Artistic Echoes recently had the pleasure of interviewing Pieces of a Man who are down to the last three in the Headlander Festival Battle Of The Bands competition.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourselves for those that have never heard of you before?
We’re a six piece Manchester based HipHop-Soul outfit, musically influenced in equal parts by retro legends Gil Scott-Heron and Donny Hathaway, and by more recent urban acts like D’Angelo, Dwele, Mos Def and The Roots.
How did you get started, how did you all meet?
This is a lengthy story, we suggest a brew and a sofa before reading.
Pils and DK conceived the band together with another keys player and four female vocals for an altogether different, vocally powered, classic soul sound. Tolu joined initially as a male BV but when the girls took time out for kids, we had to start from scratch with Tolu taking up lead vocals and bass guitar. An arguably dark time for Pieces of a Man…
Tim replaced Tolu as resident low-end friend to make a four piece, Tolu shifted to synth and vox. After another keys player came and went before Mark caught the band playing a student mini festival and climbed aboard to add some much needed depth to the sound with his electric axe.
That was only a year ago in June 2013. Then just two weeks after we’d settled on a line up, we we’re asked to open up for Bilal at Band on the Wall. We we’re stoked as a bunch of us already had tickets to the show! That gig lead to some great opportunity to spread our sound across the north across numerous venues, particularly in Leeds and Liverpool.
Later that year we were asked back to BOTW to open for Omar, a massive honour! Again we had to give away the tickets we’d bought to see the UK Godfather of NeoSoul, and replace them for wristbands to share the stage. So we effectively smashed our bucket list within four months, and since then we’ve been setting sights a bit higher ready for festival season this summer. We’ve had UK based and international radio play, including a few appearances on BBC introducing, and this year we want to explore that avenue further.
Aden has only recently joined on live drumkit to add another layer of sound, and we have a couple of backing vocalists and emcees help out from time to time so we can really kick it out! The wider POAM family is growing fast like a colony of rabbits and we love to keep it fresh faced.
This year is the year of collaboration; we’re in touch with Twelve24’s Christina, MNIB, Mistah Oscar, Thabo and many more UK Northern Artists to bring an even deeper sound.
There is so much music out there what do you do to stand out, what makes you different?
We always bring something different to the table – the nature of the band is that as everyone’s a multi-instrumentalist, we can switch up the sound wherever we play. Some numbers see Tolu on keys, Pils on wind or brass, Tim on triangle etc. Coupled with our respective love of alternative genres (Tolu digs anything electronic and garage, Tim loves the funk, Mark is also in a prog rock project!) there’s something for everyone, wrapped up in a unified groove.
A lot of bands do one thing really well, and it’s obvious when the spark has been lost. We always want to keep creating, keep the listener on the edge as well as ourselves. Why make stale music when you can keep it alive?
Our debut self-produced EP ‘Mixtape Vol I’ invites the listener to journey with us across the soul spectrum. Musically we span street-inspired bass led grooves through to electronic experimental soundscapes. Lyrically we go a bit deeper than your average; questioning existentialism, work/life relationship, hidden potential and the impact of a well executed two-step on the dancefloor. We wanted people to get to know us so we also put in a few out takes and inside snippets, as a marker of the work in progress. We hope to get another EP out later this year with the fresh sound.
Most importantly, whether we run the full six piece band with BV’s and emcees, or an acoustic set with flute and sax, or a DJ set with sample pads, we always bring the party home.
Despite all the big gigs and radio play and EP success, one chance moment sticks out.
We were entered into a competition called Out On Stage, in aid of the Michael Causer Foundation set up to motivate LGBT teens after an 18 year old was beaten and left for dead because of his orientation. We didn’t know anything about the contest really it was just a chance to gig with a live drumkit as that was a fresh thing for Pieces at the time.
Everything went wrong; Mark and DK couldn’t make it, Pils’ keyboard broke and it was Aden’s first gig. So we had one vocal, bass, a borrowed keyboard and a brand new drummer.
On paper that should have been a toilet gig. Two men down with nothing to lose we just had a live jam session, took it back as if we we’re in the studio, and the crowd went with us. So when we dropped an impromptu unrehearsed ‘This Is How We Do It’ at the end of our current single ‘Paych£ck’, the place went nuts for it!! We made the finals, and met emcee Kane from Liverpool based HipHop collective 4saken. He’s joined the family and we’re working on a collab track as we speak. It should have been a dry gig, but ended up being a huge win!
Could you tell us a bit about the recording of your music video (your entry to the competition)?
As well as being resident scratch professor, DK runs a photography studio and printing company (www.sketch360.com). He’s the brains behind all things visual related to Pieces, from the website, to the photos, to the artwork, right down to advising Pils on his recent style conversion from beige shirted teacher to gilet and SnapBack cap wearing soul man.
We’d had a few video trials in previous months to figure out a concept as it was new ground for us all. However the video for “Brother” came about in one early hours session in the studio. Tolu danced, DK filmed, and the rest is (a rather large portion of DK’s) history! The original concept was going to be multiple changes to reflect various different dreams the ‘brother’ needs to realise, but the hip hop sequence was fly enough to cut into a video all on its own! DK shot and laboriously edited the video together singlehandedly. Even though it was a huge success considering he’d never done it before, he did emerge from the editing suite after a month resembling Tom Hanks in ‘Castaway’, and has since sworn never to do it again solo.
(We’re pretty sure he’ll get the buzz again in future though..!)
We’ve only played two festivals so far, the first was Threshold Fest in Liverpool which was a riot! Our lasting memory of it was receiving a Monopoly money’s worth of food and drinks tickets that ended up not being accepted anywhere. But the gig itself was a blinder and we met a lot of long lasting friends there, Kristyna Myles, Lauren Housely, Judith Ude and the Soul Rays – all flying the soul flag and showing that real soul is still live and thriving in the north.
More recently we we’re honoured to be part of the prestigious Rock And Roll Marathon, a worldwide event that debuted in Liverpool last month. We teamed up with 4saken’s Kane and rocked the KCC Live stage.
At each mile of the 26 mile marathon there was a stage and we we’re at the 24th marker. We expected the runners to be broken so we just did what we always do and threw a party regardless. But we were amazed to be proven wrong about the people running to finish line, they partied with us! It was massively inspiring to see the hundreds of runners waving and singing and some even stopping to dance – insane stamina after 24 miles with two miles left to power through!
As a band, it’s all about being part of something bigger than ourselves, seeking opportunities for the music to help people achieve something bigger than themselves.
How do people find out more about you?
If all else fails #POAM should lead to us eventually!