Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1099

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Par-Lé: Speaking volumes


We're both musicians first. Me and Alex first met at a gig few years ago. It was quite a few years back, around 2007. Alex is a bass player and I'm a guitarist and we got booked on a gig together and we enjoyed how each other played music� Miles James of new funk soul duo, Par-Lé says of their inception. Londoners Alex Bonfanti and Miles James have just released their debut E.P �The Light Years� on Movement Records but the pair has a long history in the music industry, having previously worked as touring and session musicians for the likes of Tom Jones, Jessie Ware and Michael Kiwanuka. �In terms of the Par-Lé stuff, we came to the conclusion that we would like to be making music that kind of fit the style that we were into at the time so we decided to move into a studio together in North London� he continues. �It kind of took off from there really. We would work all through the night creating songs and producing music and just hanging out and �The Light Years� kind of came about.�

With the �The Light Years� E.P finally complete, it was important to the boys that they chose a label that understood them musically. Miles explains why Par-Lé decided to hook up with independent label, Movement Records. �The Par-Lé �Light Years� E.P had actually been finished for quite a few years. It was in a finished state for a long time before we managed to put it out. We were trying to find an outlet that was sensitive to how we wanted to release the project. We found that particular options weren't really suited to how we wanted to put it out because it's a specific sound it doesn't really lend itself well to labels that want to have a stock approach to music. I guess we didn't want to have it played with too much by different people in the whole process. With Movement (Records) really, I was asked by Christian Gregory to jump on board and to be part of the team. I produce for the label and I'm one of the directors so it just kind of made sense because we would be able to have the kind of control I needed from a label.�

Both multi-instrumentalists, the duo hunkered down in the studio producing and playing all of the music themselves. The end product was an E.P. that fused an infectious mix of soul, funk and Jazz that also boasts truly striking feature vocals from singers including Nadine Charles and Ade Omotayo. Alex jumps in and breaks down the writing process for the project �In terms of writing and producing It's all Miles and myself. We just started demoing ideas before we moved into the studio. When we got into the studio we revisited the songs that we had written one year or two prior then we were developing them into full length songs and called upon vocalists. The need for other musicians wasn't really coming into our minds. We programmed the drums ourselves and had written parts on keys and guitar. We found ourselves playing all of the instruments and producing and mixing. We kind of knew what we were hearing so we had the ability to achieve what we want to do on these instruments.�

That intensely independent work ethic and need for creative control of their own music might stem from their years working as musicians for other artists. While grateful for every opportunity to perform, having their name on their own music is understandable more satisfying. �We've been playing for other artists for most of our musical careers,� says Miles. �But I guess we do take influence from what�s around us personally I don�t know, I think the session work that we do and the band are two quite different things. With Par-Lé not being a live band yet (it�s different) With Jessie Ware we played live and the Tom Jones work was in the studio. When I am a bass player I take on a different role. I think I am a working musician, with Par-Lé it is our music, we have control over the music. It was kind of self�gratifying, we were doing it for ourselves.� But do they feel the pressure of stepping into the spotlight as frontmen? Alex: �I wouldn't say pressure but I definitely care a lot more because my name is on an album now and my face is associated with our music. I wouldn't say pressure but there is more of a vested interest.�

Miles continues �I would just say as well, it is still all quite new and we haven't performed live as Par-Lé in any way so we are still kind of semi behind the scenes, you can still kind of hideaway as producer in the studio. As producers you can produce music and it can come quite big without having to be in the front. It will be a journey to find out how we respond to more live aspects. Like Miles is saying as a producer you can stay in the background. We could go under different names if we wanted to, with all of these things it is very much up to us how much we want to push ourselves into the foreground. I think we are both quite happy letting the music speak instead of plastering our faces around. Music has always come first for us otherwise we would have been lead singers in rock bands. We're quite happy putting the music out and doing (interviews) like this, letting people know how it came about.�

Long before the pair were producing, writing or playing for A-listers, both Alex and Miles had an early love of music. They go on to reflect on their early influences and how they originally found their path to a career in music �Miles: �I was fortunate enough to have quite an eclectic musical upbringing. My dad was a DJ in the 80s and 90s, one of my earliest memories is music being played in the house quite a lot. He used to throw these big house parties and there was definitely a lot of reggae, soul and world music and music from an African origin though he was a white guy and my mum is a Nigerian lady, there was a lot of classic soul music. Music was a big thing to him. (It�s) even how I got my name. I didn�t get a lot of rock and folk music during my up-bringing, that came later that was definitely a huge influence on me.�

�I wouldn't say that the music we make with Par-Lé is a direct derivative of what I grew up listening to� Alex comments on how those early influences impacted the sound of Par-Lé. �(In my house) It was very much classic rock, folk music and my dad was very into jazz as well. Then as I was growing up as a musician I discovered funk and soul on my own. My parents were music fans but they weren't pushing for me to become a musician. It was something that they saw I was interested in so they encouraged it.�

With the opportunity to expand the band for live shows and possible future collaboration with some old friends, The future looks bright for the duo �As you can hear there are loads of different parts and different instruments in there and it definitely defies the laws of science to be able to play them all in one go. We are very lucky to have a core group of musicians we love working with and we wouldn't think twice about bringing them in for the larger shows and I guess one thing that I kind of take inspiration from jam and Lewis. I'm just making that comparison because they brought in musicians where they saw fit. It's kind of an unexplored territory at the moment but in order to replicate the sound of �Light Years�, we will need quite a lot of musicians and quite a lot of rehearsing but that is something we are used to doing with other artists. I would definitely consider (future collaborations). There is a lot of exploration that we want to do with where this is going to go. There is definitely no immediate plans to vocal any of this stuff ourselves. You tour with people and you become friends and you talk about music. I'm sure it will happen were we are in the right place at the right time and that collaboration will happen.�

The E.P. "The Light Years" is out now on Movement Records
Words Karen Lawler

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