This nine piece are taking the Leeds and London scenes by storm. Their conceptual fusion of afrobeat, hip hop, funk and soul is catching the eyes and ears of all gig goers that love to boogie. I caught up with one of Necktr’s guitarists, Seb, and chatted about the interesting life of being in a band with nine people and his opinion on the current music scene in Leeds.
So, Seb, being in such a large band, do the members fluctuate at all?
No its always the same 9 of us, but we have done some gigs where there are 12 of us. Our usual set up is vocals, keys, trumpet, trombone, two guitars, drums, percussion and bass but sometimes we have added tenor sax, baritone sax and DJ Nik Nak doing some scratching.
Was it a nine piece from day one?
When we first started it was a 6 piece. We all met at Leeds College of Music, where some of us studied jazz, some studied popular music and some production. We actually came together as a timetabled project we had to do once a week for an hour and a half. At that time we had a different drummer and a different bassist; they dropped out of college all together, so we replaced them and when it got to the end of first year when we were like, ‘this is actually pretty fun, we are enjoying making what we want to make and we are all on the same page,’ so we basically just carried on.
How was starting a band like that received in Leeds?
We started at a time when that sort of music was getting a breath of fresh air in Leeds. The Tight Lines guys started kicking off a bit and we started getting some gigs off the back of them. Bands like Tête de Pois and Mamilah started as well. All of a sudden loads of bands started at the same time and all had an interest in fusing hip hop with african beats, funk and soul. So all of these bands are just varying degrees of those elements.
Where would you say you lie within those influences?
We liked a lot of West African grooves, Zimbabwe rhythms, and we are big into hip hop, such as MF Doom and J Dilla. Our keys player raps as well so he jumps in on some stuff. We’ve also been into more cinematic kinds of sounds as well, like broad, expansive and really floaty sounds. That’s what we tried to push on the EP we just finished. That’s what is really interesting about playing with 9 people; we are all from different backgrounds, some really into hip hop, some into funk or, one of the drummers, Tim Cook, is mad into african music, which is where that came from.
How does writing go in such a large group?
It varies. It used to be everyone bringing ideas, maybe starting with things from they keys, or myself, or even just a drum groove. From there we would all get the ball rolling, all get in there arranging it all. Which is fun, but quite stressful sometimes with 9 personalities. It’s a good job we are all mostly on the same page, so it never gets too out of hand. Sometimes it would take a while to get a song fully finished, because we would be writing it, whilst also arranging all the parts. We’d try and get a structure down but also lay it out between 9 different instruments all at the same time.
We are now about to undergo a new way of writing, which I feel is going to be a little bit more cut down to maybe myself, the horns and the keys, doing a lot of writing, then chuck it out to people and see what they think. It’s an interesting process, and it’s the first time I’ve had any experience writing with more than 4 or 5 people. The trick is to keep it democratic and open. It often happens where one person is like ‘we should play that part like this’ and someone else is like ‘no its should go like this’ and then usually we are like ‘fuck it, lets have both!’. More is more, which is how I see it.
What direction do you see Necktr moving towards?
When we formed we always said it would be like great to get on a label like Wormfood Records, because they’re tied with such a great scene in London. We thought it would be great to stay up here and do our thing but also have a hand in that pie as well. It seemed like a far off idea, but then we actually played with Afriquoi and the owner of Wormfood was there. We got chatting and stayed in contact. After that it slowly turned into more of a concrete deal and now we have an EP coming out through them. The EP is coming out on November 23rd and we have some singles coming out before then.
But to be honest, I don’t really know. I really enjoy travelling around playing music and I want to keep on doing that. We are all really good friends, so when we go out and do things it feels really special, so just keep on doing that. We had a taste of festivals this summer and it would be great to get on more next year. Maybe it’s way off, but it would also be cool to check out Europe. But for now, just keep touring and keep writing.
Speaking of touring, how does that go with nine people?
Its erm... interesting. We still haven’t got the vehicle situation sorted out. We are trying to raise funds to get a van, so it’s usually split up between a car and a six seater. It goes well, Necktr is a funny one because we are all really tight mates, and some of us are quite rowdy and like to party quite a bit, and some of us not so much. We never rub each other up the wrong tree or anything like that, but there will be nights where the naughty people run off and the others just chill out. It is really fun and positive; its a big adventure. With a large group, it feels like more of a support network, more of a team effort. Big family vibes.
Is there anything in Leeds your really excited about?
Tall Talker, who are in a different sort of scene to us, I suppose, but they’re opening for us at our EP launch. They’re really exciting because I’ve not seen a lot of good math like Tall Talker in Leeds and they also have an EP coming out. They’re honestly the only math band I can think of in Leeds; they’re so good.
There is also a band called Long Legged Creatures supporting us, they’re fucking sick. They’re a quartet but they play really dark music. The bassist, Beth, gets sounds from a bass that I have never heard anyone get from a bass before, like really big subs.
There’s also Jasmine Whalley, from Tête de Pois. She has a project just called Jasmine and she’s just been signed up on the ‘Jazz North’ scene, which is sick. She is definitely going places and she really deserves it; she was in my year at college and a really hard worker. There is so much shit going on, we are spoilt for choice.
To finish up, is there anything you would like to say to music fans in Leeds?
I’d just encourage people to go to gigs. To go out and see what’s happening. Hyde Park Book Club is having a bit of a resurgence at the moment and there is a lot of sick stuff going on there.
I’d encourage people, if they really enjoy live music and if they're coming to Leeds for the first time, to have a look at what is going on off the beaten track a bit more. It’s very easy to just pay attention to the gigs that are more obviously advertised, but check out the more DIY level because that’s where the new shit is coming from in Leeds. That’s where the bigger third parties, with more money for advertising, pluck their shit from. So check out Book Club, Chunk, Temple of Boom, Wharf Chambers, and check out the free spaces like Assembly House. Pay attention to what’s going on underground.
Interview by Tom Nixon