Soapy Jefferson – Debut Album “Balloon”

12 Dec

Soapy Jefferson- Balloon- Album coverIt’s hard to start writing something when the opening and title track ‘Balloon’ of Soapy Jefferson’s debut album makes me want to lay down and drift away in to unconsciousness and forget about actually doing anything I’m suppose to. Especially when it’s been on repeat 5 times now. It’s a good job then that the next song, a re-work of a previous release ‘The Fury-Belle’ (a epic tale of a wayward love) is an absolute belter and stirs up a healthy anticipation of what’s to come… and I am not disappointed!

Soapy Jefferson are an alternative blues folk band from South London. Drawing comparisons to some of the most distinctive musical figures of the past century, which are evidently clear at times when listening to ‘Balloon’, in particular they have cited Leadbelly, Tom Waits, Sparklehorse, Arcade Fire and Nick Cave as being influential to their sound today.

Fronted by the strikingly distinctive voice of Josh Mills and supported by a band of instinctive, sympathetic musicians, Soapy Jefferson have created a unique sound that is familiar yet difficult to define.

One of the things that I like most about this album is that no two songs are alike narratively or instrumentally, giving the listener something new to digest every few minutes, also, the lyrics, the vocal delivery and the instrumentation compliment as well as endorse one another really well. The passion in which the story is narrated in ‘The Fury-Belle’ goes hand in hand with the howling harmonica and the pounding tom, enter the cello which weeps with pity before the fury of the subject is set alight and erupts.

I would compare the composition and production of each song on the album to looking at a chest of treasure, every piece is a unique and well crafted gem. The rich multitude of well placed instrumentation and subtly delightful sound-scapes, combined with Josh’s beautifully understated voice and at times, laid back delivery makes for a very inspiring and uplifting listen indeed.

You can listen to ‘Balloon’ and ‘Resurrection’ on preview until the album is released on the 17th of December next Monday. Check out Soapy Jefferson’s  Bandcamp page where can find full credits and more information about ‘Balloon’ and Soapy Jefferson but more importantly where you can pre-order the debut album.

INTERVIEW…


–        Firstly would you like to introduce yourselves – who are you and what do you contribute to the band?

Josh: I sing, play guitar and write most of the songs.
Jim: I play bass and sing a bit of backing vocals. I also co-produced the album with good friend Shelley Uprichard.
Joe: I play guitar and sometimes a few other things… I played some harmonica and piano on the album.

–       When and how did Soapy Jefferson Form?

Josh: Well, me and Joe have been friends since we were 5 and have played guitar together on and off since we were about 10. When I returned to Croydon in 2009 with some songs I had written at Uni, the obvious thing to do was to start a band with Joe. We were joined by a couple of his friends (including x-member James Mallett) pretty much immediately and then met Jim via a gumtree ad. We’ve gone through a few line up changes since then… we’re constantly forming and reforming even if the members stay the same for a while. I think you can hear that in the album, there are a lot of different elements and styles involved but we’re careful to make sure there are constant strands holding it all together. For me it’s got to be that way… it keeps things interesting and versatility is one of the things that distinguishes us.

–       I understand that being a working musician goal posts always move once you’ve achieved something, but ultimately What are you working towards achieving musically?

Josh: Our standards are always rising and ultimately I want us to be a world class band and to write a genuinely great album.

–       How do you all balance your music with other commitments? 

Jim: I work part-time as a lecturer in sound recording as well as playing in another couple of (very different) bands. Juggling it all can be a bit stressful but I feel very fortunate to spend most of my time involved with music in some capacity.
Josh: I work full-time at a charity… I spend as much of my free time as possible working on music or writing scripts.

–       What does roots music mean to you?

Joe: roots music is music played directly from your balls.
Josh: I can’t really add anything to that.
Jim: Yeah, I’ll go with that.

–       Can you tell us about the influences behind your sound?

Jim: I think the sound of the band is really a combination of all our unique personalities and playing styles. Personally I’ve always been influenced by anything bluesy and gritty, anything that sounds like it’s got some life in it. I’m a big fan of older music – I love The Band, Dr John, The Stones. Me and Joe are huge fans of The Coral too, that’s an influence I’d like to get more involved in the future. And Tom Waits is the man.
Joe: For me, peter green, marc ribot, django reinhardt, george harrison. Err music im listening to at the moment if that counts as influences are serge gainsbourg, moondog, john coltrane, richard hawley, tony allen. i could go on…
Josh: I grew up listening to grunge- Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains but I also listened to delta blues musicians like Blind Willie Johnson and jazz musicians like Charlie Parker, Miles Davis from my early teens. I listened to a hell of a lot of John Martyn. Sparklehorse is a big influence too.

–       The production and the array of instruments is really impressive, How does this translate when you play live?

Josh– Yeah, Shell (Shelley Uprichard) and Jim did a lot of work on this album and recorded a hell of a lot of instruments and people. When we were recording this album we were a 5-piece with 2 members functioning as multi-instrumentalists so we would switch around a lot on stage. There would often be 10+ instruments featured in a 6 song set at a gig and we would sometimes take a hammond organ to use in one song. We were the bane of sound-men everywhere.
The live set up’s simpler now. If we decide we’ve lost something we might add a 5th member but a lot can be said for keeping things simple. It’s also become more common to include strings and generally not-traditional band instruments in bands recently so I’m not sure what we’d introduce. When we first started people would always mention the Cello, by the end of last year it wasn’t that out of the ordinary.

–       Would you like to tell us about any new bands/musicians that you think people should know about?

Jim: I’d recommend a band called Like Spinning, the singer Kari is originally from Oslo but based in London now. They’ve got a kind of folky, rocky thing going, a bit like Midlake at times. I’m going to be very self-involved and suggest another one the bands I play in too – Sashi & the Wild Beans. They’re great.
Joe: I like that guy Ivor Game.
Josh: I can’t even remember the last time I listened to music… when I do I haven’t been listening to new people really. The Morphine album ‘The Night’ is probably what I’ve been listening to the most.

–       Do you have any gigs/events/Tours coming up?

The album is released on December 17th. We wont be gigging until February at the earliest.
So There we have it… Soapy Jefferson are a band who have always surprised me, whether it is seeing them play live or listening to new material, They are a dedicated and hard working band and I for one am always excited to hear what they will be up to next… Go Buy there amazing Debut album ‘Balloon’, go see them live, buy them a beer and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
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