Since forming Leeds in 2009 Submotion Orchestra have carved out their own special place in the UK's ever-changing musical landscape. And two of them (Simon and Ruby) are from right here at Leeds College of Music.
The seven-piece band's fusion of bass-heavy electronica, jazz, soul and much more besides has made them a favourite of the likes of Gilles Peterson, Trevor Nelson and Jo Whiley. Their live show has seen them play festivals around the world opening Outlook Festival this summer with Lauryn Hill, and sell-out venues such as London's famous KOKO.
Following two critically acclaimed albums, Finest Hour and Fragments, Submotion Orchestra return bigger, brighter and bolder than ever with Alium; their first album for Counter Records. Released on 3 November, Alium sees the band in an expansive mood as the interplay between their electronic and acoustic sounds has become more natural than ever, whilst Ruby Wood's vocals continue to find new levels of emotion.
With a summer schedule that will see the band play over a dozen festivals in seven different countries and a full UK tour lined up for later in the year, Alium looks set to cap a triumphant 12 months for the band as they continue to push the boundaries of what an ‘electronica’ band can and should be.
We caught up with the band’s trumpeter Simon Beddoe, who now teaches here, about his life in music…
What was your earliest musical experience?
When my parents asked me what instrument I would like to play, I picked the Trombone… lucky for me my seven-year-old arms were to short so they gave me a trumpet instead!
Who/what motivated you to pursue a career in music?
Growing up in Australia I was really inspired by multi-instrumentalists but primarily trumpet player James Morrison. I remember being given an album of his called Snappy Doo. It’s a big band album where he plays every chair in the band, bar drums and double bass. I was also lucky enough to meet him at the national big band championship in Mount Gambia. He was really encouraging.
Who’s your greatest inspiration?
I can’t think of just one… From a trumpet perspective Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard and Donald Byrd are players I always come back to for inspiration.
What attracted you to the course and Leeds College of Music?
Leeds had a really good rep for jazz and especially trumpet players. Some amazing players have gone through the conservatoire doors over the years so it seemed the place to be outside of London.
What's your favourite thing about studying/being a musician in Leeds?
The music scene in Leeds has always been really healthy. Whether it be free jazz, hard bop, funk, soul, reggae, dub or all sorts of electronic music, you can always find nights and promoters willing to promote world class artists alongside supporting the young bands coming up in the city.
How would you describe the challenges and joys of living / studying / being a musician in Leeds?
There’s a strong argument that you need to be in London, however I think Leeds has so many benefits. Logistically things are so much easier up north when your getting projects off the ground. Rehearsal and studio space is plentiful and cheap. We still rehearse up north for Submotion Orchestra even though five of the seven of us live in London.
Who/what would be your dream collaboration?
Hmmm how about J Dilla on the beats with Duke Ellington Orchestra alongside the London Sinfonietta. That would be incredible!
How has your career developed since leaving Leeds College of Music?
My main project is Submotion Orchestra, which has been an incredible experience. It was Submo that opened my ears to an array of electronic music that I knew nothing about. That in turn opened up doors that I never dreamed I’d be walking through. It’s also forced me to get a handle on a load of technology that I wouldn’t otherwise have explored. Aside from Submotion I’ve been lucky enough to work with If Destroyed Still True, Dave Kane’s Rabbit Project, LIMA Orchestra, Tommy Evans Jazz Orchestra, Jamil Sheriff Big Band, Ariya Astrobeat Arkestra, Tony Christie, Martha Reeves, Craig Charles Fantasy Funk Band, Tony Christie, The New Mastersounds, Gentlemens Dub Club, Author, Abstract Orchestra and the Haggis Horns.
How have your studies at LCoM aided your career so far?
I’m still in touch with so many fellow students from my LCoM days on a professional and social level. I guess it’s the relationships you forge whilst studying that have turned out to be the biggest help for my career.
What has been your greatest achievement?
When Submotion Orchestra first started our dream was to sign to the Ninja Tune record label. Earlier this year it happened and we have our first album coming out with them in November. The albums called Alium and we’re all really proud of it. On the gig front we played the opening concert for Outlook Festival supporting Lauryn Hill this year. It was held in a 2,000 year old Roman amphitheatre. I don’t know if we’ll play a more impressive venue than that!
Where would you like to be in five years?
Still playing, working and creating in the music industry.
If you had one piece of advice for a prospective student, what would it be?
Turn up! You’re lucky to be studying in the arts. Make sure you use the time well because once you graduate its gets a lot harder to find the time to practice and explore all you want to.
Submotion Orchestra's new album is available in 3 formats: double LP, CD and download...
Read their gig page for latest tour dates.
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