Drake, Kendrick Lamar; The Game and Kevin Gates have released stunning albums. 50 Cent and Bas- a fair few others- have added their name to the rostrum of Hip-Hop diamonds. I am not saying other genres have not made their mark, as that would be naïve and foolhardy. Hip-Hop struggles to make it onto the radio waves because of its nature (quite profane at times). We are living in a time where certain music is widely played and represented; other genres are niche and struggle for any acclaim. That is what makes 2016’s Hip-Hop success so impressive. The likes of Kendrick Lamar have released music that crosses borders and subverts expectations- stunning critics and resonating with a wide range of listeners.

CB aka Country Boy seems a man with no desire to rest and take it easy any time soon. The amount of material he has released speaks for itself. The quality, passion, and conviction grow with every new release. He is a star-in-waiting that seems primed to nestle alongside Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar and the mainstream’s best. Influenced by the likes of Scarface and 2pac: who is to say he cannot ascend to their heights in years to come? The touring schedule looks busy and wide-ranging for CB aka Country Boy. Taking in various states and cities: the juggernaut keeps rolling on for our hero. Looking at his social media feeds, you get inside the mind of someone who places music above everything else. Whether making calls and setting up gigs; promoting his work or connecting with his fans- one of the most hard-working and driven people around. We need more people like this in music. Maybe I have bemoaned a lack of energy and smartness from some musicians. Yes, it is hard keeping energy up and making the right moves in music. If you have great tracks and a wonderful voice, there is no guarantee you will get easy success and things will be simple. You have to keep plugging and aiming hard; not let the stresses and bad days affect you. I get to speak with a lot of musicians and so many get deterred and fatigued by the realities of the game. The only way to ensure you get some attention and longevity is to keep at it and stay focused.

That may be easy for me to say, but music rewards those who battle and dream. Originality, relatability and consistency are commodities that are lacking in a lot of new music. There are still too many bands/acts that want to sound like someone else; too keen to copycat them in order to fit in. The consumer likes hearing artists that have a little bit of someone else in them. Naturally, we want a bit of familiarity; something that instantly strikes the ear. Given that, there are limits: nobody wants to discover a (new) musician that sounds exactly like anyone else. Too many musicians hide behind social media and do not actively connect with their followers. Lacking the human touch: it can be sad to see, indeed. Throw into the mix, there are so few musicians that keep producing wonderful songs. Even the most promising- or those we thought would go all the way- tend to struggle after a time. CB aka Country Boy suffers no such fate. You can hear his origins and the types of acts that have compelled his music. Little shades of 2pac and DMX are in there, but for the most part, we get something very veritable and native. Beast Mode shows how assured and consistent our hero is.

I have speculated whether an album is due and have not heard anything via social media. It would be great to hear a new CB aka Country Boy cut before 2016 is through. Previous albums and releases have been met with huge acclaim and respect. No doubt remains in my mind: the next few years will be very prosperous and wonderful for the Houston star. He is working on new projects and films; constantly touring and making sure he connects with the people. One of those musicians that not only (has) managed to stay relevant, popular and strong: a young man whose best days are still in front of him. It would be great to see CB aka Country Boy comes to the U.K. and plays here.  I am not sure whether he has come over here, but there is certainly a demand. Maybe U.S. commitments will make that impossible, but let’s hope it is a future possibility. Britain has some terrific Hip-Hop/Rap artists so there is a market for CB aka Country Boy to prosper and inspire. Whatever he has in mind with regards touring; it will be interesting to see if he comes across to Europe. I know he has a fanbase over here and that will only increase with the release of Beast Mode. If you want an artist that brings something new, edgy and ambitious to the table; ensures the songs stay in the head, then take time out and discover Houston’s CB aka Country Boy. In a music world, that is crowded and uncertain…

HERE is someone that never disappoints.

 

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Follow CB aka Country Boy

 

Official:

https://www.countryboyraps.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/JonnyCarrollMusic/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/cb_countryboy

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/countryboyraps/

_________________________________

Music

https://soundcloud.com/countryboyraps

TRACK REVIEW: XamVolo- Runner’s High

TRACK REVIEW:

 

XamVolo

 

 

Runner’s High

 

9.7/10

 

Runner’s High is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsG2M-uNUX4

RELEASED:
16th June, 2016

GENRES:
Jazz; Alternative; Soul

ORIGIN:

Liverpool/London, U.K.

