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The Brand New Brand New Heavies

Author: Jonty Skrufff
Monday, April 25, 2005
Forming in the late 80s, via London's rare groove scene, funk soul brothers The Brand New Heavies have enjoyed an illustrious career via worldwide hits like Midnight At The Oasis and "Never Stop' and a relentless touring schedule that's seem them headline many of the world's top events. 20 plus years on, they remain productive, recently releasing brand new single Surrender, featuring brand new vocalist Nicole Levy. They're also unusually enthusiastic, admitting they feel like they're entering a new chapter for the band.

"We all like the music and we all like what we're doing and as long as that continues then things will be cool," says band drummer Jan Kincaid.

Also chatting to Skrufff simultaneously are fellow founder members Simon Bartholomew (guitars) and Andy Levy (bass) as well as Nicole via a telephone conference call (they're speaking from a studio at London's Jazz FM).

Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Starting with you Nicole, the band have had a whole series of singers before, including Carleen Anderson and N'Dea Davenport, how did you end up becoming the new singer-

Brand New Heavies: (Nicole): "It was actually quite simple, I met the guys through their management, at the time I was signed to a record company that Craig David was on, who put me in touch with his management, who in turn hooked me up with these guys for writing. We started writing together then before we knew it we were making an album. That was about two years ago."

Skrufff: How long were you, the group, seeking a new singer-

Simon: "Not long either, we had an album out in Japan with a variety of American singers on it and we needed a singer to play the record live with us on tour. Somebody mentioned Nicole to me, I heard some of her stuff and I invited her into the studio to meet the band. We'd just been offered some gigs in the Far East, we asked Nicole if she'd like to do them, which she did. From then we started collaborating together and it was all quite an organic process. Organic is a word we like to use a lot."

Skrufff: You guys have been around since the late 80s, how do you view today's musical landscape with the likes of Simon Cowell talent shows and R&B lite everywhere-

Simon: "We tried to get Simon Cowell in the group but he was just a little too old (joking). The business is constantly changing and you always need to concentrate on what you're doing yourself. It's a combination of being aware enough and also blinkered enough at the same time because if you freak yourself out too much with what's going on in the business you draw yourself away from the music. We work within the industry but also within the band as a unit and we have our own goals, which don't change. You press on regardless. Being aware of what you want to achieve is really important."

Andrew: In some ways we still live in a world of funky, acidy jazz which exists and will always be around. If you look at the commercial music of the 60s and 60s the commercial music of today is much cooler too. If R&B is now the biggest selling stuff like the Bay City Rollers was in the 70s, then J Lo is effectively the new Bay City Rollers in some ways. And J Lo is quite good quality too."

Yan: "I prefer the Bay City Rollers personally. Shang A Lang was a classic."

Andrew: "They were huge, they sold 100 million records."

Simon: "The interesting thing about music now is how easy it is to make it, how accessible it is. A lot of these changes are for the better, the less control record companies have compared to the artists is a good thing."

Skrufff: I visualise you making the record in some massive studio with a huge mixing desk, is that right-

Simon: "Not at all, we specialise in small studios without windows."

Skrufff: I was thinking you'd be Earth, Wind & Fire style, with about 20 musicians playing in a circle . . .

Simon: "We have done that. We do whatever we have to do to get the result and in the past we have<