In a different role #itchysilk had the front row seat filming Slowly Rolling Camera performing the intense and beautiful Fragile Ground at Fieldgate Studious in Wales. It was a performance that stayed in the mind long after the equipment was packed away. The journey back to our respective areas was, in turn, filled with emphatic adjectives and adverbs regarding the 4-piece Welsh outfit.
The single they performed came from their 2014 eponymous debut album a project of obvious brilliance and unique musicianship. The project, produced by Deri Roberts (one quarter of the band) and Andy Allan who was pivotal in legendary UK acts Portishead and Massive Attack achieved glowing plaudits from mainstream and underground press with ease. Cuts like the opener, Protagonist and the title track off that album were indicative of the sublime brilliance and uncanny ability of SRC to draw you into their world of aural beauty.
It was evident from that debut that the fluid compositions of Dave Stapleton founder and pianists lay the ground for their magnificent drummer Elliot Brown to let his intricate drum riffs dance away while of course the vocals from their singer songwriter the statuesque Dionne Bennett bound everything together-it was and is a simple amalgamation of four talents producing stunning material.
‘Dave, Deri and Elliot went to the same University so were long-time friends’
Dionne explains when we meet to talk about SRC and of course their latest scintillating new album the nine track All Things released on Edition Records,
‘When I moved from London I met Elliot, who I’ve known the longest, when we were working in a Cardiff funk band. Years later he then introduced me to Deri who was looking for a vocalist to be part of a Rap project he was writing and producing (DER COLLECTIVE). Dave and I worked with each other years ago but for only a short time, again this was part of a function band but we’d never all worked together on the same project before. Dave was looking to write a new album and again Elliot put my name forward and the rest is history.’
There’s a real chemistry evident and while you do not need to see them live to feel that chemistry when you do see them live it’s clear in their seamless live performances where their music is the only pyrotechnic needed to engage the audience and produce that ‘wow’ moment. Like some intricate puzzle, they connect a multitude of genres but ostensibly jazz, trip-hop and elements of soul seem to feature regularly in their amazing compositions. That said categorising them is a difficult feat and for Dionne trying to place them in a neat box is in fact an almost futile pursuit.
‘Genres are good for marketing purposes, it gives people an idea of the band and the sound but for us, that’s always going to be a hard one to define. I bring a Soul/Gospel edge to the band. Strong powerhouse vocal lines but we each bring something to the table which creates something new when its mixed together. Classical/Jazz/Neo-soul/Rap/Electronica-it’s too hard to define but I heard someone call us NUJAZZ, I can live with that’.
At something like 6 foot Dionne presents as an impressive focal point of the band when seen live. Powerful vocals are a given but her real power comes in her song writing where she is candid detailing her emotional spectrums to the point that it is obvious that at times the lyrics are part of an important cathartic experience. It’s a modus operandi that Dionne and of course the band has continued in All Things-a sophomore which loudly and confidently announces SRC as a band who will be part of the UK musical landscape for the foreseeable future.
‘When I wrote the lyrics and top line for Dream A Life. I knew we had a definite sound. In fact, Fragile Ground would not have happened or sounded anything like the finished track without Dream A Life. The sound design, the instrument and vocal manipulations are something that we’ve now made a signature aspect of our music. For the new album, I personally wanted to be more adventurous even avant-garde with all the vocals but most importantly I wanted to tell my stories of relationships and be quite open and real.’
That is evident in Unsetting Sun a track of clear emotional significance.
‘Unsetting Sun was extremely important for me to write, as it was about a person very close to me who died too early and it was a way for me to come to terms with my loss.’
She adds wistfully,
‘Dave’s string composition and piano play spoke to me and I knew exactly what I was going write even before I vocalized it. The track kind of wrote itself, like the words, the feel was waiting for this very piece of music and it was a fast process-it was cathartic for me; I felt a peace after it was finished.’
As listeners of the album, we are privy to personal thoughts and feelings and we can in turn empathise using our own personal journeys as cuts like Scintillation and The Brink smoulder, ignite and then burn into your consciousness. With such emotional expenditure, the album could be slightly oppressive and overwhelming but far from that we hanker for more and more until the album’s last melancholic joyful finale. The band are in truth a great advertisement for the true essence of being a band where far from some explosive entrance into the musical world the group have trodden the path of honing their crafts, honing their live performances and gaining live experience. They are in fact the total opposite of what the music industry appears to want and significantly they have achieved their success independently.
‘I have a clear view and no illusions when it comes to this business we call music, younger or older’
Dionne firmly responds when the question of the band’s future and collectively more mature status is brought up,
‘I don’t suppose it makes much of a difference, bad behavior, mood swings can happen at any time in your life. I for one want recognition as a vocalist and lyricist. Fame, doesn’t really bother me or interest me that much. If I can win a few awards, carry on writing and performing my own music, that’s my aim and goal. In a day and age where instrumentation can sometimes be overshadowed by music programs this is a real musician’s album which musicians (and others) can appreciate-we are really proud of this work’.