ASBO Meets: XamVolo
He has been described as the next sound of Neo-Soul but really he is just a London born artist by way of Liverpool who is experimenting with the different sounds of Jazz, Soul and all these different genres. After release two Eps which have shown him as an artist who is doing things differently. With just one week untill he releases his debut album ‘All The Sweetness On The Surface’ ASBO caught up with XamVolo to discuss everything from his process to making music, instrumentation, his new album and everything in between.
What drew you towards making music?
When I was 14, I had a friend who gave me a copy of music software that he had Fruity Loops 7, he gave it to me and told me to play around it and see what I could do with it. It was a process of trial and error and I was really obsessed with it. The main kind of music we were into was Grime and so I started making Grime instrumentals and just playing around with those sounds. Then shortly after that I started getting into more R&B sounds and I was introduced into artists like D’Angelo and Erykah Badu and found them to have similar sounds to the music I was into. As I grew older and listened to more musical styles I got drawn into Jazz and even before I was actively making Jazzy type of music I gravitated towards the genre and it took me a while to get into it but I really found myself appreciating that style of music.
You are from London originally, but you moved to Liverpool and that’s where you are based now. How do you feel being in a place like Liverpool has impacted your music?
The music scene in Liverpool is very rich but I also feel it is very spars. There is a very heavy legacy of music if you think about artist that are from and music that has come from Liverpool. People have a lot freer and music is more accessible in terms of different sounds and types of music that exists here. Before moving to Liverpool, I never really thought of music the way I do now and in part having my band has helped. I started being more conscious on execution and from attending a lot of shows and I saw how things transformed on stage and that made me more aware of that. I have also had places like LIPA (Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts) which has been instrumental in helping me in terms of my confidence as an artist.
How would you describe your sound?
I would kind of describe it as Electronic Soul with a Jazz feel to it. For me I find it hard to sort of put my music into a specific genre. I find that because I started producing before I started singing my relationship has always been with the instruments which for me are what really make the sounds. I personally grew up with a mixture of sounds and different styles of music from listening Gospel music in my house and listening to Grime with my friends as well different things like pop punk guitar-based sounds. The use of the guitar In a pop song is very different in a R&B for example and so I often take different elements from different genres to combine the tones and edge that I want to convey.
As you have just touched on it, one thing that is apparent for anybody that listens to your music is that instrumentation is key to a lot of your songs, is that something that has been a conscious thought in your approach to music or just something that naturally came about?
I believe that drums define a genre. If you change the drums, then you change the genre. So I take extra thought when it comes to the drums in the music. I often start with the drums and then buil the other instruments and sounds around that. I take extra care to use drum samples and I have to make sure the drums are prominent and loud and adjust the sounds of the other instruments around it. When it comes to instrumentals I find people like Quincy Jones really inspiring, he is someone who thinks about instrumentation as it’s own entity. Often not many think about instrumentation when you are listening to a song but I find that instruments have a life of their own and so they have to treated separately. It’s not just about me in terms of my voice abut it’s more about the whole thing and how it works together with the instruments which add to the song and elevate the music.
You take jazz tones and mix them with Neo soul rhythms and sounds how did this fusion/combination come about?
It is definitely something that has come over time. I would say around 2013 I didn’t know anything, at the point everything I was doing was all my initiative and was very much trail and error. I remember I went into the studio and there was somebody who was subbing in for one of the musicians who couldn’t be there and I just remember that there was a level of simplicity that he brought in terms of the music and that was something that I wanted to be able to do. I took it upon myself to learn as much simple theory I could. I have never been classically trained and never took any lessons playing instruments when I was younger I just really like the idea that other musicians could appreciated. Even if people who listen to the songs and music might pass it over, musicians and people that know would be able to recognize the production and that would again be able to contribute to the music and even thought I am not an expert I really liked that element because it’s that which has allowed me to infuse the different sounds and different tones that come across in the my music.
Your debut album All The Sweetness On The Surface is coming out very soon. What can we can expect?
I would say that the album is a lot more experimental. I wanted the album to appear an as an adventure rather than a discovery. There are songs on there that are more blues but also there are also funky cuts, jazz tones and all those types of songs. Compared to the EP and the previous things I have released I really wanted to have a strong concept running through it. One of the albums I listened to which came out last year was Janelle Monaé’s Dirty Computer, and what I appreciated about that album and others from when you listen to artists like Pink Floyd and even David Bowie is how they are are to create albums that have a strong concept behind them. And so having the album be driven by a concept was something that I had never done before with my other music and so you know I really wanted that through everything. I kind of had a theme of 15 running through, with 15 tracks and the roman numeral for fifteen being XV which ties into my name it was all something that was taken into consideration.
What was the process like making the album?
I would say that being able to work with the people that I worked with and even just being able to work on music 24 hour in the process of making the album, allowed me to get to a point where I can only think about music without having any sort of distractions or anything. I’ve managed to explore and grow and do things I’ve never had the chance to do, as well as improving my work flow. Even having more time to listen to music and taken in more music which has helped me quite a lot. I finished he project a little while ago but I’m still very proud of it and I still stand by the project
What do you want people to take away from the album?
The hope I have for this is for people to listen to it from beginning to end and to take in as a journey. I want to show people that you can be weird with music. I know that some people might not get it but I would really want for those that listen to the music to be able to recognise the different things that I have done and put in there that others might miss. There is something very special in the album and you know a lot of things that I wanted to try that people may not be aware of in terms of the instrumentation and even in the different sounds. But yeah, I really want people to be able to take in the album and whatever way they interpret it, just like it and and enjoy it.
Words: Seneo Mwamba