Introducing: Theo Black & The Deep Seas
The Sunday Joint has rekindled its links with one of the UK’s biggest and best conservatoires, Leeds College of Music, showcasing its most promising artists and bands every Sunday alongside our headliners.
Theo Black & The Deep Seas are next up in the series. We spoke to the LCoM group to get find out more ahead of their support slot for Skint on Sunday 10th February ’19.
How did the band come together?
I had a load of music I had written over my late teenage years that I was desperate to perform to actual human beings rather than my bedroom wall, so over the first term of our first year I was just quietly looking around, trying to find the right people for it. Musicians who would inspired me and be interested in exploring new ideas. I met Glen first in quite awkward circumstances as I kept on mixing up his name with another friend of ours. It broke the ice I guess. I very quickly realised though that he was an absolute keys wizard. Then I met George. I think though before we’d even spoken, somebody played me a trippy remix he’d done of a Notorious B.I.G. track. Instantly I was intrigued and wanted to get to know him. I first saw Charlie play (with George on bass in the band as well) at one of the lunchtime jazz concerts at LCoM. The second tune they played had this crazy irregular time signature which Charlie then had a drum solo in. I was totally blown away and knew that I wanted to jam with him. By the start of the second term I had managed to persuade all the boys to have a go at playing my music with me, so we just started getting into the practice room together and then that was it. We all have different ideas of what we want to get out of music and for me, that perfect as the band mentality isn’t close-minded.
How would you describe your sound?
We get asked this a lot and its quite hard to answer. I have set on the genre of ‘progressive space jazz-folk’. Glen thinks we’re quite avant-garde. Its kinda like singer-songwriter meets crazy prog improvisation. We don’t want to box ourselves in too much though really. Surprising people is way too much fun to do that.
Did you have a clear vision of what you wanted to achieve when starting out? How have things developed over time?
Before starting the band I think I was imagining something a bit more singer-songwriter-esque. But as soon as we started playing playing together, it became quickly apparent that we enjoyed jamming way too much to not incorporate the spontaneous mentality of jazz and improvisation into our sound. It has become something so much bigger than I ever could’ve thought and every individual brings something could never have conjured alone. George brings the funk and functionality (ha funktionality) in his bass playing. He also is the production brain in the band. We filmed a live session in his basement back in November which mixed and produced all himself. It’s on YouTube if you want to check it out. Its very DIY. Charlie is the rock in the band; holds everything together like glue with his drum grooves. He is always there to catch us if we ever mess up. Glen brings the emotion in a way that many can’t. He also can get really dark, weird and shred some of the tastiest licks you’ll hear played on a keyboard in Leeds.
How has being in Leeds benefitted you as a band? What do you like to do in the city, other than play in your band?
Leeds has benefited massively. There are so some many opportunities to perform and meet other amazing musicians in the scene if you are proactive. I feel everything is very accessible if you want it. We all have lots of other projects going on as well besides this one. Glen and Charlie have a great free improv duo called We Two. They also play in an amazing live hip-hop band called Project Hilts, definitely check them out. Me and George do lots of recording together of more electronic stuff as well. We love to experiment with different recording ideas and make each other laugh so the music definitely reflects that. In the next couple months we should have some stuff coming out along with some silly videos involving a dolphin mask which we’re very excited about. Of course I love going to gigs as well. Tight Lines always have lots of great things going on. If I didn’t go to gigs I wouldn’t know half as many people as I do in the Leeds music scene. I also love making food with my housemates. Eating good, healthy food is very important to me.
You are all students at LCoM. What courses are you on? Have you enjoyed studying there? What are the most significant things you have learned?
I’m on jazz composition and then Glen and Charlie are on the jazz performance course. George though is on production with jazz (hence his production chops). We all love it at LCoM. Jazz is really hard which is a great challenge to undertake. I think one of the most important things I have learnt is that to be heard in the busy music industry, you needs to have your own authentic musical identity. Thats certainly something we all strive for with the band and as individuals.
From where does your band take inspiration, both musically or otherwise?
Such mix of things. Radiohead, John Martyn, Pink Floyd and Jeff Buckley are quite a big ones in terms of the band’s sound. Also a lot of both old and new jazz like Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, Phronesis and Joe Armon-Jones (he is somebody that is one of my favourite musicians alive right now). I have also recently been getting very obsessed with shopping for obscure and groovy world music records. I’m loving Khruangbin at the moment and they are all really into that stuff. Picked up an awesome album by Segun Adewale the other day. He was a pioneer of a genre called Yo-pop in Nigeria in the 80s. Within the band dynamic though, we all inspire each other. Both as musicians and as people. Chemistry is one of the best stimulants for music.
What’s the best live music performance you have ever seen?
So many things. Its hard to decide, but I saw Nubya Garcia over the summer at Love Supreme Festival and that was unbelievable. The way her and her band played together with such fluidity and finesse was astounding. My jaw was on the floor from start to finish. Also, Joe Armon-Jones was on keys so need I say more?
Since you are playing at Sunday Joint…what would your perfect Sunday consist of?
Getting up at like 10 or 11 and having a slow morning. Ideally including pancakes, coffee and some lazy Sunday music like Joni Mitchell or Andy Shauf. Radio 3 is often on in the kitchen on Sundays as well. From there, I’d probably play some guitar. Depending on whats to come in the week ahead do practicing or composing. In the evening though, if there’s a good band on at Hi-Fi for Sunday Joint I’d probably head down to that; and if I’m going to Hi-Fi, I’ll probably be getting my boogie on as well.