REVIEW & INTERVIEW: THE CORRESPONDENTS

Establishing yourself as a live act can be a hell of a job. No longer able to hide behind studio screens or re-takes, artists must tackle crowds of modern day humans designed to multitask with the attention spans of goldfish. Luckily for The Correspondents, performing live has been never been a problem. Able to play spot the influence while Chucks samples and mixes some of the funkiest beats around, count Mr. Bruce’s layers of spandex, and compete with his outrageous interpretive dance moves, the audience remain utterly encapsulated and entertained. Building their careers as a live act since 2007, Correspondents have gone from being that band people stumble upon at a festival and leave buzzing, to being one of the Telegraph’s top ten highlights at Glastonbury 2011. However, while most reviews focus on Mr. Bruce’s outfits and trampoline on stage, with their first single “Cheating with You” recently released on their website I tried to review the show for their musical talents.

 I could pretend to try and define their music in an alternative “electronic, swing, hip pop mash up, booga loo blahdy blah” pretentious way, but truthfully I spent the whole gig worrying as to how I would begin to describe and critique their music. The more that I tried to nail the perfect way to sum up The Correspondents the more tricks my mind began to play on me. At one point I honestly asked my video-guy if the well articulated English man on stage was singing in a slight Jamaican accent with a subtle reggae beat and he even agreed with me. Both reggae inclined, I began to realise that you clutch to what you know because while The Correspondents sample from particular eras and styles, they mix it and distort it to create something entirely unique that our ears are not trained to pigeonhole.

While the Correspondents are aware of the inevitable comparison that will arise between their live music and recorded music it is quite hard not too. Songs like “Wanna be like you” that show off Mr.Bruce’s ability to scat and MC with impeccable style and “Rio de Hackney” with Chucks sampling an afro-latino style beat, work incredibly well while your pumping with adrenalin in the club but personally I wouldn’t listen to while doing the dishes. On the other hand “Cheating with you”, their new single is a conscious effort by the Correspondents to create something for their new recorded musical pursuit, and while I loved it on the ipod, it didn’t necessarily stand out live amongst their more exciting numbers. But can they keep their live and recorded music separate ventures?

 

Second best to their own live talent, was their ability to extract a reaction from the crowd in which they lost all inhibitions and flirted shamelessly with Mr.Bruce through a thrust or a shake; a reaction they can also create from their recorded music through songs like “Washington Square and “What Happened to Soho” on their EP, which make you want to move with or without Mr.Bruce in front of you. It’s these songs, with their old school vibe and accentuated vocals that make the kids swing around and shout to in the club, but have them free styling while they’re cooking as well.

 

Whether it’s the Hip Hop beats, the garage number or the pelvic thrusts, The Correspondents will without a doubt stir a reaction within you and while their indescribable style is a nightmare for a writer, it’s a whole lot of fun for a listener. The Correspondents new single “Cheating with You” and EP What Happened to Soho is out now and available to buy on their website http://thecorrespondents.co.uk/


Video Interview Coming soon but for now, read Chucks and Mr. Bruce’s Interview at Hi-Fi here:

 EA: “What Happened to Soho” is your first EP but you established your career live. Did you have any fears that your live performances would not translate well into a recording?

 Mr. Bruce: Straight in there! There is a little bit of a conundrum in the sense that we are known predominantly for our live shows and we are now releasing music. People are always going to compare one with another and it is problematic in some cases:

Chucks: We always hear reviews about our music in reference to our live shows rather than the music itself so it is quite tricky. We decided to just do whatever we want recording wise.

Mr. Bruce: And not even make it out to be part of our live music thing. The reason we have released “Cheating for You” is because it is not a bouncy jump-up number, it’s quite different and it’s thrown everyone’s expectations a bit which we really wanted. It is quite difficult because what we are desperate for is for someone to give us a review of the music itself and an honest review. Because we just don’t know what it is. Because if it is a track we play live, they say oh its great it really works live, but we kinda want to know how it sounds in your kitchen.

EA: Your album is entitled “What Happened to Soho” – does Soho hold special significance to you both?

