Sunday 17 September 2017

Roxy & The Underground Soul Sound: "Now You Know!"

Canada has had its fair share of outstanding soul acts: Tanika Charles is currently doing great things with her 'Soul Run' project on Italy's Record Kicks label, Kellylee Evans has developed a stunning discography over the years, and Dawn Pemberton has established a loyal following from her album 'Say Somethin' on Do Right Music.

But another act that has been bubbling under the surface since 2012 - and an act more than worthy to be listed amongst the aforementioned contemporary soul music luminaries - are Roxy & The Underground Soul Sound.  Based in Nova Scotia, this eight-piece soul band have a refined act which uses their affection for the classic sound of Motown Recordings artists as a starting point to build upon and develop their own soul aesthetic.

The band's debut album, 'Don't You Know?', was initially released in 2014 and features blissfully sweet soul gems like 'Baby Don't You Know', 'Puppet' and 'Mistakes'.  Continued live performances around the country including Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec have resulted in an ever-increasing list of accolades: The Galaxie Rising Star Award, Nova Scotia's Urban Recording of The Year, New Artists Recording of The Year and Halifax's Coast Gold Award for Best R&B Band.  All of which add up to a band with limitless potential and who are just getting better every time they perform and every time they record, as subsequent singles 'Let's Work It Out' (2016) and 'Show Me' (2017) demonstrate.

While loyal fans wait patiently for a new full-length release from Roxy & The Underground Soul Sound, 'Don't You Know?' waits patiently for many of the yet-to-be-converted.  Be it a studio recording though or a live performance, music by Roxy & Co is to be embraced wherever possible: Roxy Mercier soars in either environment over the lush musical soundscapes that the band paint for her.

We're thrilled to have secured time with lead vocalist, Roxy Mercier, to discuss the music and what the future holds.

How did members of the band come together to form Roxy & The Underground Soul Sound?
Roxy: Myself and Ian (Bennett), the bass player/musical director, met through music school. We found a shared passion for the music within our ensemble led by Robbie Crowell who lives and works out of Nashville now. He continues to gives us advice and insight that helps us push ourselves to the next milestone.
The rest of the band all met playing around the city. If we played with someone we thought fit the group and asked them to play. Some members we met when regular players would have to sub out for other commitments.

Who are some of the biggest musical influences in shaping the band's sound?
We pull from all kinds of genres, but mostly old and new R&B, Hip Hop and a lot of local artists like Jessie Brown and Walrus. Halifax has such a wealth of great bands. We're always left being inspired and questioning what we've been doing with our lives (laughs).

How does the creative process of writing and producing music work for the band?
Myself and Ian usually write separately then get together and share our ideas to come up with the final product. The band also adds their own touch. For example, if Ian can't think of something for the horns [then] they come up with it. Sometimes jams happen during soundcheck and a few of those ideas have become songs.

Can you talk a little about your debut album 'Don't You Know?'.
The album is becoming a little dated now, as we evolve. But, it's always been special, in the fact that it was our first album and we had a lot of fun doing it. It was a great learning experience and we were lucky to have our producer, Erin Costelo, and her partner, Clive McNutt, guiding us.

How does the new music you're working on differ from the last record?
We've kept the R&B thing there. But put more of a new inflection on it. Yet, still keeping that old soul. The songs for the album we are working [on] are a few years old so it's more like catching up with ourselves. I would describe the first album as being more Motown driven. This one has a broader mix of soul and funk styles. Still some Motown but with more Southern soul, straight funk and even some disco elements. We've started to change the sound quite a bit in the last few months and are really looking forward to getting album number three started!

You have an excellent video for your track 'Show Me': how was the video to shoot and what made you decide on that song?
The video was actually a lot of fun! Done with one camera and two guys carrying it around between us. The only difficulty was, since we did in the winter, we had to do it fast or else we would've lost our natural light. ‘Show Me’ has always gone over great with audiences so figured, why not do it live off the floor and film it.

You have a host of excellent live videos on YouTube: how do you find your music transfers to a live stage?
We feed off our crowds a lot for energy. It's just that groove that gets you going and you see the real emotion of how the songs connect to us. The biggest difference is live we can stretch things out. Jam out, talk to the crowd or get them involved.

Who would be a dream artist for you to collaborate with?
Oh boy.. I mean.. that's a hard one.. mainly because a lot of them are no longer with us. Like, Amy Winehouse and Sharon Jones.

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