Electro Deluxe are not your typical jazz band. Formed in France in 2001, this self-proclaimed five-piece of “jazz punks” are riding the wave of their biggest success yet, the album Circle, released in October 2016. Fusing the magic ingredients of funk, hip-hop, soul and pop with 21st century jazz, this very much in-demand group are one of the founders of the electro-jazz movement and have enjoyed increasing critical and commercial success with every new album, topping not only the French jazz charts, but also headlining major festivals worldwide. With more melodies, harmonies and rhythm than should be legal for any one band to possess, we caught up with charismatic frontman, James Copley, a superstar soul singer from the US, to discuss life on the road and their headline appearance at Rootstock 2017.
Q. James, a pleasure to speak with you. How are you?
“Very happy, thank you. At the moment we are just beginning our Summer tour. We released our album Circle last October and we toured it up until just a few weeks ago. It took us a little bit all over the world. We’re coming back to Europe now for the festival period. We’ll be playing a lot in France and Germany this Summer.”
Electro Deluxe: Jérémie Coke (bass), Gaël Cadoux (keyboards), Thomas Faure (tenor sax), Arnaud Renaville (drums), Bertrand Luzignant LUZIGNANT (Trombone) and Vincent Payen (trumpet) and James Copley (vocals)
Q. Anything else? You guys always look very busy. Has the new album been well received live by your fans?
“We never stop! Yeah, we’re just in the middle of supporting the new record, Circle, which is doing really well. We’re really happy about it. It’s given us a little bit more exposure, made us more independent. Now, we’re the little train that could. We just keep chugging away. We played around 80 concerts last year and we expect to even play more this year. We’re very happy with where we are. Next winter we’ll probably start thinking about the next album. On top of everything else, we’re also preparing a Collector’s Edition of Circle, a SuperSized edition of the album, which will include remixes by famous DJs, that will come out this Fall. There will also be a live album on the way too, so we’re always busy. So, yeah, we never stop…”
What Goes On Tour: The band are currently doing the rounds on the European jazz festival circuit
Q. You’ve become famous for your awesome live performances. Is there any particular country, or audience, that always go really wild for your music?
“I don’t want to be too egotistical, I mean, I know that’s my job as the frontman, but we’ve been conquering just about everywhere we play. Actually, going to Japan for the first time and playing at the famous Blue Note venue in Tokyo, and seeing the Japanese crowd going absolutely crazy. That was amazing for us. When we arrive in a new country and we have no idea how people are going to react to our music or what we’re about onstage, especially when people have placed this “jazz” label on us – and we’re very proud of that – but when we find ourselves in traditional Jazz venues, it’s a bit of risky operation. Not necessarily for us, as we’re going to do what we want to do, but traditional jazz fans might come to the venue expecting serious jazz and then have no idea what is going on when we start playing! In the jazz world, we’re kind of the crazy uncle or the bastard child.”
Good Friends: Fellow Rootstock performer, Nina Attal, shares the stage with Electro Deluxe
Q. Most music genres these days blend into one other. Would you describe your sound as 21st century jazz? Or is that too simple?
“It sounds a bit pompous but we really don’t define our sound. Because we have so many divergent influences between the five of us and we write everything as a group of five. There might be one person who writes an idea – sometimes its just a chord progression – but then the rest of us completely demolish it, take it apart and then put it back together. So, our “sound” is ultimately just our music. All we want to do is make music that makes us happy, stuff that we’re going to have a good time playing onstage.”
Home and Circle: The band found their voice when singer James Copley joined the band in 2010
Q. The band have been going since 2001. Would you say the music has changed?
“Obviously, we’ve taken some turns left and right over the years. We were part of the founders of the electro-jazz movement of the early 2000s, and then we had a period of developing a more organic sound. We’ve gone for a bit more of a pop sound recently. Like they always say, if you’re in a jazz band you play play 3,000 different chords for three people and if you’re in a pop band you play three chords for 3,000 people. That’s the advantage of us being completely independent, we don’t have anybody telling us what to do. We own our own label (Wrasse Records) and our fans, who were jazz fans at the beginning, have been open to the changes we’ve been made. So, as we’ve changed they’ve continued to follow us even though the crowds at our concerts have grown bigger and have changed. We’re not just playing music for jazz musicians anymore, I guess you could say. But we’ve always been sincere to our fans, who have followed us for over 15 years.