 Mr. Bruce: Yeah certainly. I used to get drunk there a lot! When I first arrived in London there were some really amazing clubs there that I used to go to. I was the young one that was taken under the wing of these old alcoholics basically. Then it changed very dramatically. The counsel started to clamp down on various institutions and clubs that had been around since the 50s disappeared and now with the Olympics they are trying to get rid of the red light district. So it was a little lament to that.

 

EA: Where do you get your inspiration for the interpretive dance that you bring out at all of your performances?

Mr. Bruce: I make a very conscious effort never to learn a particular type of dance. People always say, “oh you must learn the lindy hop or break-dancing, or boogaloo.” I consciously don’t. I think it comes from all over the shop, weird films I watched when I was younger. Disney films.

EA: During festival season you had a live brass section accompany you on stage. Would you prefer to do all of your gigs with a live brass section? 

 Mr. Bruce: It basically comes down to whether we have a van or not. It’s funny because so much of what we do is down to the simple logistics. For a main stage show we’ll hire a van and feel all important, rather than showing up in a crappy ford fiesta.

EA: How did the duo form? What event made you realise that you would work together as a band?

 Mr. Bruce: We really didn’t have any intention of doing this whatsoever. Came from a bit of fiddling about in Chuck’s bedroom (Laughs loudly). Playing about with a couple of tracks with no idea of doing anything with them. Then this theatre company called punch drunk had this production on around the corner where we lived in Wandsworth at the Battersea Arts Centre called the Mask of the Red death and they invited us to a bunch of their after parties. They were amazing and really quite exciting DJ’s would play there. Our third gig ever was with Basement Jaxx so we were thrown in at the deep end.

Chucks: Slipped a record into their CD bag. We did about eight of them and you have a turn over of about 500 new people so it was a great way to be seen and was a great atmosphere.

Mr.Bruce: Before you knew it we had Glastonbury then all of a sudden we had regular work.

EA: How does the drive to succeed amongst the business side of your music, aka your manager, label, publishers compare with your own drive? Do you have different ambitions?

Chucks: Were all pretty free willing hippies. From the beginning we sort of fell into it and neither of us woke up at 5 years old and wanted to be popstars. We just really want to have a good career in it.

Mr. Bruce: We have modest aspirations but healthy career is one of them and a bit of longevity. I don’t like the idea of being a sort of flash in the pan and disappearing. Like the idea of it being a good job done.

Chucks: That’s why we are very weary of putting out a sort of novelty track which you have to live with forever and you can never do anything with integrity ever again!

Mr. Bruce: You mentioned our managers who are all really close friends of ours and I think we know they have our best interests at heart.

EA: And what about your label?

 Mr. Bruce: We are actually releasing it ourselves. There’s no real need for a label. The thought of owing a big corporation lots of money is a bit terrifying.

 Chucks: I used to work at a major, and it didn’t necessarily turn me off it I just don’t think we are a band that needs it because our revenue is from live shows so we don’t need to worry about advances. We can just keep it really low key.

EA: Are you tipping your hat to a bygone era of music or are you creating something completely new?

Chucks: Definitely hope that we are doing something original. When we started out it was very swingy but we have been moving away from it because we have been getting a bit bored of it day in and day out. We like other types of music.

 Mr. Bruce: We never ever listen to swing! I would die! We’ve heard a lot of it over the last four years!

 Chucks: You’re tapping into the pool of your influences.

 Mr. Bruce: It is also about making it relevant. There’s a difference between being nostalgic and retrogressive and then being relevant and using your influences to get what you want out of your music. We also don’t think of it in eras, we consciously try not too. Because if you think this is the 60s track or 30s track it often limits the way that a track evolves.

EA: A lot of people associate you with the cape. What importance does the cape have to you?

 Mr. Bruce: It’s really funny that you mention the cape. It’s the fist time I have forgotten the cape so I’m afraid you are not going to see it tonight. The cape is a sort of reveal at the beginning. I was talking to one of our booking agents the other night that brought some friends to the gig who had never seen us before. When I first came on in the cape they were like, “what have you brought us too, this is absolute crap!” Because when I first come on it is really serious and it’s this big ballad. I guess if you arrived and you didn’t know what we were all about you’d think, “oh god it’s going to be this caped figure singing all night.” And then there is the reveal and then everyone goes nuts.

