‘It comes down to a groove’

Bom­bay Bi­cy­cle Club front­man Jack Stead­man has left his in­die dayjob and un­leashed his in­ner jaz­zfiend in the for­mof Mr Jukes – and he wants every­one to feel the vibes, he tells Jim Car­roll

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

There are many things you could prob­a­bly as­so­ciate with Bom­bay Bi­cy­cle Club, but the feel­good al­bum of the sum­mer is prob­a­bly not one of them. Un­til now, that is. With the in­die band on an in­def­i­nite hia­tus, front­man Jack Stead­man has de­cided it’s time to in­tro­duce the world to his Mr Jukes al­ter-ego and his fond­ness for jazz, funk and soul.

De­but al­bum God First is a far cry from the mu­si­cal stodge as­so­ci­ated with Stead­man’s other band. Amag­nif­i­cent slew of­spir­i­tual, funky grooves, God First has Stead­man steer­ing a wild swing­ing crew in­clud­ing such folks as Charles Bradley, BJ the Chicago Kid, De La Soul, Ho­race Andy, Lianne La Havas, Lalah Hath­away Elli In­gram and Alexan­dria. This is not a new de­vel­op­ment, for the qui­etly spo­ken Stead­man has been a jazz fan for a long time.

“I was very in­flu­enced by the mu­sic teach­ers I had and I fell in love with jazz and it never went away. Even after I met the peo­ple in the band, jazz was blow­ing up in Lon­don in the scene we were in. One thing lead to an­other and you go down these paths with­out ever re­ally think­ing too much about them.”

Stead­man says there were clues to his jazz and funk fix­a­tion even with Bom­bay Bi­cy­cle Club. “Some fans could see what was go­ing on be­cause of what was on my Sound­cloud or I’d be putting in tracks with that kind of sound on the mix­tapes we’d make as a band. I al­ways con­tin­ued to buy these records and make this kind of mu­sic on the side when we were tour­ing with the band.

“If you watch videos of the band play­ing things like the Live Lounge­for Ra­dioOne, you can­re­ally see that el­e­ment come through when we’d do an Afrobeat Fela Kuti cover of Dis­clo­sure’s F For You full of horns and cow­bells. If you dug deep, you could see el­e­ments through­out our en­tire tra­jec­tory as a band.”

What Stead­man wanted to make as Mr Jukes was “a sum­mery pop record. I wanted it to be quite im­me­di­ate and I think a lot of the tracks are. I wanted to make a record full of feel­good tracks.”

The songs came be­fore the guest vo­cal­ists. “Be­fore if I was writ­ing a song, your imag­i­na­tion would be limited be­cause you’re in a band and [it would be limited] by the ar­chi­tec­ture of that band.


“Writ­ing this al­bum was so ex­cit­ing be­cause if you had some crazy idea, you could go all the way with it. I’d start to write some­thing and I’d hear a par­tic­u­lar voice and go ‘I won­der could we get him or her’. For each track, I thought about who would be per­fect to sing with. The amaz­ing thing was peo­ple said yes and ac­tu­ally did it.”

He reck­ons it was al­ways the song rather than his ties with Bom­bay Bi­cy­cle Club which per­suaded peo­ple to get in­volved.

“I don’t think any of them would have heard of the band so it was al­most cer­tainly the mu­sic. The mu­sic was the only thing we had to send peo­ple. With Bom­bay, we were al­ways un­der the radar about who we were so it would be un­likely that Charles Bradley would go ‘oh my God, it’s Jack Stead­man from Bom­bay Bi­cy­cle Club!’ In a nice way in my opin­ion, it was lit­er­ally about the songs, which was very flat­ter­ing.” Jack Ste ad man’ s next plan is to set upa jaz­zcafé­likethe oneshe­has fre­quented in Tokyo.

“You go in and no one talks be­cause you just lis­ten to mu­sic. It’s like a li­brary and I fell in love with the con­cept.I haven­ev­erseen any­thing like it out­side Tokyo, I’veal­ways wanted to setup one on my own.

“It’s are­al­shamethat we­don’t have­many­places likethatwhere you­can­goand­sit fora fe­whour­sand ac­cess this li­brary of mu­sic. You come out of there hav­ing dis­cov­ered so many great new artists and records. The mu­sic needs places where it’ s the fo­cus.

Two of the best tracks on the al­bum, Tears and Some­body New, fea­ture rel­a­tive new­com­ers Alexan­dria and Elli In­gram. How did he find them?

“Alexan­dria is on this in­cred­i­ble trap la­bel called Aw­ful Records who are based in At­lanta and I’ve been fol­low­ing them for a while. I’ve been lis­ten­ing to a lot of clas­sic girl-group R&B, stuff like SWV, and I was look­ing for some­one who could do a homage to that for this par­tic­u­lar track

“I heard it in her voice even though she was do­ing some­thing a world away from that for Aw­ful Records. We got in touch and started talk­ing about these in­flu­ences and she re­ally con­nected with it. I flew over and met her and we got on re­ally well and I saw this other side to her. She was al­most Min­nie Rip­per- ton-like in how she pitched her voice.

“Elli is based in Brighton and I fell in love with her voice. I wanted a voice with a bit of at­ti­tude and I think she re­ally pulled it off. The nice thing about work­ing with her was that she came to the stu­dio and said ‘this is how I see it hap­pen­ing’ rather than stick­ing with the brief. She re­ally made it some­thing she could re­late to and would be com­fort­able singing. Of all the songs, that was a real col­lab­o­ra­tion rather than me just writ­ing a song for some­one to sing.”

Right now, Stead­man is fo­cused on this solo record and it’s a state of “def­i­nitely wait and see” with Bom­bay Bi­cy­cle Club. He has plenty to keep him oc­cu­pied for now, like chang­ing peo­ple’s opin­ion about jazz for one.

“I think jazz got a bad rep­u­ta­tion with­out any­one both­er­ing to give it a chance. What peo­ple are re­al­is­ing now is that jazz is mu­sic which feels good. As some­one who plays the bass, it comes down to a groove for me. It’s mixed in with all this other elec­tronic mu­sic and R&B and soul and slick pro­duc­tion and it’s all com­ing to­gether to cre­ate a kind of mu­sic you get a sore neck from lis­ten­ing to, which is what I love.”

God First is out now on Is­land Records

I think jazz got a bad rep­u­ta­tion with­out any­one both­er­ing to give it a chance. What peo­ple are re­al­is­ing now is that jazz is mu­sic which feels good

Mr Jukes “I wanted to make a record full of feel­good tracks.” Be­low: Stead­man (left) with his Bom­bay Bi­cy­cle Club band­mates

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