____________________________________

IT is quite an understatement to state…

the world has undergone a lot of turbulence and uncertainty the past few weeks. Everything from (repeated; continued) terrorist attacks and economic/political strife stalks us: a dark shadow that continues to chill and terrify. Away from that, celebrity deaths- how many more will 2016 see? –and uncertainty is creating an odd mood. The spirits are down- whether you see this year as cursed- and the general population are divided. Against the backdrop of this upheaval; music seems a necessary balm and medicinal countenance. Before arriving at my featured artist- a hot, young talent is ever there was one- it is pertinent reflecting on this year’s music- and acts coming through- the rich variety of voices out there; artists that develop and adapt to their (changing) surroundings. New music is a curate’s egg that is hard to crack. In terms of the underground acts, those unsigned, under-the-radar, I have seen a lot of brave and bold artists emerge. There is such a sense of purpose, passion and drive (among musicians) that makes me very excited- a new generation that can make some real changes- more on that latter. It is the mainstream that, surprisingly, have been in fine form this year. 2015 left me a little dispirited and unsure. Yes, acts like Kendrick Lamar laid down incredible statements- an exception that proved the rule.

Conjoined to a mortal and sobering calendar year; some of music’s greats have departed the world; has been some splendid music. Quick-dropped releases; from Radiohead, James Blake and Beyoncé, took up by surprise; providing emotional, career-best songs in the process. Fresh acts like Beyond the Wizards Sleeve look set to make a big impact. ‘Old masters’ Paul Simon, The Avalanches and DJ Shadow are back in force, the former emphatically; the others beneath their best, whilst nuanced, stunning records from Laura Mvula, Anohni; Daughters and  PJ Harvey have given us plenty of treats and wonder. It is only July and it has already been a bumper year for albums/musicians. However you approach this year- a fatalist who sees it as a sad one; an optimist who sees light and hope ahead- music is that static and certainty: something that will always give comfort and direction; a political party that works for the people. Given the proliferation and accessibility of music-streaming sites, making sure your music is expressed openly and freely, it can be tricky taking it all in. It is concerning how much musicians have to struggle; new artists often struggle to make money and survive- that is best for another day. You cannot deny how rich, varied and exceptional today’s music is. Different people have different bonds to music: what defines it for them. Whether you love deep lyrics and cutting lines; a full and powerful composition: for me, the voice is king. It is the delivery point for songs; the instrument that brings songs to life. One of the most depressing aspects of music is poor/unoriginal vocals. Too many musicians do not win you with their voices: they can be stale, limp and un-contoured: not capable of gripping the emotions and registering an impact. Luckily, plenty of wonderful singers exist: fully able to get hairs standing on end; the blood rushing and the jaw dropped. I have been lucky enough to ‘discover’ some tremendous singers- Lánre is the latest, real treasure- and it can be hugely rewarding. Unless you are a world-class lyricist- not too many on the modern scene- or a tremendous composer: the voice, is that selling point; that hook that gets the listener involved and seduced. I have mentioned artists like Radiohead and Laura Mvula- two ‘complete package’ acts that are exceptional in every department; but how many truly original, archetypal voices are out there? I bring this point up- in my usual, around-the-houses manner- to introduce XamVolo. If his looks and style do not strike you- a mix of Miles Davis, André 3000 and old-skool film icons: someone who sticks in the mind and stands out from the pack.

A very striking and impressive young man: his voice defies description, synonyms, and rational explanation. The much-lauded vocal giants of the mainstream, Adele among them, are starting to lose that unique edge (lyrics and subject matter too rigid; not giving the voice a chance to shine) whilst XamVolo has plenty of dynamic back-story and wonderful, colourful sides: someone who has that instant star quality. Some musicians shout their presence and force themselves upon you: XamVolo is a more seductive, slow-playing artist who has exceptional gravitas and authority being who he is- without pretense, overpowering and forcefulness. I need to raise a new point; before I come to that, let’s meet XamVolo:

 “I can’t really think of much else outside of music day-to-day,” says singer/songwriter and producer Sam Folorunsho a.k.a Xam Volo. “I thought that it must be possible to become a musician, so I decided to put my all into it.”

