We don’t really do many opinion pieces about music on Sick Chirpse. I don’t know why, I don’t think there is a proper reason, really. Maybe it’s because it’s very simple to write something and post it up on here (try it here) and we don’t want it to descend into people just showing everyone the music they like and not actually writing something interesting about it. We usually just end up writing about terrible music and laughing at it. So let’s try and balance it out a bit – here’s a video of some very talented musicians saying some really insightful things about making music.
If you don’t know Submotion Orchestra you should check ’em out, because if even if their noises don’t make your spine tingle like it does mine, you can’t argue that they aren’t objectively brilliant at their instruments. But the really interesting aspect of the band is the way they put their incredibly diverse talents, backgrounds and tastes together to create such a coherent sound. I mean, you’ve got Chris Hargreaves, standing there in his shorts and snapback and XL Spongebob tee and a half-sleeve of tats, rocking back and forth on his enormous pedal-board, submersed in a world of dubstep and distortion and cut-offs and analog and 80Hz and all that ‘techno-mumbo-jumbo’ that producers know so much about but find impossible to explain without resorting to onomatopoeia. But then sat behind him is Danny Templeman, an introverted percussionist, with an almost polar opposite but equally terrible fashion sense, who knows nothing of this new age of computer programs and synthesisers, but instead has a profound knowledge of Cuban and Brazilian drum rhythms and finds immense satisfaction in discovering that the squeak of a door can be that little bit of spice to enhance a track that’s already layered with six instruments and vocals.
That’s what makes them so refreshing – every member of the band is coming at the project from a different perspective, with different motives and different ideas of what they should sound like. But more than that, many of them actually think that they’re the most important part of the band, or at least that the rest of the music is built up around them.
Tommy Evans is the drummer and lead songwriter and takes pride in the fact that he and Dom Howard (aka Ruckspin) started the project, and set the ball rolling with the idea of crossing jazz with live dubstep, so he seems to take some ownership of the band. Dom Howard produces his own tracks under the Ruckspin alias, which are sometimes taken by the band and developed, so he feels quite boss about that, but he seems more interested in furthering his solo career. Taz Modi bashes the ol’ black ‘n’ whites and reckons he’s the bees knees, with all the tracks supposedly being written on piano first and then built up from that, with him doing a lot of the composing.
This might sound like I’m taking the piss out of them for being egotistical and self-centred, but my point is that it’s exactly what makes the band so good. They’re all pulling in roughly the same direction, but they’re all trying to pull harder than each other.
It’s funny that Chris Hargreaves and Simon Beddoe look so similar, both rocking the bald & beard combo, because they represent the opposite ends of the musical spectrum that the band combines so immaculately: Chris is responsible for making sure the bass is deep and throbbing enough to rumble the eardrums of the dubbiest of dubheads, and Simon is the brass-blower-in-chief that adds that high-class jazzy psaz that wouldn’t be out of place in a smoky club in 1930’s Chicago.
And then you have Ruby Wood, who, instead of bounding into centre-stage in a revealing outfit and stealing the show like most female vocalists would, tries to shun the limelight. She’s the one person in the band on whom it would be sensible to direct all the focus, and yet, as all the guys arced around her jostle and squabble to be the frontman, all she wants to do is blend in. They are a great example of how character traits and social dynamics within bands are just as important as technical talent and creativity in making brilliant music.
I’m running out of steam now. Have I earned my right to just go ahead and show you some music I like, yet? I think I have, so watch their video for their best track, It’s Not Me It’s You, while I pat myself on the back:
And here’s the interview and live session that came out yesterday that made me write this article: