Interview: Jack Foley
AS THE Brand New Heavies prepare to release their latest album,
Allaboutthefunk, IndieLondon's Jack Foley caught up with the band
to find out about their past, present and future...
Q. Looking back on the days when you started in a bedroom
just out of a love of playing music, did you ever imagine you
would enjoy the success you have today - with 15 UK hits
and over 2million albums sold?
Simon: No we did it for the love of music to
start – right at the start, it was just a hobby. Sunday
afternoons – a bit of escapism..
Jan: We were just doing it and weren’t
really thinking about what it was for – but it soon became
apparent it wasn’t just going to be a hobby as we quickly
went from playing in our bedrooms to playing in small clubs.
We started during the Rare Groove scene, but didn’t get
signed until quite late on. We did our first gig at Cat In The
Hat – it’s where much of the scene started, there
and Black Market at the Wag.
They were good days.
Q. What was the biggest motivating factor during your
Jan: Just enjoying ourselves, just doing what
we loved, it’s a great motivator, having fun!
Q. You have a strong reputation for being musical pioneers.
How difficult is it to keep making music this way, especially
in terms of keeping it in the charts and at the forefront of the
Jan: I think we are conscious now of not really being
pioneers as we have a 'sound', but we’re also very aware
that we shouldn’t be making the same record over and over
again, trying to develop the sound naturally and organically.
We’re very conscious of cutting edge production and trying
to keep the sound fresh.
Simon: The sound is part of the band’s
Jan: With Nicole joining the band, she’s
brought her own sound and writing on board; it’s put a completely
new twist on it all. It’s very important to keep it all
sounding fresh and being conscious of what’s going on around
you in music.
Nicole: That’s really important. You can’t
help to soak up influences from what else is out there as long
as you are listening. It’s like osmosis.
Q. How did you feel, initially, when your ten-year deal
with London Records came to an end? And how, if at all, has that
viewpoint changed in light of the new album?
Simon: Yes!!! For me personally it was a great sense
of freedom. Progressively it was becoming more and more A&R
influenced. Because we weren’t some sort of putty they could
mould, they couldn’t really see what we were any more.
A lot of record companies can’t handle a band unless they
are selling billions of records to teenagers.
Andrew: And we got paid off quite a large amount
of money to go – which helped!
Jan: It was like a comfortable marriage, where
you still like each other and like having them around, but your
not having sex anymore. Then there’s the girl in the shop
round the corner who you keep popping out to get a glimpse of,
but you're still married.
When you are signed to a major, you’ve got about 10 to 12
people working on your record, and maybe only three of them are
They get a lot of stuff on their desk and you know people aren’t
really rooting for you.
The difference here (Hed Kandi) is everyone loves the record and
makes an extra effort and you feel like you are making decisions
that matter to people.
Nicole: At the majors, it’s all so corporate,
just about number crunching.
Our management are much more involved here as well, which is good.
Q. Tell us about the new
album, Allaboutthefunk? What inspired it?
Andrew: The inspiration was money!
Nicole: I was a new addition to the band, so
a lot of it was about learning about each other and finding out
what we had in common and what differences we had; it was all
really inspiring. It really helped the creativity flow, the learning,
drama and emotions for all of us.
Jan: There was also frustration from all sides
in this record. What we’d been through as a band and Nicole
as well, you do bounce back from that, but it leaves a lot of
energy to draw on.
Nicole: It was like that for me as well, I felt
like I wanted to have a poke at the music industry – you
know Telstar dropped me and signed The Cheeky Girls and Victoria
Beckham and it was, “Right! – is that the way it going
Simon: But you know – through all of this,
we’ve been making music since school, we don’t need
specific inspiration it’s what we do, it’s our life.
Jan: Music itself is our inspirartion - it’s
become our language – it’s the way we communicate
to each other. Some people can communicate outside what they do,
and others are less good at communicating in the real world, so
this is the way we actually communicate to people on the whole.
