Friday, 30 March 2012

#FindOutFriday with Soneni & The Soul!

...Soneni & The Soul

Nothing says 'Summertime' like live music, in the sunshine. With more flavour than a tropical rum punch, Soneni & The Soul hooked me from the instant I first heard their set at a Shoreditch event last May. The band played to every corner of Soul's definition and Soneni on that Microphone had me entranced. Together, they are nothing short of hypnotic.

An eclectic blend of Indie, Funk, a dash of Rock and plenty of SOUL; this London-based quartet are carving a niche for themselves in a new genre of music where they have little to no competition, because they created it! Another interview I've been keen to do since this segment's return at the top of the year, pull up a chair this Friday and FindOut how Soneni And her friends make music for The Soul...

1. Hi Guys! Welcome to #FindOutFriday! Let’s start by getting to know you all collectively. Who are 'Soneni & The Soul' and how did you all come together? 

Soneni and her Soulful Friends...(l-r) Boukie, Elmo and Chris
Soneni: The members of the band are myself (Lead Singer / Songwriter), 
Elmo (Bass / Production),
Boukie (Drums) and
Chris (Guitar).

Each of us bring our own vibe to the band as a whole. 

Elmo: Soneni and I met in 2008, at the time I was producing for different artists and Soneni was a solo singer/songwriter working with different producers. We worked together on a track called StarStruck

Before the track had even been mastered properly, it found its way to BBC 1Xtra and was added to their homegrown podcast as one of their unsigned tracks of the week. Shortly after we were invited to perform at the Liverpool City Sound Festival so we decided we need to get a band together and take our sound on the road! We met the other two band members, Chris and Boukie through mutual friends and Gumtree!

2. In your bio, you describe yourselves as having a “soulful UK Sound with an indie, funky fusion”. Can you explain what that means to you and how you embody it?

Soneni: Our sound incorporates indie and funky influences all wrapped up with soulful vocals and delivered with that UK underground edge! The EP will be a great way for us to showcase how our sound has developed over the past few years. At the core of our musical style – whether on stage or in the studio – is that undeniable soul. The EP will consist of tracks such as ‘Million Miles Away’, the title track off the EP which is more reflective of the soulful indie side, whereas a track like ‘We Can Go (In The Sunshine)' is so much more upbeat and funky but remains real soulful. So it’s important for us to have a description of our sound that really encapsulates all that we are putting out there at the moment. Funnily enough, the most recent description of our music was actually created by a music journalist and we thought – that describes us perfectly, so we’re running with it!

3. I have had the privilege of seeing you both on stage and behind the scenes, so I know that you all graft! What other roles do you each play within the group besides your instruments?

Elmo: Soneni and I deal with the day-to-day management and long-term vision, as we are self-managed we take care of all the ‘management’ duties. In the studio, I produce the music and Soneni writes the songs. Boukie and Chris add spice to the tracks with their instrumental parts and creative ideas.

4. Talk me through the songwriting process in a 4-piece, acoustic band. How does it work?

Soneni: Initially when we started out, Elmo would create an instrumental, and once I’d written to it, we’d record it and then get to a rehearsal room with the guys to start interpreting it for live performances. These days however, there’s no set way of working to be honest! Recently we have found a nice process though that seems to flow quite naturally. Elmo will create the foundation of the track with the chords and maybe a musical melody on the keys then I’ll write to that. We’ll sit down and work out the song structure and lay down a demo recording with vocals and keys. From there we will build the music with the guys playing their parts before I revisit the vocal and add harmonies and adlibs.

5. ‘Love My London’ was a hugely powerful moment and one of the true positives to come out of 2011’s London Riots in my opinion. It’s certainly a moment that I will never forget. How did the project come together? Can you tell me about the whole experience and what’s happened with the project since?

Soneni: Oh that’s so nice, thank you. Well I’d always wanted to do a London anthem, like an 'ode to the city', and Elmo wanted to create a ‘POW’ of poetry, where he could just get loads of great poets on one track. It was a real blessing to work with the other artists we chose for the project; Leroy Rose, Ms KG, Tshaka Campbell, Comfort and Alim Kamara (artists who we ourselves are fans of). The aim of the track was for each person, including myself, to pen a verse based on their relationship with the city - their journey, experiences, what they love, can’t stand, etc. Everyone came with a unique perspective on the city whether it was Alim saying “it’s heaven or hell depending on where you stem from” or Ms KG talking about the “pavements full of pain”.

