Let’s Take Five: An interview with Fugitive Orchestra!

Fugitive Orchestra was actually one of the musicians which we randomly stumbled on and were rather impressed by at the first Icebreaker Festival we attended. The Southsea based solo artist takes his name from a passage in a J. G. Ballard novel and takes inspiration from a smorgasbord of things when creating music. We caught up with Fugitive Orchestra to talk his latest EP ‘Rules of the Riddle’, writing music and the future!

Featured image taken by Adam Lacey.

Hi there! Firstly, so that our readers can know a bit more about you, please introduce Fugitive Orchestra:

Aloha! Well my friends call me James, but my musical alter-ego is Fugitive Orchestra, and I’m a multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter/loop-pedal artist. Genre-wise, I like to describe my sound as: Alternative, Jazz-infused, Bluesy Hip-Pop. When I’m playing live, I mostly beatbox to make beats and use a loop pedal to build each song up layer by layer – I play guitar in a kind of a jazzy way and I sing songs about politics, Czech con artists and the weirdness of daily life.

Your latest EP ‘Rules of the Riddle’ was released just a few weeks back. Do you start each record with an idea of what you want to achieve or does that change throughout the process?

Generally I don’t start the writing process with any fixed idea of what it is I’m going to write about, or whether the song is happy/sad or that kind of thing. But what usually happens is that somewhere down the line of writing new material I tend to get the feeling that the song or group of songs are coming together and taking shape in a particular way. For my previous EP, Heterochromia, I felt like the tracks were linked in a more thematic way: in each of the songs I was writing about perspectives and the idea of looking at a situation in different ways (which is why I chose the title which relates to eyes).

For the latest release, the songs fell together in a really natural way – at the time I didn’t really notice, but looking back there was a bit more anger and feeling in there, both at the political landscape and also at various things that I’ve encountered, and people’s stories I’ve picked up over the past year; so it all kind of distilled into the sound (and probably the title) of the latest EP.

Where did the original spark come from that inspired you to create music?

That’s a tough one! I think I was about 8 years old when I got completely obsessed with the song ‘Easy’ by Lionel Richie and the Commodores – I probably made my parents contemplate drowning me in a well because I was singing that most days of the week for about a year. That love of music probably lay dormant until I was about 12 when the ‘music bug’ really got a hold of me. It’s probably thanks in some way to growing up in a house where I was hearing Paul Simon, Kate Bush and Stevie Wonder, and being totally infatuated with the melodies these artists were making.

Then I got a bit older, started paying closer attention to lyrics and discovered Jeff Buckley and Elvis Costello, who are both absolute masters of conveying feeling through lyrics – all that tenderness and rage, lovely melodies with really direct, cynical lyrics. Shortly after that, I really got into Jazz, Blues and Hip-Hop: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, BB King, De La Soul and Nas were heavy-hitters very early on for me, which taught me the power of groove, hooks and all that good stuff!

This is your first release which marks the transition from acoustic singer-songwriter to fully produced recordings from you. How has this changed the way you approach writing songs, if at all?

I’m not 100% sure that my approach to songwriting has changed, but I do think that a lot of my recent output has a different feel to it, which necessitated the full-band treatment in the studio. If anything I’ve learned about the power of a really great chorus, so I’ve definitely worked on getting that right this time around. I’m still pretty terrible at sitting down and just writing a song – but I’m still too much of a critic for that to really work; one track on the new EP took me about 2 years to finish, I wanted to get it just right, and I couldn’t think of a chorus, so I had to keep coming back to it every couple of months – after enough banging my head against a desk I got there in the end!

Finally, have you got anything to share regarding upcoming gigs and what have you got planned for 2018?

Yeah, I’m planning an even bigger and better year than the last one! Lots more music, shows and content to come for sure. In the immediate future, I’m really excited for Icebreaker Festival in Portsmouth – I’m playing on the Saturday (2nd Feb) at the Atrium from 9pm, and in London at the Spice of Life on Friday 9th Feb from 7pm.

I’ve also been nominated as ‘Best Solo Artist’ in the Portsmouth Guide Awards, which is a big honour, so who knows? I could be looking at a glass plaque with my name on this time next month; although I’m in the same category as Jerry Williams, Tom Bertram and Ben Brookes, so I’m not holding my breath!

We’d like to thank Fugitive Orchestra very much for his time! You can listen to his music including the latest Fugitive Orchestra EP ‘Rules of the Riddle’ below via Soundcloud. You can also catch him live at The Atrium on Saturday 3rd February at 21:10 for Icebreaker Festival, Southsea.

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