It’s not necessarily words or feelings, it’s just
what we are, and we put that forward and hope people like it.
Q. What are your favourite tracks?
Simon: Waste My Time
Andrew: How We Do This, it’s the
best track on the album for me at the moment.
Q. Current single, Boogie, is a dancefloor
filler coated in funk. Yet it contains a serious message. What
inspired this? Personal experience? If so, can you elaborate?
Nicole: It wasn’t really personal experience as
such, although I had just come out of a relationship, but I really
wanted to write a song about dancing, and it just felt like a
hit, the word 'Boogie' fitted in perfectly. It’s a simple
message that all people can understand!
Andrew: And not being pestered by someone who
wants to shag you! …gay or straight!
Jan: Like I may be wearing next to nothing and
shaking my bits around but don’t bother me!
Andrew: ..not for an hour anyway!
Q. How does it feel to be working with someone like Nicole
Jan: Nicole has added loads to the band. She
wrote most of the tracks on the album. Everyone who’s worked
with us has added something, but having Nicole on board is something
that’s really gee’d us up – it’s a very
cool combination of things that are working here. I think everyone
who’s seen us play live can see how much it’s working.
Andrew: We’re all very in touch with each
other. Everyone who has worked with us has to collaborate, it’s
much more fun that way. We all learn from each other – I’ve
learned lots of things from Nicole and I’d like to think
she has from us.
Jan: There’s always more to learn with
music, it’s like language, it’s always changing, I
learn something new every day.
Q. And Nicole: What did you get from working with someone
like James Poyser? How did it feel when Telstar went under? And
who was it that suggested you should meet with the BNH?
Nicole: Working with James was awesome. He’s this
massively conscious person who’s so talented but so humble.
But I also have some big regrets about that time as I had some
bad people around me who were very controlling.
When I went, they prep'd me and they said don’t have any
ideas, don’t try and impose any demands on him, just do
what he says.
I was told quite clearly thatiI would be dropped unless I went
there and just did what I was told.
After three years of being battered by the people around me, I
just said, 'ok, no prolem, I’ll just be a good little girl',
which is very unlike me; I was just dramatically happy to be working
with him it was a dream.
He arrived a day late from working on Erykha Badu’s album
and he came in and sat down and the first thing he said to me
was, have you got any ideas'?
I looked at my management and thought, 'you arseholes'!
It was a brilliant experience, though, I had five days with him
and learned so much.
I also had a phone call when I was out there saying, 'if I didn’t
write a hit song on the next four days I’d be dropped' –
which kinda leads to the next question!
When Telstar went down, I was sad for a lot of the people who
I knew in that company, who got a really bad deal when things
fell apart and really lost out.
Mystique worked so hard and it was a really poor show; I really
felt for them.
There were also a lot of good people who worked on my stuff who
were really really nice people.
I know bad stuff can happen in business, but I still felt for
a lot of people. There were a few people who didn’t help
the situation there, but I still stay in touch with quite a few
of the people there.
Just before I left Telstar I was talking to a guy called Jeremy
Marsh, the MD at Telstar, and he said I should meet Colin, the
Heavies manager for the last 10 years.
So I did and we got chatting and it was like, 'why don’t
you meet up with Jan'? So I did and we got on great and it all
just kind of came from that.
There wasn’t a big plan or anything. We did a couplpe of
tracks and it felt right for us all.
Q. Will you be touring with Nicole and the new album
and, if so, what are the dates? And which places are you most
looking forward to returning to?
Jan: Yes we’re playing in London and Manchester.
Andrew: Also Southport Soul Weekender and Moscow!
We’re really looking forwards to going back to the States.
Simon: Europe’s great as well, but I’d
really like to get out to the old Estern block - Croatia, Lithuania,
places where people are really welcoming.
Nicole: I can’t wait to go to New York,
I’d just love to play in New York..