Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Encore: Coming on strong

Encore Encore Encore Encore

Consisting of 23-year-old East London rapper Pierre Joseph, 22-year-old Folkstone-based singer/producer Cairo Woodwood and 22-year-old Enfield singer/songwriter Mark Asari (whose writing credits impressively include both Tinie Tempah and Chipmunk), Island Records’ new UK urban male trio Encore this month release their punchy second single ‘The One’. Whose powerful blend of robust dubstep beats, heavy electronic synths, yearning R&B vocals and streetwise rap with a strong melodic pop sensibility, reflects the threesome’s ethos of melding their individual musical differences to deliver something truly distinctive.

Indeed, already dubbed both “a grimier JLS” and “a band for 2011 making unpredictable pop steeped in sharp songwriting, superlative vocals and brilliant, genre-bending compositions”, Encore - in addition to touring the UK with both Jessie J and (currently) N-Dubz - have also been busy in recent months recording and perfecting their forthcoming, as-yet-untitled debut album. Which will in turn boast big-name production input from both sides of The Atlantic - including the likes of DaVinChe (Tinchy Stryder; Kano); RedOne’s production team (Lady GaGa; Usher); and Nate Walka (Jamie Foxx; Trey Songz) - and is promised to incorporate elements of hip hop, dubstep, R&B, rap, grime, drum-&-bass, pop and acoustic soul. All of which can be evidenced in such diverse musical moments as the impulsive house sounds of the dancefloor-driven, flirtatious ‘Over’; the grime sensibility of the bold, 808-driven ‘Hero’; plus the outwardly-R&B-flavoured ‘You Deserve Better’.

… Cue Encore’s warm-mannered and instantly-friendly Pierre and Mark hooking-up for an introductory chat with ‘Blues & Soul’ Assistant Editor Pete Lewis, as the handsome, currently-on-tour threesome head back from Belfast to the East Midlands.

Encore’s new, second single ‘The One’

MARK: “We basically just thought it was a good way to come back after our first single ‘Wind Up’. Because it has all the elements that we’re all personally into, like dubstep, R&B, hip hop…”

PIERRE: “Yeah, and also lyrically it’s talking about a situation that I think everyone in the group has been through. You know, we’ve all had a relationship WITHIN a relationship - where we’ve made a mistake and had to go back and turn things around to make it RIGHT again. So in that way the song is very meaningful to ALL of us. And while yes, we did originally call it ‘Suicide, we later decided to change the title to ‘The One’ because we felt that ‘Suicide’ might have been a bit controversial. You know, we basically thought that kids going ‘Mum, can you get me that song called ‘Suicide’?’ would be a bit of a no-no.”

What in general we can expect from the trio’s forthcoming, as-yet-untitled, debut album

MARK: “I’d describe it as a mixture of sounds that we’re all influenced by - such as reggae, R&B, hip hop, some pop… You know, musically we wanted make sure we incorporated everything we like, while lyrically dealing with everyday subjects that everyone can relate to.”

PIERRE: “… Yeah, there’s a lot of different styles, different flavours - but at the same time we’re keeping everything in the right proportion! I mean, to me - while we can’t say too much right now - the whole package is gonna be MAD! Because there are songs on there that EVERYBODY can relate to - young OR old, it doesn’t MATTER! Plus it’s the type of album you can listen to in your car, at the club, or even a nice jazzy night IN, where you just wanna chill-out and listen to some beautiful vocals!... You know, this album is gonna have EVERYTHING!”

The individual backgrounds of each group member

MARK; “I first started singing when I was about seven/eight years old in like talent shows, in church… And the singers I was into from an early age were people like Michael Jackson, alongside R&B and gospel artists like Usher and Kirk Franklin.”

PIERRE: “And in my case, with my mum being from St. Lucia, I was first brought up on a lot of the reggae and calypso sounds, as well as people like Michael Jackson and various R&B artists. Then, with me coming from East London, when I got into my teens I started getting more into hip hop and grime. And, being in the same circle as the likes of Dizzee Rascal and Tinchy Stryder, Dizzee breaking through was obviously a major influence and a major inspiration in terms of me starting to take my OWN rapping and writing more seriously... And then with Cairo, I guess he’s the SOUL fan of the group! You know, with his dad having already been a musician, he’s the one who grew up on a lot of the classic soul artists from back in the day.”

How Encore first got together

PIERRE: “Though we did know each other through music events like industry parties and open mic nights, in the beginning we were all individual solo artists each doing our own thing. I was working on a mixtape; Cairo was doing a lot of live gigs; Mark was coming through with his publishing and songwriting for a lot of artists who are big right now like Chipmunk and Tinie Tempah… But then, around 18 months ago, management put us together to do a WRITING session. And, because that went so well, we were like ‘Hey, this is DIFFERENT! Let’s try and do something WITH it!’... And then, around eight months later, we were being signed to Island as ENCORE!... So yeah, things just moved very quickly - and they’ve just kept moving forward ever SINCE!”

How the name ‘Encore’ originally came about

PIERRE: “Cairo actually came up with the name ‘Encore’ while he was listening to the Jay-Z track ‘Encore’! I actually remember him ringing me up and saying ‘Yo, what do you think of this name ‘Encore’?’... I was like ‘Yeah, that sounds COOL - that’s the ONE!’… Then from that we all agreed - and so ‘Encore’ became our NAME!”

The influence on Encore of classic Nineties R&B acts

PIERRE: “Oh, we LOVE the old skool! Because to me it’s the old skool that makes today’s nu skool what is IS! And so for us it’s always good to go back and take pieces and elements from the original sound of acts like BLACKstreet, Joe, Usher… And especially TLC, who have a MASSIVE influence on us in terms of the structure and how they weaved their raps and vocals into the music. I mean, to me we’re almost like a male UK version of THEM!... So yeah, one of our main aims right now is definitely to bring that old skool flavour and feeling back into 2011 - just like I believe someone like Bruno Mars is ALSO doing.”

The ongoing media comparisons with already-established UK chart-toppers JLS

PIERRE: “I think the only reason we’re getting compared to JLS is because they were actually the ones who brought that whole new-urban-boy-band era onto today’s scene. But having said that - while JLS are great guys who do their thing and do it very well - what makes us different is that we have more of a rougher edge, whereas JLS are very CLEAN with their sound... So yeah, I guess it’s just a case of the more we play out and the more people see us, the more they’ll be able to notice the DIFFERENCE between us and JLS!... And hopefully in time those comparisons will come to an END!”

Encore’s views on the current UK urban music scene

PIERRE: “Well, I do agree with you straight-up that right now, male-artist-wise, the UK urban scene is definitely dominated by RAPPERS! You know, you’ve got Wretch 32, Tinie Tempah, Dizzee Rascal, Tinchy Stryder, Chipmunk… Which is actually one of the reasons why we’re IN this whole thing - because I don’t really think there’s enough prominent SINGERS out there right now! But then, having said that, I also think that something as basic as TIMING has a lot do with it all. In that, maybe two years from now the rap scene will have died down a bit and a lot more people will be back on the SINGING tip!.. And so, in the light of all that, to me what makes us so cool is that we have the WHOLE PACKAGE – the rapping AND the singing!”

Encore are currently supporting N-Dubz on their April UK tour. Dates include Brighton Centre, Brighton (26); Manchester Evening News Arena, Manchester (28); LG Arena, Birmingham (29); and The O2 Arena, London (30)

The single ‘The One’ is out now through Island

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