After an acclaimed debut album, “Gist Is”, Laurence Morgan chatted to Leeds band Adult Jazz about touring, creativity and their onstage plastic hand.
How did the decision to write such experimental – yet catchy – music come about? Has your music evolved to a large extent in the few years you’ve been writing?
It was a response to a shared impulse I guess, we like both hooky and more experimental things. There can sometimes be something a bit more exciting, or powerful about uncommon ideas when they are embedded in more familiar ones. Though it is so important that some people can make stuff that is totally other, and just plough on. But even that otherness is the result of a new synthesis or contextualisation – this hooky synthesis one is the one we like (currently).
Yes, it has (evolved). Recording over a long time had a big effect on assembling these songs, they have been stretched in lots of directions.
To open your debut album with such a slow moving, slowly evolving song as “Hum” was an extremely bold move (although I still think it’s my favourite track on the album). Was this a kind of introduction to your soundworld?
It felt like a hymn that summed up the record’s content, and it was gentle, which the speaker/singer in Hum certainly is.
“I think we show our human sides by making mistakes galore.”
You use quite a few orchestral instruments on the album, most prominently the trombone. Do you feel that a standard band setup is too limited, or is it more the case that you just want to experiment?
We just used the instruments that we can play (or…. get one note out of it and pitchshift for the violin and cello!). You respond to the sounds that you need I guess, so people’s ‘jobs’ in the band are quite flexible. Limitations can be really creatively useful though, it’s fun to apply arbitrary rules at the start of a song as a catalyst. You usually give in and add the snare or whatever though in the end.
How does it feel to have your own headline tour? Are you feeling any more pressure now?
It’s exciting, and yes!
With such a precise and variable album, was it important to you to recreate the exact sound of your songs for a live environment?
Important but impossible. You have to trade some precision for vibes.
You’ve been on a whistle stop tour of Europe in the past couple of weeks. How have you found playing abroad, how has your music been received by foreign audiences so far?
Yeah, people have been really positive – and we hadn’t been before to any of those cities, so people were up for it. Sometimes people don’t know what to do though, as they kind of flit between grooves, so it can be hard to physically gauge an audiences response.
You’ve been dealt a few comparisons with Alt J, from your Leeds origin to your adventurous indie style. Does the success of Alt J serve as any kind of influence to you? Do you know them?
Don’t know them, no. They didn’t really figure in any sense to be honest. I think the comparison works on paper more than anything to do with our respective sensibilities.
You have a few interesting props onstage, perhaps to show your human side. What’s the story of the fake hand, and have you recovered it yet since it went missing in Brighton?
We got it back! We bought it for 20p when Woolworth’s went into liquidation. It is the hand of god. It tells me which mic to sing in. It is plastic, no human side. I think we show our human sides by making mistakes galore.
Your album somehow switches constantly in terms of style, yet is still listened to and evaluated very seriously. Is your live tour more of an excuse to jump about and have some fun?
We are usually far too busy to jump and far too nervous to have fun.
If and when a new album is released, will there be a more focused, consistent sound to Adult Jazz, or will you continue to experiment?
We aim not to sleeken out, to still stay silly forever.