Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

Welcome To B&S





Having established themselves as firm favourites on the UK’s discerning modern soul scene via their acclaimed first two albums - 2001’s ‘On Kloud 9’ and 2005’s ‘Yearning 2 Love’ - Nashville, Tennessee-based duo Kloud 9 this month again come correct with their eagerly-anticipated third set ‘Enjoy the Ride’.

Comprising Illinois-born twin brothers Kelvis and Kendall Duffie, Kloud 9’s smooth blend of contemporary soul, R&B and jazz has previously seen them collaborate on-record with the likes of London jazz-funk dons Incognito and celebrated saxophonist Kirk Whalum. However, their aforementioned new release (written and recorded following select 2007 US tour dates with The Isley Brothers, Maze and The Whispers) finds them mostly going it alone, on cuts ranging from the infectiously catchy groover ‘Step’ and guitar-flavoured, breezy ‘Appreciation’; to the sultry, hypnotic ballad I’m Calling You’, and even a Latin-flavoured house mix (courtesy of Britain’s The Realm) of the sparsely funky ‘Love’s Just Better With You’.

Taking a late-afternoon break from rehearsals with their band in an East London studio, the ever-affable Duffie brothers reunite with ‘B&S’ to discuss their latest project. Which - as with their last set - was primarily written and produced by Kendall in his own, Nashville-based studio The Vibe Room.

“The title ‘Enjoy The Ride’ for us really represents the place where Kloud 9 is at right now”, begins the talkative Kendall: “It’s a place where we’ve come to understand how fortunate we are to be doing something for a career that we love to do. But then we also realise that a lot of people doing this find themselves looking back years later, and realising they didn’t actually enjoy it while things were happening for them. So what we’re saying is, no matter how successful you may get, you still have to embrace the moment and enjoy the ride! Plus the title also has a second meaning, in terms of relationships in general. In that, when we get involved with people personally, we spend so much time trying hard to figure out whether the relationship is gonna work or not. So again our advice is, if it feels good in your heart, just sit back and enjoy the ride! ‘Cause nothing in life or love is guaranteed!”

In terms of the album’s musical content, meanwhile, Kendall has strong ideas about how it represents Kloud 9’s place in today’s marketplace: “Musically, this album reflects the evolution of what Kloud 9 is all about, in that it represents quality R&B and soul music. It’s comparable to what groups like The Isley Brothers and Maze were doing back in the day. You know, those were groups who were always a little left-of-centre and who didn’t always choose the popular trends of the day. And, just like them, we aim to make music we hope will stand the test of time without necessarily trying to be trendy. Because we don’t go into a record thinking ‘Let’s go for a sound that’s hot out there right now’. Instead we’re more like ‘Let’s write songs that feel good, that we feel will evoke emotions, and that will stimulate power divides’. And, with this album, I think we have done that to the very best of our ability. Because, in my opinion, it genuinely represents our best work to date.”

“Also, lyrically we do like to create music that everyone - whether they’re three years old or whether they’re 90 years old - can listen to and understand”, adds Kelvis: “You know, we live in a time when love is something that people don’t really value. We live in a society where it’s not something that people cherish. And so we believe it is important for us as men - especially as Christian men - to be able to sing songs that make women feel like real women and not like sex objects. Which is why we want to portray lyrics that are sensual, but not sexual - things that people of all ages can listen to and appreciate, without feeling embarrassed or being offended.”

Having been in the business for an impressive 22 years (during which time the twosome initially performed in a contemporary gospel outfit, in addition to later being involved in radio promotions, artist development and production), Kloud 9 look back on their early upbringing with mixed feelings: “We actually grew up in a single-parent home with our mother, who was a church musician”, recalls Kendall: “So pretty much the music we were listening to in the early Seventies was by gospel greats like Andre Crouch and Edwin Hawkins. But then, as we started getting older, we started appreciating funk groups like The Commodores, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Kool & The Gang. Though to us the best of all was The Jackson 5! To the point where we’d actually pretend to BE them! Like, when our mom brought home some white shoes one day, we actually started to fight over who was gonna wear them - because it reminded us of something Michael Jackson would wear! But, having said that, we did grow up pretty much poverty-stricken and poor. I mean, there were times when we were literally living in shelter homes. But, to be honest with you, I believe a lot of our chemistry that we have today did actually come out of those hard times. Like the evenings when we’d be sitting together - seriously - with no electricity, just writing songs together by candlelight.”

Having become musically-motivated at an early age, it was during their mid-teens that Kelvis and Kendall found their original mentor: “Yeah, the guy that found or ‘discovered’ us was an old skool R&B producer and guitar-player for Aretha Franklin, who’s since passed away”, relates Kelvis: “His name was Jerry Weaver, and he produced the debut albums for Janet Jackson and New Edition. He’d actually moved to Denver, Colorado - which is where we were living at the time. And, after seeing us in the quartet we’d formed with our sister Michelle and another guy named Ray, he was like ‘You guys are destined for great things!’! So he gave us the name Meekness, shopped our music to different labels, and in the process had us travelling all over the world. You know, he was a very meticulous guy. I mean, at the time we were working with him - we were around 14/15 years old - he’d yell and scream at us to where we’d end up crying! But, looking back now, I believe he was the one who actually gave us the mentality and the drive to really step up our game. But then, when our mother passed away in ’94, we decided we needed a break. So the group split up - and it wasn’t until 1997 that Kendall and I decided to come together and start Kloud 9 as a duo.”

“Yeah, and musically we both feel really good about what the two of us have been able to achieve together since then”, concludes Kendall: “Because it seems we have definitely contributed something to the soul world. You know, to us it’s not about being rich and famous, or even popular. It’s all about leaving our mark through our music. And to be making a contribution to a genre that we love, for us is the most satisfying thing of all.”

The album ‘Enjoy The Ride’ is released October 13 through Expansion Records

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

Join the B&S Mailing List

Blues and Soul on Twitter