Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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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 ‘Seven Ways To Wonder’, 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 4Hero’s deep bossa nova take on the Omar-featuring ‘Outta Love’ to house maestro Dennis Ferrer’s bouncy, techy ‘Out On Bail’ mix of ‘Alibi’ (which features New York underground soul man Darien), ‘Seven Ways To Wonder The Remixes’ 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 D’Amour; 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 People’s debut single ‘Spiritual’ in 2001, spent three years working at Central London’s famed soulful dance music shop Flying Records - hooks up once more with ‘B&S’ to discuss his band’s latest, more dancefloor-aimed project.

“We’ve never done a remix album before. But, because we’d spent so much money on remixes to promote the singles we’d already released from the original ‘Seven Ways To Wonder’ album, we just felt there had to be some mileage in putting them all out on one CD while adding a few extra new ones”, he begins honestly: “We basically thought ‘Look, why don’t we spend a bit more money and get some other remixers involved - people we’re 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?’… And, with my own taste obviously being quite varied, I definitely wanted to encompass several different styles. You know, I didn’t want a remix album that was basically a bunch of 12” house remixes. So, when it came to picking some of the other remixers, I thought ‘Well, it would be nice to get some DIFFERENT sort of soulful, jazzy, or Latin kinda vibes on there too’. And I feel we’ve ended up putting together a really cool compilation that does compliment the original album really, really well.”

So how does Oli feel about the overall reaction the original version of ‘Seven Ways To Wonder’ has had since its release last winter? “Well, I’d say that definitely the UK soul crowd have picked up on this second album more than they did the first one (2003’s ‘Second Guess’). And I think that additional support has been shown by certain compilations we’ve been able to get tracks licensed to, as well as maybe some gigs we’ve been asked to do that we probably wouldn’t have done first time around (this year has seen Reel People enjoy storming headline shows at both London’s Jazz Café and the Birmingham Luxury Soul Weekender). Plus, with ‘Seven Ways…’ there now seems to be quite a nice little fan-base building for us over in The States too. But, while all that’s 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 we’re also finding is that the kind of core touring that used to exist in the UK simply isn’t there any more.”

“You know, when you’re working with a lot of musicians in a band, it’s getting harder and harder to make the whole thing financially viable”, continues an ever-down-to-earth Oli: “Especially when you’ve 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.”

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, ‘This Is UK SOUL’. 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: “Yeah, we had a great time. And it’s definitely something that we’re looking to push through into the next year”, promises Oli: “We 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 it’s very hard to find places where you can get maybe 600/700 people into a venue.”

“You know, you’ve got the Jazz Café’s that hold 300/400, and then you move straight up to like Brixton Academy or Shepherds Bush (Empire) whose capacity is like 1,000-plus”, he continues in friendly’n’familiar East London tones: “So 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 ‘Well, let’s try and start something up here that could help push British soul music forward’. So we came up with the ‘This Is UK SOUL’ 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 - we’re 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 we’ll see what happens from there.”

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

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