Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Feature

Crowd Company : I'm In With The In Crowd

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B&S contributer Emrys Baird gets on the funk trail and finds a band getting their funky strut on in the shape of Crowd Company who have been gently honing their art and getting their greasy grooves on for well over four years now and establishing themselves as a first class funk unit especially in London where they host a monthly funk and soul evening at the 229 Club.It's been a steady climb often opening for acts such as George Porter Jr from The Meters, Daptone’s Saun & Starr, Alan Evans Trio, The New Mastersounds and The Monophonics.So it's indeed timely they have just released their new album ‘Stone & Sky’ on the VLM label worldwide on vinyl, CD and digitally. The album was recorded in the USA at IronWax Studio, MA and was produced by Soulive's drummer Alan Evans.

I caught up with head honcho Rob Fleming after his storming gig at the Scotch Of St.James Club where the band was launching the album,a great performance brimming with energy and vitality so it was a good opportunity to chat with the rather urbane and upbeat bandleader and get some background info on this up and coming outfit.

Em : Hi Rob that seemed to go well!

Rob : Yes,I'm happy we got a good crowd in tonight who seemed to enjoy the new tunes!

Em: Ok Rob let's take it from the very start,What's your story Rob? Am I right in thinking you come from a blues background and how did Crowd Company come about ?

Rob: Well both myself and Emil (the bass player) had a Blues band. We have always loved the Blues but in equal measures we had a love for funk and soul too. We are afficionados of both old school funk & soul and the new scene that has sprung up in the past 10 years, particularly in the USA. We played a lot of funky blues in the old band and that morphed into creating a new band with a total focus on funk and soul originals and other influences mixed in here and there. We put together a new funk & soul band - Crowd Company - and recorded a debut album back in 2014. That united the line-up of the band and we took it from there.

Em : Your new album is cracking,congratulations! 'Stone and Sky' that's a great title ! Is there a meaning to it?

Rob: Thank you! We are very proud of the album. The process of putting out an album is a lot of work and you hope at the end of it all the record captures the sound/vibe/songwriting of what was intended...and that when the dust settles you can listen back to it as a 'listener' and enjoy it. With this album we felt we achieved that. And its the icing on the cake to read the outstanding press reviews the album is receiving, people seem to be enjoying it.

In terms of the album title - its a tie-in to when/where we recorded the album. As we drove to the studio in Millers Falls, Massachusetts most days there was snow which gave way to incredibly deep blue skies. And where we stayed it turned out to be an area of ancient rock formations, like a kind of a mini Stonehenge. In fact the album cover is a photo of one of those rocks, from the Neolithic Age. Once we recorded the album we felt musically there were shades of soaring harmonies, 'sunny' vibes and contrasting deep earthy grooves. So in some way the title came out of this.

Em : Can you tell us how it originated ( the writing process) ? Seems like you've quite a few writers chipping in! It also straddles firmly between funk and soul, seems like you were conscious of that balance ?

Rob: I think the concept of the band has always been about the 'company' of players. Its a team effort and its not a band backing a single singer approach. We wanted this record to reflect the musicality of the band as well as the 3 singers in the band and we wanted it to be steeped in 'groove' but feature (we hoped) strong songwriting. For the songwriting -- well a number of people came up with ideas, wrote songs, developed arrangements. There were distinct songwriters and then of course as the rest played the songs that were written the material took on a distinct band 'flavour'. To be honest we didn't overly engineer approach to the songs in terms of funk and soul, we just hoped to blend the two and throw in a few curveballs too. We certainly wanted to avoid being too formulaic,

Em : Esther Dee and Joanne Marshall your co vocalists really add a touch of class.
They are both very different singers, can you tell us about the dynamic between all three of you and how you all fit in and work together.

Rob: We wanted the album to feature the 3 voices more fully on this album, we also wanted to bring in more harmonies and so you can hear a lot of 2 part and 3 part vocal parts on many songs. Esther and Jo have worked together for years and have such a wonderful blend to their voices.

Em : You recorded it in the US ? How was the experience? How did you hook up with Alan Evans's label ?( what's his vision too)

Rob: We had such an incredible experience recording in the US. We recorded in the studio of Alan Evans (Soulive). His studio is called 'Iron Wax' in a rural area outside of Boston called 'Millers Falls'. Alan was Producer for the album too. I met Alan back in 2014 when we supported his side project Alan Evans Trio on a UK tour. We stayed in touch and became friends. After we recorded the album Alan suggested we sign to his new Vintage League label and we were thrilled to accept. He’s put together a fabulous label – the focus is on soulful music with an accent on releasing the records the old school way – vinyl, singles. We had the honour of being the first release, along with a 7 inch release by Matador ! Soul Sounds, a new band formed by Alan and Eddie Roberts from The New Mastersounds. We also put out two limited 7 inch releases.

Em: How's promoting it going? What are your plans in the immediate future?

Rob: Well so far its surpassed expecations. We have had a ton of positive reviews and radio airplay, both in the UK / Eruope and in the USA. We are pretty bowled over at the response and particularly from the USA which considering we have never played a gig over there before, is really exciting. Plans for the future – plenty of gigs and we've been invited to the USA to play some gigs over there which we are really excited about. Beyond that we will put out another 7 inch single release in the coming month or two.

Em: Lastly if you had to pick just one track and play it to someone who was new to the band, which one would you choose and why?

Rob: Hm, this is too hard! I am going to cop out of this one and say that the 3 single releases give a really good flavour of what we are about -- Saw You Yesterday, Take Off The Crown, Fever.

Em: Ok Rob I'll let you off that one you better get back to your record signing
thanks for a great evening and keep fuelling the flames of funk!

Rob: Ha ! Cheers you're welcome one can only try! ......

ESSENTIAL LINKS

@CrowdCoFunk

http://www.crowdcompanyfunk.com

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PHOTOS AL STUART
Words Emrys Baird

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