Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Reel People
Reel People

Anchored by core members Oli Lazarus and Mike Patto, London collective Reel People this month follow-up their critically-acclaimed debut album `Second Guess` (first released on Oli`s own Papa Records in 2003, then re-released through dance independent Defected in 2006) with their less-dance-more-soul-oriented sophomore LP `Seven Ways To Wonder`.

Kicking off with the mellow, Latin-edged soul of its opener `Alibi` (soon to surface on single with two new mixes from house maestro Dennis Ferrer), the new set also boasts a stellar line-up of guest singers. These include Brit-soul legend Omar; upcoming New York underground soul man Darien; seasoned London songstresses Vanessa Freeman, Joy Rose and Dyanna Fearon; plus Incognito vocalists Tony Momrelle and Imaani.

28-year-old East Ender Oli (who, prior to producing Reel People`s debut single `Spiritual` in 2001, spent three years working at Central London`s famed soulful dance music shop Flying Records) hooks up with `B&S` to discuss his band`s consistently classy and soulfully uplifting new set.

Reel People`s new, all-important second album;
"After making the first album and then taking the whole thing live, for this second record we just decided to go back to a more live-sounding soul kind of thing - which is where our roots are. Though we`d had a lotta love from the dance scene and the house crowd last time round, we wanted to see if we could now spread it a bit further by using less programmed beats and more live drums - while song-wise still keeping it upbeat and positive. You know, because the whole Reel People vibe is supposed to be about making you feel good, hopefully that always comes across in the music and the lyrics. Then production-wise I think you can hear how the quality`s stepped up this time on several levels. Whereas essentially on the first album we were finding our feet and finding our sound, this new record really is a Reel People record from top to bottom."

Guest vocalists featured on `Seven Ways To Wonder;`
"We tried to combine the singers who were already around us - who`d worked on the first record and/or done the live thing - with some new people, while also having more male vocals on this album. With the first album having been predominantly female, we just tried to balance it up a little bit this time. For example, having Omar on our new record was obviously an honour because he`s just an amazing talent. While it was also great to get Darien involved, after coming across his MySpace page and straightaway loving his tone. Then working with people like Tony Momrelle and Imaani also makes you realise the vocal talent there really is in the UK, and how it`s a shame it`s so difficult at the moment for some of these guys to get themselves out there. So I do hope that, as much as it helps US to have these great people involved, doing the Reel People project will also help THEM in some way."

The working relationship between Oli and fellow Reel People core-member Mike Patto;
"I kind of started Reel People on my own in 2001, by producing and releasing some house singles. But, because I realised I wanted something a bit deeper and more musical, I eventually ended up hooking-up with Mike for a studio session. Then, because we really clicked and got on together well, six months later we agreed to make the first Reel People album together - and it just all went well from there really. Ever since, we`ve pretty much worked together full-time in the studio. And, while writing-wise we basically do 50/50, in terms of the technical and instrumental side Mike - being an incredible keyboard player and multi-instrumentalist - is much more hands-on than I am. Whereas the A&R direction - defining who we`re gonna work with and where the project is going - and the business side is all down to me. So yeah, overall Reel People really is a team effort between the two of us."

The band`s ongoing popularity in Japan;
“After we made the first album we went over to Japan doing like a DJ tour with a couple of the vocalists, just to see how we could build a following. Then at one of those gigs the A&R guy from Columbia Records came down, said he loved the project and wanted to get involved… And ever since all our Japanese releases have been licensed through Columbia, which has really helped take some of the pressure off us financially. Plus they`ve also helped a lot touring-wise. Like the first time we took the band out there, we got invited to play at the Tokyo Jazz Festival. And, with Herbie Hancock topping the bill, he actually picked three of us from the band to join him in a jam session at the end of the show! So yeah, Japan has been a great, great territory for us. We actually released this new album first over there - back in December - and it`s already doing really well.”

The album `Seven Ways To Wonder` is out now. The single `Alibi` is released March 24, both through Papa Records

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