Meet the young, Bristol-based six piece quietly building a following with their unique take on modern jazz, soul and hip-hop.
One of the acts that EL SONIDO: has tipped to make waves in British jazz in 2018 is Bristol’s Feelgood Experiment. Last year, the band celebrated the release their eponymous debut EP and they’ve also performed in live shows organised by the likes of Sofar Sounds and Jazz Plus Productions.
A group of six immensely talented musicians with roots as farflung as London, Oxford and Warrington, the band found each other while studying in Bristol, and they’ve made it their base ever since.
“We all met playing in the Bristol University big band,” drummer James and bass player Ollie explain, “tenor sax player Jahan ‘J-thug’ Meeran got us all together to start playing before he moved to London.”
They started to make their own music out of fun and, in the two years that they’ve been playing together, they’ve quickly established a name for themselves in the UK’s close-knit jazz community. J-thug’s vital role in putting the band together is not lost on them. “There’s a track named after him on the EP,” Ollie tells me.
Indeed there is. A seering, 37-second flurry of sentimentality filled with keys, bass, trumpet and electric guitar, the song goes by the surname of the man who inspired it – ‘Meeran’.
While uni friend and saxophonist J-thug initially encouraged the group to start playing together, who is it that inspires them to make the music that they do today?
Collectively, the band cite jazz greats such as Alice Coltrane and Miles Davis among their major influences. They also single out contemporary acts like Kamasi Washington, Hiatus Kaiyote and Kendrick Lamar, who catapulted modern jazz into the mainstream with 2015’s seminal album ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’.
“We also love everything coming out of London,” James and Ollie are quick to add, before highlighting their appreciation for Ezra Collective, Alfa Mist, Yussef Dayes and “anything with Shabaka [Hutchings] in it.”
Among the UK acts that they mention, Feelgood Experiment have already had the opportunity to support Ezra Collective and Alfa Mist in live shows in Bristol. “We’ve hopefully made some long-term relationships with these musicians,” James goes on to explain. “It’s just super fun to share stages and hang with them.”
The support of fellow emerging artists has long been a hallmark of the UK jazz scene. Today, this approach has grown to inspire genre-bending collaborations between jazz musicians, rappers and electronic producers, and the country has now begun to take notice of the emergence of a new wave of jazz-influenced sounds.
Feelgood Experiment have also been swept up in this, with the BBC throwing their support behind the band. “We have a good relationship with BBC Introducing in Bristol. They’re really attentive to all the music coming out of the city,” James tells me enthusiastically, mentioning that they’ve also been played through BBC Radio 6 Music. “It’s really encouraging to know the BBC are digging what you make!”
So, in a two-year spell which has seen Feelgood Experiment perform live all over the country, supporting some of the leading lights in UK jazz in the process, what has been the highlight?
“To be honest, getting this debut EP out to the world is such a great feeling,” James and Ollie explain. “It’s been a labour of love for a year and it’s great that people can finally hear what we’ve been up to.”
The self-titled EP, released in November 2017, showcases the band’s modern jazz, soul and hip-hop influences over seven varied, irresistibly catchy tracks. It caught the attention of some of the music industry’s leading tastemakers, and the recognition they received has Feelgood Experiment looking forward another hugely successful year.
“We’ve got a load of new musical ideas that we’re working on and we’re excited to start gigging,” they tell me enthusiastically. “We’ve been so blown away by the response to the EP. We’re just excited to get out there and play for some new faces!”