Chucks: Show business darling

EA:You are pretty normal and down to earth in person. Is the guy on stage your alter ego?

Mr. Bruce: If I wasn’t doing a job where I was centre of attention and bouncing around in front of a lot of people I would probably be an incredibly obnoxious person.

EA: If you could raid the wardrobe of one person from history whose would it be?

Mr. Bruce: Either Bowie or Oscar Wilde.

Chucks: Timmy Mallet

EA: Have you always had a distinctive style or did it evolve over time? Were you that 14 year old kid in dapper clothes?

 Mr Bruce: Is that a question for Chucks?? …AH HA same old joke.

Chucks: I remember when he used to wear shirts with tie prints and used to have a shaved head.

Mr. Bruce: I used to dress more eccentrically before the correspondents. Because now I have to get into the garb for the shows so I’m not wearing peacock colours in my time off anymore like I used too.

EA: If you had to name a record that sums up your childhood what would it be?

Mr. Bruce: Chitty Bang Bang. I listened to a lot of Queen, which I guess might make sense.

Chucks: Misty Haze, Drunken Haze. I suppose I used to watch with my Dad, who was a drummer, old drumming videos so I have these semi boring memories. But they rubbed off on me in the way of thinking about beats and drums.

EA: What other art forms inspire your music?

Mr. Bruce: I used to work as a portrait painter and still do sometimes. Lyrically I think of them as portraits, as characters and the imagery in that way.

EA: In “I wanna be like you” you sample music from the Jungle Book. Would you like to see the laws on sampling music made more lenient to aid the remix culture?  

Chucks:  No actually. Because I think people are due the amount of money they deserve for creating something. I think what should become better is that unfortunately copyright owners are complete idiots when you try to clear a sample. They try take you for all you’ve got. Their should be more of a zeitgeisty change to the mentality of it. I’m pretty for copyright. I think if people make something great and original and interesting they deserve to be reimbursed

Mr. Bruce: What is weird about it is that when you are approaching someone who owns that sample they don’t even know that it exists and when you say can we use this they can say, “we want 100% of it.” Its almost like you have gone to an old ladies house and seen an antique that’s literally crumpled and covered in dust and you say you’ll restore it and split it but they say, “no no we want 100%” so you think, “well I’m not going to use it then!”

EA: There’s often the question of if you are going into businesses such as music, film art, whether experience is better than education. Are you both glad that you went to university before creating the band?

Chucks: Definitely. Got to be in the beautiful city of Leeds. It was completely irrelevant apart from that I didn’t know what I wanted to do back then. Think that’s half the reason you go to university really. Education teaches you skills which you’ll need for the rest of your life, discipline, you meet people, play at lots of house parties.

EA: What are your favourite memories of Leeds?

Chucks: A lot of rubbish DI-ing where people shout, “play some drum n base” and I reply grumpily, “NO, I’m going to play my swing!” I think that my housemates and I, which Bruce came along too, put on one of the first electro swing nights practically in the world at the Brudenell Social Club called “Swung” (cue a lot of laughter from Bruce) and everyone dressed up. £2.50 to get in. It was cool. Good memories.

EA: For the end of the interview I am going to name some people and you respond with how they have or haven’t influenced your life/music.

Lady Ga-Ga:

Mr.Bruce: NO! Well, only in the sense of being an exhibitionist I guess.

Chucks: Negatively perhaps. A reaction against Gaga.

Mr.Bruce: Unfortunately she is an incredibly intelligent woman but the music is absolutely awful. I thought I’m going to give it a go, listened to it and I absolutely hated every minute of it. Although I think stylistically she is absolutely amazing and the team around her are very talented. And apparently she’s very nice.

James Brown:

Chucks: I’ve never sampled James Brown but I listen to him all the time. We play a lot of music before we go on stage.

Mr. Bruce: Got a good pelvis action going.

Public Enemy:

Chucks: We saw them at Bestival this year which was good and weird. Flava Flave went off on one a bit. Promoting his book, in between every song “BUY MY BOOK”. Musically, yeah, because I started off making hip-hop and they were a part of my musical education back in my teens.

Images: Kate Woods

Words: Emily Ames

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