Ephemerals are a seven-piece soul group, based out of north London. With lead vocals from the engima that is Wolf - born and raised in NYC, before hitting Paris at the age of fourteen, and soon establishing his own band Marvelous. Although only having been performing for the past three years, Wolf has quickly propelled Ephemerals forward. Not that this was a tough task, what with the array of talented folks on board this super-group: Damian on trumpet, Charlotte on sax, James on keys, Hillman on guitar, Rob on bass and Jimi on drums.
"In Brixton, people would be banging crazy tunes out all the time and the clubs were way more grimey. I like that. There’s too much Starbucks and bullshit in Soho these days." – Nic (aka Hillman Mondegreen)
The band recorded their first album at The Cowshed in London, across three days, live to analogue tape. Hannah Curtain (of HW Tastemakers) provided backing vocals, and a string section was provided by the Cordicellas.
Subject matter includes love, social justice, environmental damage and self determination.
Ephemerals were originally signed to Mondegreen Records, Nic's own label, with their ethos of 'free-for-all' downloads, which essentially knocks out any would-be illegal downloading, which can damage both artist and music fan. By making access so darn easy, they hope to gather a larger fan-base and generate revenue in this way, and via relentless touring. Mondegreen gave the band chance to make the switch to Jalapeno when Nic decided to send varous singles out to the label:
"I got hold of Trev from Jalapeno to offer him the single “Life Is Good” and he emailed back asking for the whole album. I hadn’t wanted to be signed to a label so it took a while to consider, but basically he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. (That came out wrong. He’s not mafia or anything! Jalapeno have been ace to us and having been on other labels before I didn’t think it was possible)."
When asked about influences, Nic isn't easily pigeon-holed and replies with an all-encompassing swoop of the imagination:
"We like Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley, Lee Fields… I’d be lying though if I said we weren’t channelling a lot of old shit like Syl Johnson and OV Wright. Have you heard “I Let A Good Girl Go” by Syl or “Straighten It Out” by OV? I also dug into that old school melodrama of Delfonics for “Lovin Guaranteed.” I think most of us grew up listening to WuTang and traced the samples through from there."
Nic's own label, Mondegreen Records is dedicated to supporting hip-hop acts and there will be a live hip-hop album due out sometime next year. Meanwhile, just get your ears around Jimi's drumming technique...
Based in Soho as a band, there's a definite vibe that they've had to adjust to and demarcate themselves from, in terms of being as authentic as they can be:
"You can’t go and get bread in the morning in your dressing gown. Partly I think that’s a bit shit but I sometimes like having to be on my game all the time."
But groceries aside:
"London is something that is referenced explicitly on the record. You get a lot of people on the UK soul scene pretending to be American (and also pretending to be from the 70’s) and I wanted to be very clear about this from the start. London has the best music easily, and the best labels."
As a songwriter based in London, Nic has found it to be full of inspiration:
"Life Is Good" was a song I sort of wrote to myself. I wrote it when I was living on a canal boat in Kings Cross. You can carve out a crazy life in London and pretty much cherry pick all the things that are best for you. I wanted to remind myself of this."
And when asked if they would invite any guest vocalists to complement the fine vocals of frontman, Wolf, Nic replied:
"Adele, for the money."
Not one to hold back, then... Yet, justified:
"But in all seriousness I write tunes sometimes that would be perfect for her so that’s a bit annoying that they’ll never get used."
And there's substance to this claim:
"Check out the piano version of my song “Work It Out” that I wrote for Hannah Williams. Pure Adele. I reworked it for piano for that Songs From The Shed session."
But apart from Adele:
"There’s an amazing singer I know in Australia called Sar Simone, I’ve been talking to her about a collab for a while. My new Jalapeno label mate Alexia Coley is a great singer. She’s got my phone number. One of the guys in our band is friends with Corinne Bailey Rae so maybe it will happen one day. She's cool."
The artwork for their record came about freakishly by accident. Whilst gigging in France, they chanced by a photographer, who subsequently became their obsession from afar. Coveting her 'horses' photograph, they emailed her:
"She was really nice about it. It’s her daughter in the photo so it’s kind of special for her too I guess. It’s one of the best images I’ve ever seen. I can’t believe we got it before someone else."
The recording for their new album took place across three sweaty days in north London, last summer:
"We learned and recorded nine songs in three days. No fixes, no overdubs. 10am-7pm. That’s how talented the guys are. That’s serious."
The Cowshed recording studio also narrowly missed its ill-fated demise as a foundation for a new block of flats to be built upon its remains. Thankfully, this did not transpire.
And the thing about Ephemerals, is that these people just work together, genuinely:
"Well I made a point of hiring the nicest people I knew. I think, to make a record like that in the time we did, you not only need heaps of talent, which they have, you also need character, a can do attitude. Ephemerals are positive, instinctive and lovely people. Ultimately, when you’re playing, the people who are standing next to you on the stage or in the studio are your inspiration."
So there is definitely a sensitive side to this seven-piece from Soho. With lyrics grappling with social injustice and real issues at the forefront of contemporary society, Ephemerals are using their music as a political carriage:
“Call It What You Want” is not about climate change, it’s about the climate change debate, and “Things” deals with tonnes of things like school killings, which is very topical in England this week, sadly."
But they're still optimistic for the future, as they ought to be:
"There’s a lot of love in there and I wrote "Life Is Good" deliberately as the album closer, to remind myself that when you turn on the news you see all these problems, but if you walk down the street and speak to people, we all want pretty much the same thing."
Ephemerals will be at Eat Drink Bristol Fashion on May 11th. Their forthcoming record is to be released on June 23rd. But you can buy a copy of their limited edition vinyl (available through the Beat Delete website) at their upcoming shows this month.
Future shows include:
London 229 Club -- May 8
Mount Pleasant Eco Park (Cornwall) -- May 9
Cardiff Gwdihw Cafe -- May 10
Bristol Eat Drink Fashion -- May 11
Head over to eatdrinkbristolfashion.co.uk to find out more.