by SashaS


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  More on: The Brand New Heavies

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The Brand New Heavies: 'AllAboutTheFunk'
Surrender to instincts
BNH: babe nouveaux heaven?

Four members of The Brand New Heavies are round the radio station Jazz FM conference room’s oval table that is covered in remains of sandwiches, empty cartons and bottles, as well as a pile of CDs the members are signing for competitions. Silver and gold felt-tips are used [durability value - none!] by, right to left, bassist Andrew ‘Love’ Levy, guitarist Simon Bartholomew, drummer/keysman Jan Hincaid and vocalist Nicole Russo.

Simon is the busiest with his signature that is more like some abstract doodling that encompasses a heart, a Cubist-like face, an ornate ‘S’… It could probably be used as an ink-blot test that would reveal more of the viewer than the drawer… The album they are autographing is ‘AllAboutTheFunk’, released some six months ago, from which ‘Surrender’ has been lifted for a single, released this Monday. It is a luscious portion of funk that is equally ‘old skool’ and as modern as tomorrow, combining the spirit of Sly & his gang of Stoners with the latest technology and ideology. Russo handles vocals with such audacity, power and passion to evoke some vivid imagery in listeners.

Yeah, alike onstage, the new centre of attention for the band is Nicole, a sexy babe who is so girly and coquettish that even when she pronounces “crap”, whilst evaluating the current pop scene, it still manages to smell of black cherries. Vocally she can outdo Alicia Keys and Joss Stone but she has star-appeal and stage presence only Alison Goldfrapp displays these days: sassy, teasy, confident and as alluring as sin… One can’t but wonder how could her solo album have bypassed the mass attention unless it had something to do with being on the now-defunct Telstar label.

But she knows the score well - domestic artists are usually ignored in favour of the imported [read - American] R&B stars; on top of it - the band’s been around for a while which, your honour, is evidence against… ephemeral value.

The Brand New Heavies, the UK’s most celebrated funk band of the last 30 years, against the market demands for unilateral genre-ism, do not only stick to funk-a-rama…

Jan Hincaid: “The album is diverse because it reflects our love for music. And, it is an affair that’s been going on for a long time but passion for it hasn’t diminished. We are professional musicians who love making our funk and soul, mixed with everything else.”

Nicole Russo: “There are different aspects of the band making appearance on the album, there is a ballad, there is a rock track, there is a pop song… You should never restrict yourself by doing one thing only and should always challenge yourself. Not many people do it nowadays, they all are too formulaic… The sense of adventure is missing.”

Hallmark classics

With a back catalogue of classics that number fifteen top 20 singles, The Brand New Heavies story is a couple decades long. Commercially and critically successful worldwide, The Heavies have always forged fresh path, working with a host of new, exciting talent during their colourful history including, Carleen Anderson, N’Dea Davenport, The Pharcyde and Gangstarr.

NR: “The whole market place has been turned into this manufacturing arena where all are moulded out on the same presses. Today’s music is such crap and really bad American artists have hits while… It is very frustrating not to have a hit in own country. Success abroad is fine and we love it, appreciate it but it is damn infuriating to be overlooked in Britain.”

It must be hell to know that you craft an album that is probably the best in your career only to see it go by unnoticed by the masses?

JH: “We have a dedicated army of fans and they are keeping us alive but not in the numbers that the charts register. We know, and hear, what is popular out there but somehow our songs don’t seem to get to the mass public… We can point a finger at the media, radio in particular, that don’t support national talent but the latest hypes… It is hard to be original in the world where everyone can make a record of some kind.”

“I’ll tell you a story,“ Simon Bartholomew puts the pen down for a minute, “about an old bluesman back in the 1920s who was offered to be recorded [for what would later turn out to be known as ‘American Field Recordings’] but he refused because he didn’t want to be copied, to have his style imitated by other people. We’ve travelled a long way [downhill?] in some ninety years.”

Loosening to lust

At the time when industry and consumption are undergoing huge changes - downloading, album-format being eradicated as well as its sequencing and artwork becoming obsolete - are you optimistic about the future?

“Music will prevail,” Hincaid states convincingly, “in whatever form… Albums may appear to be on the way out but they’ll survive and there will always be a market, like there is for vinyl. Things will change further but that is just normal progression.”

“Very soon we’ll all be recording only Ringtones,” Andrew Levy injects. Earlier on we told him he looked like Shaquille O’Neal in some pictures, although half the man-mountain that is the basketball hero’s size, and it obviously made his day.

“The romantic notion of the album is forever lost,” Ms Russo says under her white hat that restrains a blonde-Afro hair-explosion she usually sports onstage. “We used to cherish them but now they are redundant, disposable and such low quality… What you were saying about the eccentrics before, there is Bjork…”

True, but no single artist consists a ‘movement’… And, the past several albums she issued didn’t really do the biz…

“Perhaps, but she is a force and an idol for a lot of fans,” the ray of sun suddenly accentuates the glow on Nicole’s cheeks, “Kate Bush is said to be releasing an album this Spring…

All the talk, all the fighting words and intentions, The Heavies are about entertaining people, dragging them away from the couches of comfort and doing something physical.

“This is an album about four people just having fun making music together,” concludes Nicole emitting a deep-throated, sensuous laugh that may be promising untold fantasies. “We’ve done this completely on our own. And we’ve done it because we believe in it and because we love it.”

The BNH’s members have just returned from a Euro-jaunt and are having a few precious weeks off before getting back on the Festi-trek to spread their funky feelgood vibe to the Summer crowds who will be dancing vertically, laterally and [for the sake of nativity rate] horizontally to these rhythms for all seasons.

The Brand New Heavies' 'Surrender' video link[s]:
only for the Microsoft geeks.

Others should visit the band’s official site -

The Brand New Heavies’ single ‘Surrender’ is released 11 April 2005 on OneTwo Records

The Brand New Heavies’ album ‘AllAboutTheFunk’ is also available on the same label