At the age of 21, XamVolo seems wise beyond his years. A true artist, he oversees every element of his music, which he describes as “a messy mind over raw, dark jazz grooves”. Since moving to Liverpool to study in 2012, the Londoner has embraced himself in the local music scene with his unique and enigmatic take on Neo-Soul and Jazz. Influences from Erykah Badu, Miguel, Frank Ocean and Maverick Sabre echo in his music, with a gospel-infused sophistication and often abstract lyrics. 

“I was into Grime when I was younger,” Xam Volo says. “Slowly I developed a taste for RnB through Hip Hop, before discovering Jazz and Soul and really falling in love. Neo-Soul may be a newer genre, but it captures all the elements that I love about music, and it’s home to such a distinct and timeless sound.” While studying for his degree and craving a more creative way of life, he began taking his music seriously before deciding to make it his chosen career. “An older friend gave me his copy of music software FL Studio 7 and I began making my own songs, “ he says. “I haven’t looked back since.”


He describes growing up as “hard, identity wise,” but adds that his childhood experiences have made him become a better artist today. “I lived fairly comfortably, but even as a child I was made aware that material things weren’t everything. The experiences I had growing up are a part of who I am, and for that I am grateful.” With one younger brother, he says that his family is close but “isn’t too involved” in his music. 

As his career began to take off, and with a number of self-penned songs under his belt, Xam Volo began playing gigs in London and Liverpool. He performed for a few gigs held at the members-only GH Bar, which saw him perform acoustically with the resident jazz band around Soho. It was live performances such as this that gave him the confidence to apply to perform alongside other local unsigned artists at the Liverpool International Music Festival (LIMF). As one of the five overall winners – chosen from thousands of hopefuls by a panel that included Grammy Award-winning producer Steve Levine – Xam Volo was deemed by the judges as ready to embark on a professional career in music. The five winners, along with 10 other finalists, performed on the LIMF Academy Stage in the Sefton Park Palm House over the 2014 August Bank Holiday weekend, in front of thousands of music lovers. Describing the event as one of his career highlights so far, he says: “It was brilliant to receive so much exposure for my music at the festival. I’m really proud to have been a part of the 2014 academy, and I’m looking forward to seeing the artists that emerge as part of the 2015 event.”


Xam Volo also released his EP Binary In Blue in 2014; something that he admits was intended as a darker project but was re-started because he wasn’t happy with the original. He chose the name for a few reasons – binary as meaning ‘two parts,’ because he viewed the EP as having “two widely relatable songs and another two calmer and artier tracks”. Despite it not being Blues in genre, he picked topics that he felt paid some level of tribute to Blues music and its culture. Described on Soundcloud as ‘alternative Hip-Hop, Soul and Jazz,’ the Binary In Blue EP can be downloaded at XamVolo’s Bandcamp page. 

As well as his growing music commitments, Folorunsho has another creative talent, as a graphic designer. “I’ve done that longer than music, but it isn’t as interesting,” he says, adding: “I guess I get to design my own album covers.” With music where his heart truly lies, he believes firmly that “there are so many musical needs to cater to – any sound will resonate and fill its own gap. There’s always someone out there who will crave your sound.”
Looking to the future, XamVolo hopes to gain more exposure, grow his team, and learn more through performance and collaboration. He says: “Ultimately, I want to create a community sharing the mindset I express through my art. Whatever happens, I’m excited to find out if the path I end up following gives me a career even more suited to my character than the one I can fathom currently. Then, who knows how much further I will be able to aim?”