Q. The whole band make it look like a lot of fun up on stage. But also you can tell that you’ve all spent hours really making the sound and performance perfect…
“When we get on stage we go to work, we grind it out. We’re thinking more and more about our fans. What really sets us apart in the jazz world is that first of all we’re a band, a real band, that really doesn’t exist in the jazz genre. On top of that, we pay a lot of attention to our performance, to the lights, to our sound, even the choreography and the stupid jokes we make onstage. When we we play serious jazz festivals, we’re refreshing because those crowds are used to these sharks who just come and play their wonderful music, but sometimes there is a bit of a wall between them and the audience. We don’t do that. We can’t afford to do that! We’re not big enough. Every night we have to conquer the crowd.”
All Work, All Play: The band’s big YouTube hit, ‘Let’s Go To Work’, is a live favorite
Q. Do you have a particular song that just connects with the audience every time you play it live?
“We really try to look at the totality of the concert. These days, we’ve found a formula as far as tempo, ambience and frequencies for certain parts of the show where we know we can connect. For example, at the beginning of the show we do the anti-French thing and smack-them-upside the head right away as soon as we get up on the stage. Then, at that point, we have their attention and we’ll calm down a little bit. Then we’ll start crescendo-ing it up to the end. There’s one song that we really enjoy playing because we can see how it connect our old fans with our new fans – ‘Let’s Go To Work’. It is our most viewed YouTube song, which has almost a million views now, which for us is just humongous. When people are out there singing the horn riff to the intro of the song then we know our fans have showed up and are ready to party. The other song that we really enjoy playing is the only cover song that we’ve ever done – ‘Staying Alive’ by the Bee-Gees – which we do completely differently. Everyone knows it so its a moment during the show where everyone can singalong and connect with the show.”
Take Cover: Electro Deluxe’s version of ‘Stayin’ Alive’, rather wonderfully, sounds nothing like the original
Q. You’re headlining Rootstock 2017. Can you reveal anything about what the audience might expect?
“When we tour and play in theatres we have a solid two-hour show where we incorporate a quasi-acoustic sound into the gig, we bring the horns and the rest of the band right up to the front of the stage so we can get close to everyone. We then do two or three very slow and melodic songs to showcase our sensitive sides. We may just do this at Rootstock….we’ll have to wait and see…”
Full Circle: Released on the group’s own independent record label, Wrasse Records, the album Circle was a hit
Q. A music, food and fine wine festival in Burgundy…is this the type of gig the band gets excited about?
“I’ve been playing with this French band for six or seven years now and wherever there is good wine and decent food we are just so happy when we get up on stage! That’s one of the benefits of being considered a “jazz band”, we do get invited to play shows where we eat better and drink better!”
Floating Out to Sea: The music video to ‘Oh No’ sees the band perform on a floating pontoon
Q. Will you be indulging in the fine wine on offer, or do you have your own special pre-show rider you like to request?
“Over the years, we’ve changed it up. We used to ask venues for our favourite drink, something I invented, which is called a James Brown. It really is excellent. All you need is Zubrowka vodka that’s been in a freezer, coffee grains, brown sugar and half slices of lemon. On one side of the slices of lemon you put the coffee grains and on the other the brown sugar. Put it in your mouth and chew it up, but don’t swallow it. Now, pass a shot of frozen vodka over the top of it. And then you have to let out a James Brown scream afterwards. That’s the tradition. It tastes really, really good…but we don’t do these much anymore. The band have tried to get more sophisticated over the past couple of years. Now we only drink 25-year-old rum!”
For more information on Electro Deluxe, head on over to www.electrodeluxe.com.
For more information, and to purchase tickets, head on over to www.rootstockburgundy.com.