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Issue 1084

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REEL PEOPLE: Real Pulling Power

Reel People
Reel People Reel People Reel People: Seven Ways to Wonder - The Remixes Reel People: Outta Love

Following the critical acclaim afforded to their February 2008-released, soulfully uplifting sophomore album âSeven Ways To Wonderâ, London collective Reel People - anchored by core members Oli Lazarus and Mike Patto - this month follow through with a club-friendly 12-track remix edition.

With musical moments ranging from London-based 4Heroâs deep bossa nova take on the Omar-featuring âOutta Loveâ to house maestro Dennis Ferrerâs bouncy, techy âOut On Bailâ mix of âAlibiâ (which features New York underground soul man Darien), âSeven Ways To Wonder The Remixesâ additionally boasts top-grade remix input from such revered names as Karizma, Domu and West London broken beat maestros Bugz In The Attic. Yet, with all mixes remaining sympathetic to the original album versions by preserving their vocals (other singing talents on board include sassy East London songstress Tasita DâAmour; plus classy Incognito vocalists Tony Momrelle and Imaani), the new collection does refreshingly work as one coherent whole. Which, while aimed at the dancefloor, ultimately retains an identifiable soul music and song-based feel throughout.

As 28-year-old East Ender Oli - who, prior to producing Reel Peopleâs debut single âSpiritualâ in 2001, spent three years working at Central Londonâs famed soulful dance music shop Flying Records - hooks up once more with âB&Sâ to discuss his bandâs latest, more dancefloor-aimed project.

âWeâve never done a remix album before. But, because weâd spent so much money on remixes to promote the singles weâd already released from the original âSeven Ways To Wonderâ album, we just felt there had to be some mileage in putting them all out on one CD while adding a few extra new onesâ, he begins honestly: âWe basically thought âLook, why donât we spend a bit more money and get some other remixers involved - people weâre fans of, like Bugz In The Attic and 4Hero - and just try and make an album that people can put on at home as well as DJs can play in the clubs?â⦠And, with my own taste obviously being quite varied, I definitely wanted to encompass several different styles. You know, I didnât want a remix album that was basically a bunch of 12â house remixes. So, when it came to picking some of the other remixers, I thought âWell, it would be nice to get some DIFFERENT sort of soulful, jazzy, or Latin kinda vibes on there tooâ. And I feel weâve ended up putting together a really cool compilation that does compliment the original album really, really well.â

So how does Oli feel about the overall reaction the original version of âSeven Ways To Wonderâ has had since its release last winter? âWell, Iâd say that definitely the UK soul crowd have picked up on this second album more than they did the first one (2003âs âSecond Guessâ). And I think that additional support has been shown by certain compilations weâve been able to get tracks licensed to, as well as maybe some gigs weâve been asked to do that we probably wouldnât have done first time around (this year has seen Reel People enjoy storming headline shows at both Londonâs Jazz Café and the Birmingham Luxury Soul Weekender). Plus, with âSeven Waysâ¦â there now seems to be quite a nice little fan-base building for us over in The States too. But, while all thatâs been really good, at the same time the release of the album has unfortunately coincided with probably one of the toughest times in the industry. People are buying music less and less. And what weâre also finding is that the kind of core touring that used to exist in the UK simply isnât there any more.â

âYou know, when youâre working with a lot of musicians in a band, itâs getting harder and harder to make the whole thing financially viableâ, continues an ever-down-to-earth Oli: âEspecially when youâve got ten people onstage, and you wanna perform the songs as close as you can get to the album. So to be quite honest and open about it - especially with this second album being musically more live than the first one - gig-wise it has been proving a lot tougher to make it work. Because, for a big soul band like us who wants to go around the country doing smaller little soul clubs and jazz clubs, those gigs simply do not EXIST any more! Whereas ten to 15 years ago I think a band like ours, in the right era, would probably have made a lot more progress.â

Nevertheless, Reel People - who are hoping to start recording their next studio album in mid-2009 - in the meantime continue to push against the flow by setting up (in partnership with Champion Sound) their own new London club night, âThis Is UK SOULâ. The first of which events saw the band themselves joined onstage by aforementioned Brit-soul luminary Omar, plus a full string section in the shape of The Urban Soul Orchestra. While DJs on the night included UK Godfathers of soul/jazz/funk/dance music Norman Jay and Kevin Beadle: âYeah, we had a great time. And itâs definitely something that weâre looking to push through into the next yearâ, promises Oli: âWe just basically felt that, after the first round of shows that we did earlier this year, we wanted to be more in control of where we were performing and also how many people we could get in one place. Especially in London, where itâs very hard to find places where you can get maybe 600/700 people into a venue.â

âYou know, youâve got the Jazz Caféâs that hold 300/400, and then you move straight up to like Brixton Academy or Shepherds Bush (Empire) whose capacity is like 1,000-plusâ, he continues in friendlyânâfamiliar East London tones: âSo for us it becomes all about trying to find a venue that suits the size of your fan-base. So we came across this place called 229, a really cool venue in the centre of town. We discovered the guy who runs it was already a big fan of the band. So we just thought âWell, letâs try and start something up here that could help push British soul music forwardâ. So we came up with the âThis Is UK SOULâ idea, put on the night, really went to town... And it ended up a really successful evening! So we just want to continue it really, just to help really push some British soul artists within the live arena. Because the key thing for us is that we still believe people really wanna go out and SEE live music! So hopefully - fingers crossed - weâre gonna do maybe three or four events - probably at least one featuring Reel People - next year at the same venue, under the same banner. And weâll see what happens from there.â

The album 'Seven Ways To Wonder The Remixes' is out now. The Reel People Feat. Omar single 'Outta Love (Alix Alvarez and IG Culture Remixes)' follows December 1, both through Papa Records
Words PETE LEWIS

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