Adult Jazz are a band full of life. This oozes through the opening of their recent release ‘Springful’ but also through fact that their singer, Harry, sent us his answers for our questions on a Word document ornamented with ClipArt and a bigger range of fonts than a year 3 ICT classroom. There’s a blissful curiosity and carelessness that races through their theatrical melodies and pop-routed experimentalism. Having caught the band open for Arthur Beatrice earlier in the year, Shuf were certain of a glowing future. The focus is joy, the sound is everywhere and it’s growing. In their words, “Let us join up and be thankful”.
For people who haven’t heard Adult Jazz before, how would you describe your sound?
I would usually avoid it at all costs. But that isn’t playing the game! It’s definitely pop based, but it is fun to be a bit broader with it and let more in. There’s lots of singing, I end up singing for the length of most tracks.
Tell us how you started out...
Tim, Steve and I were friends from home and went, at different points, to study in Leeds and to form that band we were always talking about. We played a little bit, and then we met Tom, who had the expertise to record and produce the songs, and joined forces. Leeds was really nice, and supportive. Over 3 years we played live a little bit as a three-piece, then a four-piece, but we were mainly focussed on making a record.
What’s been the biggest turning point in your career so far?
We shot a live video in 2011 in an old nursing home in Headingley that people who weren’t our friends managed to see, which was exciting. Also, before we formed the band, I was convinced that electronic/sample based stuff was what I needed to look at to make something I was excited by, but hearing/seeing Wildbirds and Peacedrums made feel like a live band was still a really exciting thing to work with. What they could get out of such limited instrumentation was definitely a bit of a spark.
Name a song you wish you’d written?
'Blind' by Hercules and Love Affair
What are your plans for 2014?
Release our record, hopefully play some interesting shows.
What would you like to change in the music industry this year?
Not sure I know enough about it to speak with authority I’m afraid!
Tell us about the best live show you’ve played...
We played live at Leeds 2011 in Holy Trinity Church, which was really special. A few of songs on the record are church based, or kind of liturgical at least, about formalising ‘spiritual’ twinges. Some people didn’t really like us there, but it felt quite nice to be somewhere spacious and get to fill it with our music after playing in small rooms. The drums sounded very massive though.
Who would you list as your biggest inspirations?
Van Morrison, Arthur Russell and Joanna Newsom are who we have decided to say in terms of composition. All of them have a nice way of revisiting themes and developing pop sensibilities in more uncommon contexts. Keeping a friendliness, but still having a kind of uncompromising character. That’s the kind of overarching mission statement, but the form that takes, especially regarding a sort of sonic palette, isn’t ever super defined. The above three also seem to sing in really expressive ways too. Having fun with singing is a focus, and there are people like Meredith Monk who have pushed it quite far so make you feel less self conscious trying things out- so her stuff is useful to think about. There is the weird idea of an ‘authentic’ voice which I think can be a bit restrictive, so it’s nice to know there are people I can point to who are clearly obstructing that and choosing a voice that feels expressive and aesthetically fun to use, without too much consideration of its believability. What accent is authentic? Do I have to sound like I am from the south-east? Could that ever be palatable? What makes a voice palatable or unpalatable? Some more ‘extreme’ artists are helpful points of safety in that way, but there are plenty of conventional singers who have really considered voices too. That’s always motivating!
Where can people find your music?
Words: Duncan Harrison