 The young musician has had quite a hectic and fascinating past few years. Starting out in Liverpool; cutting his teeth and experiencing his first music crushes; XamVolo has moved to London: a natural Mecca for inspired musicians. Comfortable and vibing from the cosmopolitan smoke and side-street-treasures of the capital: the people and city have got into the blood; compelled his songs; made quite an impact. There is a great mix of traditional and unique with XamVolo. A solid and wise academic path ensued: studying a music degree; leading him to crystalise his ambitions and purpose; a great team behind him: the hero has a solid support and knowledge base at his disposal. A lot of artists arrive, perhaps without a degree or studying music, and do it alone: progress and discover through feel (rather than form). That is not to say XamVolo lacks passion, soul, and authenticity- he is one of the purest and natural musicians around. Gaining experience and education: that has helped shape his sounds and direction; enriched his (beautiful) tracks. Enigmatic, mysterious and genre-fusing: the likes of Maverick Sabre and Frank Ocean are thrown into his melting pot.

Through Grime, a genre I am particularly fond of, Hip-Hop and Jazz: the young man has surrounded himself with some exceptional sounds; a wide range of musicians- each element and idol goes into the music. A chameleon and ever-changing young man: XamVolo has struggled to find identity; his early life was uncertain and tough. That modest and struggling upbringing- material possessions took a backseat to less extravagant realities- would break and unsettle most people. For XamVolo, the opposite has true: it has made him the person he is today. Shifting and blending into his environment- taking to London with verve, wide-eyed curiosity, and ease- this year has been a productive one indeed. XamVolo is someone who has the passion and talent to go wherever he wants in this industry. Runner’s High- his latest single- has already picked up acclaim and huge respect. Knowing what we know: XamVolo gets involved in the whole creative process; always thinking of ideas and new possibilities; what are we to expect?

This year has already been pretty hectic for XamVolo. The Closing Scene, released in February, was the first E.P. of 2016. Featuring compromise between isolation and self-dependence: there is a growing tension in the production, as each track progresses, and a sense of uncertainty pervades. Rescue Me opens (a confident E.P.) with under-the-surface swagger and purposefulness. Images of escape, self-dependence and escape intertwine- perhaps appropriate given the reference to Harry Houdini in the song- and there is a blend of claustrophobe and open declaration. The ego is undamaged to begin- as XamVolo attests- before an inner chaos unfurls. Be Cool is a felicitous inclusion that provides self-assurance and reassurance. Even when the pressure mounts and there is expectation mounting; it is okay to be relaxed and kick back from time to time- take it easy and chill. XamVolo is a busy artist always striving for bigger and better. Whereas Rescue Me possessed that edginess and rushing composition; the cool-as-you-like vocal and underlying tension- sounding like a Bond score; a tense scene unfolding- Be Cool’s composition is eponymous and refined- replete with soulful groove. Bone Marrow looks at a lack of experience: XamVolo is a young man with a lot to learn; there is‘darkness’- a synonym for that naivety and need to progress- that creates another nervy, nihilistic number. Breathe Slowly ends the E.P. is the precipice of the downfall: the apogee of self-destruction and solitude.

The Closing Scene, which could reference a film’s troubled, dramatic ending, becomes more heated and walls-closing-in with each number. The swansong sees that uncertainty really strikes hard: dilemmas are becoming suffocating; the hero is out-of-touch and struggling to take it all in. Met with respect, acclaim and fascination: that E.P. cemented XamVolo as a truly unique talent: one with a lot of questions on his mind; a restless soul in search of answers. Contrasting unflinching, cinematic compositions with composed- almost romantic at times- vocals and you have an artist who has few direct equals. Upon hearing The Closing Scene; you are compelled to listen again and study the songs- it takes a few listens to really get inside the music and its complexities. The listener poses their own questions and everyone will have their own takeaway. Runner’s High continues where The Closing Scene left off. The beats stutter and scrabble; the electronics fizz, rapture, and retreat- a song filled with emotions, life, and energy. Runner’s High could exist as an instrumental: such is the quality and impact of the music itself. Confidence is in no short supply from XamVolo. If The Closing Scene documented a young man unsure of himself; understanding how he needs to be hard on himself at times- the abiding sentiment was one of fear and disconnectedness. Compensating a heavy and burden-damaged soul were compositions (and vocals) filled with richness, beauty and huge highs- primal and sexual at times. Another E.P. will be arriving this year; an album is in the works, too. I know how far XamVolo has come as an artist. Every new offering increases his (solid) foundation and shows new talent and layers. One of music’s most distinct and captivating new musicians keeps getting stronger and exceptional. If Sam Folorunsho- the man behind the moniker- feels he is not as fulfilled and knowledgeable as he should be- the music he is making fills gaps and highlights an extraordinarily progressive artist.

Synthesisers and electronics kick and cabaret into life: Runner’s High begins with a chest-protruding, all-kicking, all-swinging, singing bonanza. There is a coolness and catchiness; an original bent that gets the listener hooked instantly; charmed and dragged into something immersive. Jabbing, static beats- that provide current and prowess- and the finger-clicking, scene-setting electronics are tied together with an exceptional, if understated, vocal. Our hero delineates his words and has an echoed, distorted quality. Against the ever-vibrant, vivacious compositions, there is a mystery and drama unfolding. Our hero recalls breaking bones and running through fires: at once, you start to imagine the story and where this song originated from. Evading enemies and overcoming strenuous obstacles: the revelations of a man who is trying to escape the past? A bad situation he is trying to forget? Whatever compelled the words, it is hard to evade the mixture of sultriness and danger; a clash of emotions (and styles) that gives the song such a weight. Few artists present tracks the same was as Runner’s High. R&B sway- the composition has velvet smoothness and a definite sexiness- and Jazz suaveness unites in something quite remarkable. The compositional is part-casual, part-urgent; the vocal precise and measured- a song that wants you to take in every note and semblance. Children in burning towers, perhaps a metaphor for how life has unfolded, are sentiments/expression that provokes imagination and speculation. XamVolo writes music of all differing kinds to express the spectrum of his talent: just what he can do and how many sides he has. Previous tracks- across The Closing Scene– investigated self-worth issues and his place in life- whether he was as satisfied as he should be.

We need more air” is a coda repeated; almost in a sense of desperation and suffocation. From the burning towers and the chase- trying to outrun enemies and find safety- you can feel the exhaustion and tightness. Our hero is at his most insistent and compelling: a mantra that is backed by jagged electronics and hardened beats. From a Jazz-cum-R&B motif; elements of Dub-Step and Electronica come in- making the song a lot more vengeful, animalistic and attacking. Vibrating, epic and intensified: the listener is enveloped in this whirlwind of sound. XamVolo keeps his voice restrained and disciplined: never losing himself in emotion or becoming too angered. We are all “changing forms” it is told. Every fresh line provides a piece of the story; a new confession that fascinates the mind. Provided the song’s title- the feeling of euphoria that comes from long-distance running- perhaps there is a feeling of transformation and betterment? Maybe the past was harsh and unsure; childhood dramas and being wayward; now there is ambitious, direction and focus. Unable to control forces and the changing ways; more ideas and possibilities enter the mind. Not only is the composition a fascinating and beguiling thing- changing the mood and dynamic- but the vocal is not to be outdone. Sections are layered whilst others are repeated; the central voice is strong and demands attention- together, the result stirs the senses. Accolades fade and attentions will wane, our hero tells. After that has occurred, and the ‘best’ days have passed; there is that runner’s high. You sense a man that is thinking into the future and worrying slightly. Progressing and improving since childhood; the current highs and success might be temporary and capricious. If the adulation and prosperity, as it is now, seems short-term and unsure; the future is going to be bright indeed. Our man has reserves of energy and always looking ahead. Times can be bad and there are worries on his mind. The more deep thinking and speculative will look beneath the lyrics and seek hidden meaning.

On first listen, you feel like you have it all worked out. XamVolo is looking at the past and how his days have stacked up. He thinks about the future and realises how changeable things are. Runner’s High– the title alone- makes me question my original impressions. Maybe this euphoria and stored energy are unreal and false. Playing a melody and using his master key: how long will this quality and innovation keep him in the music industry? That said, the words could be more straightforward and obvious- a man who is riding the high and is in a good place right now. Great songs get you thinking and doubting; positing theories and going right to the core. XamVolo’s dramatic and stunning voice makes every word elemental, haunting and intoxicating. Some vocals are ghost-like and stacked; others are elongated or distorted- creating a wonderful soundscape and impressions. Elements of Frank Ocean’s experimentation and authority can be detected; shades of James Blake shine through. It is the Blake impression that reflects with me. A mix of his The Colour in Anything era; shades of Overgrown: Runner’s High could rival any track from Blake. By the track’s closing stages, the fires burn and the song reaches its peak- completely dazzling, gripping and entrancing. XamVolo includes a spoken segment at the very end. Assessing the track, admiring its beauty, he looks towards a music video: how good it would look; the beats and sonics have such a visual appeal that needs to be included in a film. Of course, he was right. The music video goes a long way to bringing together all the images, ideas, and emotions the song promotes. Runner’s High is another step forward for the 22-year-old XamVolo. Truly one of the finest and most original talents we have in the U.K. I cannot wait to see how the years suit XamVolo. He has another E.P. (and album) in the pipeline and barely stopping for breath. If Runner’s High is an indication of where he is heading: XamVolo is going to be a megastar in no time at all. The track will be included on the forthcoming E.P., Chirality, and will be one of the year’s hottest releases.

