Anyone who dips in and out of our magazine (and certainly those who have been with us a while) will know that we love to get behind some new talent!
So a band coming through our own backyard and releasing their first EP (well… it’s really an album) was always going to attract some attention from us.
“The Tale of Indigo Riley” (link to download the EP is here) has a story interwoven throughout. An old blues crooner who is tired of his lot in life asks a deity to be sent to a better place, but is tricked, and instead his spirit is sent forward in time to inhabit the body of another musician. Interludes on the record give a glimpse into this story, while the lyrics get progressively darker until the end, when the spirit is set free. This concept ties in with the themes that run throughout the songs on the EP. The record is a contemporary one with soul at its heart, with echoes of the likes of John Mayer, Lianne La Havas and Thundercat throughout.
Listening to the album, it has a smooth Philly Soul sound and is surprisingly mature for a young band. Not only that, but mainman Luis Riley Morrison has put together a killer band, with an accomplished soul groove. It caught me out, I was honestly not expecting the whole package to pull me in as it did. It opens with a lovely acoustic blues number, “Riley’s Lament,” before sliding into those sweet soul moves. There are ten tracks here, and it can really highlight the solid musicianship and vocal power, such as on track 3, “Ultraviolet (official video below).” This track deserves some airplay, and it has a commercial feel that we could see translating really well to the live stage.
So, with all this in mind, we were really pleased to have a pre-Christmas chat with Luis. After a bit of mutual appreciation for BB King and Lead Belly, we asked him to tell us a bit about his band and the route toward this opening concept album.
Luis- I’m a ‘Brummie’ lad (from Birmingham, UK), and for the past ten years or so I have been playing in a variety of bands. I’ve done tribute bands, functions, and festivals with big video screens and empty social clubs! I’ve always been the guy in the background playing a range of instruments, but then lockdown came around, and I was sitting around wondering what to do with myself. I decided that it was about time I tried to get there with my own material to see what happened. So it all started from there. We are now a six piece band, and we play contemporary music, no specific genre in place. But we are heavily influenced by soul and the blues, it is guitar emphasised blues. Most of all, though, it is about writing great music and taking the music out there live. We have played some headline shows in our local area, and the response and energy there have been incredible. Now we are at the point when we release our first EP, so we are gaining strength.
We had to challenge the “EP” bit, as with ten developed tracks and a story running through it, surely this can be defined as an album?
Luis- It is an album in nature, and I guess that was the intent. Everything has been done in house, three of the guys in the band have their own production setup. Always in the back of our minds we may go back to this and redo parts of it, but in the back of our minds we were doing an album. But this is just a start, we have around 30 demos on the cutting room floor at the moment. We enjoy the writing process, and we love to share it with others. This may be out now, but more material may be on the way in the coming months. But we did think of an album, which is why the interludes are on.
We want to give a mention to an office favourite, “Coco Boogie,” a really strong piece.
Luis- I am a huge fan of blues, and a lot of the great artists have their own little boogie, a bit of a shuffle. I’ve had that one sitting in the bank for a while, so when we tried to come up with the interludes, I wanted to pay tribute to some of the artists I love. A lot of the album tracks are far from traditional blues, but I still wanted that flavour. Blues is an important part of my life, and I wanted to share that with you. I think it’s important to keep the traditional side of the blues alive. It doesn’t get as much love as it should.
We think that the blues in Britain have evolved into other territories. Where the blues in the US have remained very traditional, here in the UK, blues artists are spreading their wings and a new style of blues fusion is developing. We spoke to Emma Wilson, Laura Evans, and Catfish, among others, last year, and although all within the blues umbrella, their sounds are very different.
Luis- I’m a huge fan of Eric Bibb. I went to see George Benson, and Eric Bibb was opening. It was just him and a guitar, and he absolutely flawed me with his playing. His songwriting is very personal and he inspired me to try and keep that flavour in the writing…and when it came to placing the blues on the record, we looked to present a coherent story. The Indigo Riley character is the stereotypical blues crooner, and he makes this deal with a voodoo deity. At the end of the record, we tried to be subtle, but the last track is about personalities coming together and separating. The album is really a love letter to that kind of music.
We felt the touch of the Philly Soul tradition when we heard the album. Little things helped with that, the two female vocalists backing up the sound, the six piece feel rather than the traditional 4 piece band. The bigger framework toward a larger musical base seemed to be part of the feel of the band.
Luis- I think soul for me, is the pinnacle of songwriting, as you can convey so much, you have a great deal of space to work in. Generally, it comes naturally in writing, as I like to play with the different chords and key changes, just trying to get a rich palate.
We noted the vocal harmonies that were a feature on some of the tracks.
Luis – Because this all started with me in my bedroom, and it has grown from there. The drummer, Ben Newton, came in and took on producing the record and did a wonderful job. The band has grown, we have the two vocalists in now who will be a part of things in the future, we have a great bass player, David, and have just got Beni who is sharing guitar duties with me. He’s a young lad and a prodigy! I’m happier now with the vibe playing music than I’ve ever been. There is something special when we play, an unspoken energy between us as a band.
“Doc Holliday” was a real favourite of ours at the magazine. We wondered if Luis could tell us a bit about that one. It has a wistful intro before it goes into this harder edged sound. And it’s different vocally as well; for some reason, we thought Guns n’ Roses sounded different on this one.
Luis- As a total aside, I used to do Axl Rose in a G&R tribute for a while! I think that one has some influences. Arctic Monkeys, for example, but not their recent stuff. The album AM was unique at the time, with a bluesy vibe; that was the initial impression. I never set out to say I wanted to write like that, but it just developed. We wanted something a bit heavier on the album, and we tried to set it out so the album got heavier as the album developed. But we also wanted something for the live show that we could rock a bit. But it was fun to write and developed from the riffs. We ended up blasting that last line, just wanting to melt some faces! It might well be my favourite as well.
And that was great! As a last note, we wondered if there was anything outside the EP (available on this link) that Luis wanted to give a mention to?
I would like to say that after a break for the season, my next show is Feb. 26 supporting Man of the World at ‘The Musician’ Leicester.
The band are:
Vocals/Guitar: Luis Riley Morrison
Guitar: Beni Beyer
Bass – David Fokti
Drums – Ben Newton
Vocals – Kayleigh Kennedy
Vocals – Beckie Rose
Track Listing: 1. Riley’s Lament
8. Coco Boogie
9. Doc Holliday
10. Urban Dreams & Suburban Nightmares
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By Benny (the Ball) Benson
Mark C. Chambers.