We actually recorded the track at a studio called The Limehouse back in July 2011. The video contains some of the footage from that day, and getting everyone together for the first time was such a vibe! Then a week before the London Riots, we got everyone back together to be filmed outside in Stratford and by the iconic Olympic stadium. So when the riots kicked off the following week, we were in a strange position as to whether to still release it and where the song would fit within all the madness. Then it dawned on us that as much as there was a lot of anger in London at the time, there were still people that loved the city and wanted to be encouraged despite the madness. Elmo went back out with George Malsbury (a fantastic director who’s worked with The Saturdays, and directed our previous videos) and took extra cutaways and shots of the city. It’s crazy to see how many people got stopped and searched in one day! The song then almost took on a life of its own and became one of defiance – like despite all this, we still love this city. We’re yet to all perform the track together, so our hope is that we get to do this at our EP launch later this year. That would be EPIC.

6. Something about your make up and formula makes me think of the great groups from the eras of Motown, Chess and Stax Records, etc. Do you model yourselves on anyone in particular? Who do you look to for inspiration?

Elmo: We all have different individual influences. For example, Boukie is heavily into jazz and I’m influenced by Funk Rock bass players like Flea from the Red Hot Chillies.

Soneni takes inspiration from Lauryn Hill as a soulful singer/lyricist and great artists like Erykah Badu and Jill Scott. When we put these influences mixed with the great love for UK Underground music you have us!!

7. You have enjoyed some great success on National Radio and across some popular, well-known events. For those bands looking to you for inspiration, what advice would you give on getting started?

Soneni: It’s really important to get your music out there and start building a fanbase. Social media has really made it so much easier for artists to share their music, the only thing is that means you’re competing against so many other artists, so you also need to build relationships with DJs/bloggers etc. These are the people that will share your music for you. Find out who plays similar music to what you’re creating and tweet at them (although be careful not to annoy them!), for instance. Or better still – find out where they’re playing/a seminar they’re speaking at and see if you can talk to them or at least give them a CD. Once you’ve made a personal connection, communication becomes so much easier.

Elmo: I would say to always work on developing yourself, learn new skills and improve the ones you already have with constant practise everyday. It’s also important to find what it is about you that is different and unique and work on bringing that out. Find where you fit in and what you want to do then go wholeheartedly at it. It may take awhile to find your sound and style but that is natural as we as people are always evolving and through learning new skills, new opportunities and ways of working will open up. Also make sure your marketing isn’t better than your music. Above all though it’s about PERSISTENCE!! Winners never quit and quitters never win!!

8. ‘Soneni & the Red Dress’. ‘Elmo & the Sunglasses’. To me they’re your trademarks, as synonymous with you as your names! What other individual motifs do you each have and what do they symbolise?

Elmo: Wow, that’s crazy!! All these things are completely natural, they are just us and our style in real life! I guess people have started to recognise the brand which is great. We don’t have a stylist and we really want to be as natural as possible (whilst looking good lol)! All the individual motifs are a reflection of our true personalities and it’s such a privilege to have a platform to showcase them.

Soneni: That’s really cool that the red dress is getting its fair dues haha. In terms of other things, when we first started out I had gotten really into wearing yellow and had these massive yellow earrings that I’d always wear, just because I liked them. Then people ended up associating me with the earrings, saying stuff like “you’re not wearing your yellow earrings!” – it was super random to me, but very cool that people paid that much attention.

9. Your debut EP is coming in a few short months (Summer 2012). What should people expect?

Soneni: Our EP will embody the description of our music. You’ll hear the soulful indie and funky influences all put together in a UK sound. We’ll be introducing the more soulful side to us as well as the upbeat funky sound we are known for. We’ll be having a big EP launch and will be filming videos for all of the tracks from the EP too.

10. If you could each take a talent from a bandmate for a day and assign them to another one of you, which talent would you take, who would you assign it to and why?

Soneni: We keep saying the guys should sing more, so I might let them take lead vocals for the day! I’d then be in the back and jump from drums to the guitar and probably start jamming away on Elmo’s keys! But I’m random like that haha.

Massive thanks once again to my favourite band on the Live circuit! I personally want to Congratulate them again on all their successes so far, but beyond that for remaining some of the friendliest, most down-to-Earth people on the London Music scene! I URGE you to watch and share their 'Love My London' video above. I remember exactly where I was when I watched it for the first time and having had some of the nastier events happen on my doorstep, how deeply the lyrics hit home.

You know this part by now - make sure you follow / LIKE / Subscribe to their Social Media Catalogue and all that good stuff:

Don't forget to Share it if you Feel it!

See you soon,
ES :)