For a band reportedly named after a character conceived in the ticket queue of Fenchurch Street railway station in the cult classic ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’, the swift arrival of Fenchurch 3io on the London jazz scene has been no less startling. The groundwork was initially laid back in February 2012 when pianist Clem Rooney asked drummer Chris Draper if he could recommend a bass player for a track Clem was working on. Chris put forward Moyses Dos Santos and the rest, as they say, is history. During the recording of that first composition in Chris’ studio, the trio ended up laying down a number of other grooves and as chance would have it (and after three months of intensive writing!), they were soon invited to bless the stage of West London’s finest Jazz re:freshed. Not ones for an understated approach, that gig featured an all-star cast of talent including Heidi Vogel, Cecilia Stalin, Chima Anya, Tom Hill and Sam Healey. Fenchurch had arrived, and having spent time at Wax Recording Studio perfecting their sound, the upcoming début album is set to be released sometime later this year. Before their appearance at The Jazz Meet this Sunday evening, we caught up with Chris to get a bit of background on the band and to find out what we can expect as they take to the Floripa stage for the first time.
First off, could you let us know how and when you decided to seriously pursue a career in music?
Music was around me from the day I was born; I was lucky enough to have parents who always exposed me to a very diverse array of music. When I was young, we used to go to The Barbican to watch the LSO, or to The Opera House to see a ballet regularly. Originally, I guess I decided to pursue music out of sibling rivalry as my sister played piano and violin and I wanted to be able to do what she was doing. I started piano when I was four and violin when I was five but always had a passion for both drums and trumpet, so when I was a little older I started playing them as well. I knew from a very early age that this was what I wanted to do so when the opportunity came to study at a specialist classical music school when I was 13 I didn’t think twice! From there everything came together! I wish I could still play the other instruments I used to learn, I think about it quite a lot but there are only so many hours in the day to practice and I struggle enough now just with drums!
We’ve heard you’ve been working extensively in the studio on new material for the gig at Floripa, can you let us know a little of what we can expect musically from you on the 3rd?
You hear correctly. In the past we geared the band towards playing with guest artists and writing material for the purpose of other people playing with us. It was a really great way to start, but we wanted to do something more personal to us so we have stripped it down to the essence of Fenchurch I guess. We have written a lot of new material, as well as having distilled some of our older stuff (I say older, we only started writing for this band 9 months ago…). It’s a bit of a different vibe now.
So, when it comes to writing new material, how do you all go about it? Is it a collaborative process or does one of you take the lead in terms of sketching out the ideas first?
The writing process for this band is one that I share a love/hate relationship with. We seem to have a habit of having large amounts of work to do in small amounts of time which has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s always very intense. For us, it is quite hard to keep things ticking over as we are all so busy with other things, so when a gig for the band comes up we take advantage of having the deadline to get what we have wanted to do actually done.
In terms of the actual writing process, it can vary. We don’t write anything down at all. That can be a little complicated sometimes when you start to get involved with long groove structures and hits in weird places, but it just means we have to know the music better (… and it’s nice to not have to write anything down!). I think there is one tune ‘Pictures of a Nu:Tradition’ that has a chart but even that changed a lot when we started rehearsing it together. Clem is normally the one to say ‘guys check this thing out’, which gives us a starting point for tunes and we develop it from there as a group. Other than that we just experiment with grooves until we find something that feels nice. Sometimes Clem and Moyses will work together and I join them later, but as we start to carve out a personality for the tune one of us normally starts to take over and direct a little bit; the collaborative approach can sometimes become a little less time efficient just because of the endless ideas that get thrown at the tracks. You end up never having a finished tune, just a bunch of ideas. I sometimes think we come by tunes just by chance as the writing process is so erratic, but it seems to work.
Fenchurch 3iO – Pictures of a Nu:tradition
There’s mention of your début album appearing on the Jazz re:freshed imprint. Can you tell us how that came about and have you got an expected release date yet?
Adam at Jazz re:freshed has been amazing with this project. He is actually the reason Fenchurch is Fenchurch. He has been very supportive and we had a great time with him at our first gig at Mau Mau back in July last year. He asked us after the gig to send him the album when it was done and that was that! As yet, we don’t have an expected release date – we were set to record it in August but Moyses ended up working back in Brazil for a few months and when he came back I was on tour, so we had to leave it for a while. We all think it was for the best because what we have now is a lot stronger having left it to mature for six months or so. I think we are aiming to record in April when we are all next free, so hopefully you can expect to see the album sometime soon after that. We don’t want to rush the process, when it is what we think Fenchurch represents we will know. We are very excited and also very lucky to have Jazz re:freshed working with us, they are wicked and do an amazing thing for the music.
Fenchurch 3io live at Jazz re:freshed
Finally, can you talk us through some of the influences that have inspired the band thus far?
One of the great things about this trio is the vast spectrum of influences we all bring. Clem used to be a contemporary classical composer and pianist and I used to be a classical percussionist; we were actually at school together since the age of 13 and now we live together! We both bring that side of our classical training to the band, though Clem does it in a more active way than me, I just listen to a lot. For example, ‘Pictures of a Nu:Tradition’ is written by Clem and based on one of the movements from Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’. His influences also come from much of the music he listened to as a teen, such as acid jazz, hip hop, broken beat, garage and drum n bass.
I bring a lot of influence from jazz music as I am first and foremost a jazz musician. I listen to a lot of piano trios, mainly really hard swinging bands from the 60’s like Ray Brown, Oscar Peterson and those kind of guys, although I have always had a love for groove music. I used to listen and play to Dennis Chambers on that Brecker Brothers concert from Barcelona ’91 everyday for two years while I was in sixth form. That hasn’t rubbed off and I still find myself falling back onto some of the things I learned from that now! Moyses grew up in Brazil playing in church and then got really deep into funk music. This really adds another side to the band. He loves all those really hard groove bands like Tower of Power. Sometimes Clem and I can think too much about things and he just breaks it up with his crazy vibe. Myself and Moyses also play a lot of pop music so I guess it’s a weird, hopefully not too confused, mix of many, many things bubbling away in the background.
As I am writing this I am listening to a band from NYC that is the brainchild of UK born keys player and singer Oli Rockberger, called ‘Mister Barrington‘. They are a heavy bunch of musicians and their albums are quirky and have a lot of personality as well as being musically and technically incredible. Grant Windsor and Richard Spaven are also a big influence on us as a group. The Sure Co.’s new release on Jazz re:freshed is really deep; that record has definitely been played in.
Come bare witness to the trio live THIS COMING SUNDAY at Floripa as we present our first guest band session of 2013. DJ support comes from Jazz Meet resident Sid Ford and very special guest Jake Holloway (BBE). Doors 5pm-12am. First band set from 7.30pm. FREE ENTRY.