Interview: PYJÆN – A South-East London Anthem (March 2020)

PYJÆN5

PYJÆN are a five piece London based jazz-fusion band that write music with that in-the-moment live feel.  They are releasing a new track “PJFC” from their second EP on 2nd April and this is a banger of a tune. They are ready to lift your mood out of lockdown blues with some catchy riffs and loud horns. We caught up with Ben Vize, saxophonist in the band, to chat about how they came to write the music, what they love about the current scene and where they plan to go in the future.

So you guys have a new single coming out on Thursday called PJFC.  We love it, such a mood lifter. Can you tell us what’s it about?

We’ve had this in the works for about a year and this song was written by Ben Crane, our bassist. Just before the summer we were doing a lot of gigging, so after our tour in October we decided to get together and do some recording. We put ourselves all in a room for a while, brought along lots of ideas and this is what came out.  It was really a result of us spending lots of time together and building up more and more ideas.  We couldn’t wait to put it all together.

This song has quite a celebratory feel to it, was this how you intended your audience to feel?

It’s funny because we started playing this song in our sets and after one gig in Newcastle the whole audience started singing along to the melody. And it felt like an anthem, a song that really got everyone singing together. So we decided to name it “PJFC” standing for PYJÆN Football Club.

This song was composed by Ben and when he brought it along to us we knew we all wanted to make it really fun.  At one point we were thinking of adding loads of bells to it and releasing it as a christmas song. We didn’t have time to do that so we’ve released it more as an anthem instead.

You collaborate with Blue Lab Beats on this EP, how did that come about?

Well Dylan Jones is good mates with Namali from Blue Lab Beats and between us all we know David as well. And we just knew that it would be great to get Namali’s production on it because he just really, really advanced. And David came along and slammed it on the keys as well. So it grew from our friendship and seeing the potential for something really cool between us, and we love what’s come out of it.

The UK has a thriving improvised music scene, how has this influenced your band? 

Just being a part of this scene has massively influenced our goals. We get to do lots of different gigs and we love going to jam nights such as Steam Down. Here we know lots of other musicians and get to play and jam alongside them.   There is also another great night at Buster Mantis where Steam Down is held.  It’s a night run by bassist Hugo Piper and we’ve been to that a lot.

As a band we like to write in this open jam way as well. We have the main melody and all the sections but then we just jam around a simple set of chords. I think this really reflects our environment.  And obviously we like to recreate the hype and enjoyment from these nights too.

We are in a new era of jazz with so much going on. When Dani first moved down here he wrote “SE Wave“. This was all about the influences you see coming out of South East London. And this turned into a celebration of all the different influences around us, from afrobeat to hip hop and more.

You talk about being influenced by musicians you jam with and the scene around you, what other influences do you have?

Well we all trained together at Trinity and as a band we all idolize the old jazz greats. Artists such as Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane and Charlie Parker.   But between us we all have our different tastes too.  For example I love progressive rock too and adore Frank Zappa.  And the song I wrote on the EP has been really influenced by Frank Zappa, it’s pretty crazy with lots of changes throughout the song.  We think this song will be called Sugar Rush once the EP is released.  So we all share influences and bring our own to the room too.

After releasing PYFC on 2nd April, we’ll be releasing one more single after that and then showcasing the full EP.

When you guys compose are you writing for yourselves or writing for a particular audience?

Definitely, definitely for ourselves. It’s really important for us that we write music that we personally enjoy. And we know that by loving what we are doing, when we perform, it can only catch on.

This also means that we can create music that includes such a large range of styles, like this latest EP. We are still the same group of improvising musicians and so you get the continuity but you also get access to more diversity in the tracks.

Now we can’t do an interview and not mention COVID-19. How is this impacting you guys?

Ah it’s really crazy. It could be really damaging to venues and clubs around the UK. And festivals as well. Some of the larger festivals will be likely to start up again next year but smaller festivals I love such as Brainchild may have more difficulties.

And these events are really important and responsible for bringing artists a platform. Brainchild is my favourite, I’ve been for the last four years out of six. A lot of great local bands have come out of this such as Ezra Collective and Joe Armon-Jones. I really hope we can all come back from this as a community.

Taking aside the current restrictions, what can we look forward to in the future for PYJÆN?

Well I’m sure that I can speak for everyone in the band when I say that this is our favourite project. We are devoted to this.  We want to have a proper career in the band and tour around the world making as much music as possible.

The 60s/70s/80s were a great time for music, so much changed, and the scene took huge leaps. And we want to continue this and keep creating things that are new.

Ultimately we want to get people loving jazz. Well we don’t like to label our music to one genre particularly, you might call it fusion too. But we want to get people loving the music.

 

PJFC, PYJÆN’s new EP, is out tomorrow (02/04/20). You can preorder it following this link: https://orcd.co/pyjaen




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