I often talk of turmoil and the changing world. Two racially-motivated shootings occurred in the U.S. last week; it worries me. Perhaps the human races is evolving, but it doesn’t seem to be that way: humans are becoming more base, prehistoric and backward-thinking; not the sign of a developed, intelligent planet. I shall shelve my disgruntled rants, only to say this: if peace and government cannot quell the fear and pain; music has a big role to play. It is not escapism, as much as it’s a common voice: something that works with the people; provides answers and wisdom. As good as this year’s mainstream has been- an improvement on past years- it is new music that (continues) to provide the biggest spark; those rare artists and brash innovators. XamVolo attracts you by name and image alone: a man that has worked hard; learnt a lot and takes this all on board- a complete musician whose best days are ahead of him. Some great, Jazz-inspired singers- such as Gregory Porter- show how effective the voice can be.

There’s a wonderful, single-minded approach from XamVolo: somebody who puts everything into music; that is his chosen path and dream. Music does require that un-blinkered focus and determination. It is a business that will happily bury those not up to the job. Fortunately, XamVolo has many years ahead: someone who will be a mainstream star and inspiring figure. Given his background: searching for an identity; building his C.V. and gaining recognition; it seems like the future is set. That passion and pledge will see him rewarded. Runner’s High is the finest song from him: something that emphasises the voice and showcases the fine lyricism and genre expertise. XamVolo blends Soul and Jazz with something darker; a cocktail of shades and emotions that touch the listener directly- it does something quite fantastic. Brought up on music- XamVolo began playing and practicing when he was 12; singing to himself in G.C.S.E. exams- and has hardly slowed down since. Everyone from Erykah Badu and J. Dilla has influenced the young musician- Robert Glasper and Janelle Monae can be included.

Only just in his 20s: XamVolo has written and produced the Chirality E.P. Jazz and Soul mixes, despite the tender years of its author, signals progression and maturation: a musician that is growing and probing; discovering new possibilities. His raw, cinematic and dusky music unites older and contemporary influence: a four-track collection that is gathering support from the likes of Huw Stephens and John Kennedy. With several releases under his belt: it looks like the coming years will be very exciting and prosperous. Alongside Paul Phamous and Malay, the producers for Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, the debut L.P. is coming up. Not only will that be an opportunity to hear XamVolo fully-fledged and in his element- that amazing music fully exploited and defined. It is wonderful discovering an artist that is so consistent and ambitious. Hardly breathing between releases: a musician that is constantly working and releasing material.

It is hard to compare XamVolo with anybody out there- in terms of sound, personality and back-story- which makes him an extremely exciting proposal. The social media numbers are growing- his fan-base is building; huge numbers are behind him- and the touring schedule looks pretty busy. I would love to see XamVolo in London- not sure what his tour dates are looking like- and witness the musician close and raw. The forthcoming album, in addition to Chirality, highlights a phenomenal talent who is just getting started: a man who has a bright, golden future ahead of him. If you are unfamiliar with him, and not heard the music, then start with Runner’s High. Allow the music to feed in the soul; that composition get into the veins; swim in the imagination and provide a huge reaction. XamVolo is on a mission:

WATCH him soar.

 

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Follow XamVolo

 

Official:

http://www.xamvolo.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Xamvolo/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/xamvolo

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/xamvolo/

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Music

https://soundcloud.com/xamvolo