9th February, 2012
Testify!: LF Meets The Baker Brothers
Written by Imran Mirza
For soul music fans, we seem to be within the midst of a glorious renaissance where new soul and funk bands are far from a rarity with new names springing up at every turn, and although it gives Liberation Frequency tremendous pride to be a place to feature brand new acts like Gizelle Smith & The Mighty Mocambos and The Liberators, it’s also massively encouraging and exciting that we’re able to meet an excellent UK band who are on their … get ready … SEVENTH album.
With a career spanning ten years, it’s an incredible feat that Bournemouth’s Baker Brothers have been bubbling away all this time with a loyal following in tow.
‘Time to Testify’ is a worthy – for lack of a better term – testament(!) to the years these soul veterans have put in and the record oozes of their professionalism and sheer skill. More than anything, this record portrays The Baker Brothers as a band with a clear identity and a unique take on the genre, completely devoid of the tiny foibles, although not pitfalls, that some funk bands can fall into. We have a lead singer (Christopher Pedley) who’s unique and confident enough to steer clear of the James Brown-esque parodies or vocal techniques he’s famed for, the music isn’t drowning in heavy and over-used horns and pounding through at 100mph – all the elements are masterfully pulled together here resulting in more groove-led music, and we’re presented with a wonderfully accessible record that would cement the affections of a casual fan and certainly that of a die-hard one as well.
‘Time to Testify’ feels like how a new record should. Songs like ‘The Bottom Rung’, ‘Patience’, ‘Snap Back’ and ‘Once I Had A Friend’ all capture its freshness, it’s vibrancy and inevitable heavy replay value. Should this be someone’s first Baker Brothers release, I can’t imagine them hearing this and not wanting to immerse themselves in the band’s back catalogue as well.
It’s a huge coup for Liberation Frequency that Christopher Pedley (bass player, producer and vocalist for the band) took the time out to chat with us about the new record...
LIBERATION FREQUENCY: Seven albums in 10 years is an incredible achievement – do you still feel the pressure of releasing new material?
CHRIS PEDLEY: We feel personal pressure to create new music on a regular basis. Writing is the most important and exciting part in the process of making an album, consequently it’s something that we make time for. It is important to practice whatever your passion regularly. We tend not to think too much about what we write – we want to be natural and honest. This is often the downfall of many artists trying to be ‘like this’ or ‘like that’, we endeavour to just sound like ‘The Baker Brothers’.
LF: Can you tell us about what went into the making of ‘Time to Testify’?
CP: ‘Once I Had A Friend’ was the first tune recorded for the album, early in 2010, followed by the single ‘Patience’ and ‘The Young Patter’ recorded in autumn 2010. Rich Baker (the original drummer) decided to leave the band on January 1st 2011 following the birth of his third baby boy and family commitments. The rest of the band wanted to continue so Ted Carrasco stepped up to play drums and finish the recording of ‘Time To Testify’. The guitar player, Geoff Lai, and I got some song ideas down in November/December 2010. Other band members brought various offerings to the table, i.e. Paul Young’s ‘Head South’ and ‘The Bottom Rung’. January 2011, we rehearsed lots of new material and had a 4 day session in mid February to get it all down. We wanted to be impulsive and instinctive and follow the buzz of ideas that everyone threw into the pot. We picked a great studio with a rock solid engineer who had a strong vision for our sound, and then we went for it.
LF: How does the new release hold up to your previous efforts?
CP: We feel proud to have represented ourselves honestly with where we are at right now. As a band we have been through many twists and turns over recent years and feel glad to now be in a stable position to write, record and create with a collective vision. As I consider those things, I believe in many ways that ‘Time to Testify’ surpasses anything we have ever released, it is our most consistent and potent work to date!
LF: How would you say the creative process in writing, producing and recording new music usually work for you?
CP: Jamming is a big part of our creative process, refining ideas, trying different approaches to ideas, pulling apart and then rebuilding. When we have the tunes written, we rehearse till we feel they are ready to record. Production-wise we look carefully at our studio options and consider what sound will suit us best at that time.
LF: Do you think funk bands and artists in the UK get the credit they deserve?
CP: The music business is pretty tough, I feel happy and hopeful when I hear about the success of any funk or soul band! It obviously brings pleasure to hear praise but at the end of the day we have to make music because we love it.
LF: Who would you love to have grace a stage, or appear on an album, with The Baker Brothers?
CP: I would love to hear what Quincy Jones or Questlove could do with The Baker Brothers!
LF: You're famed for having performed all over the world – how do audiences differ, and apart from London, where's been a particular highlight?
CP: Firstly, you never know how things are going to turn out. You could be in an empty warehouse at 10pm and then step out again an hour later and it be rammed with people. In August 2011 we played the beach stage at the Sunset Festival in Fukuoka in south Japan to around 4000 people. It had been raining most of the afternoon and we were on at 5pm before Soil and Pimp finished off the festival that night. When we came on stage the sun came out and there was a rainbow over the festival, the crowd went nuts.
LF: If you were introducing your music to a prospective new fan, which song from your catalogue would you recommend they listen to that best sums up the group?
CP: I would recommend they listen to ‘Snap Back’ from ‘Time to Testify’ (our latest album) as this song has all the main ingredients of The Baker Brothers: killer horns, riffs and rhythms.
LF: What’s been a career highlight for The Baker Brothers?
CP: Making it through 10 years of releasing music and still wanting to make more is a highlight for me. I feel privileged and lucky to be part of a positive, creative partnership, and that is the bottom line! The band have become like a family and when we write together it feels like a safe environment. Every day has its challenges but this year past we have a new found momentum and I hope it lasts another 10 years. Thanks to you for your support.