Members of Slowly Rolling Camera Discuss the Creative Process of Songwriting and Production
Dave Stapleton, keyboard player and composer with Slowly Rolling Camera, formed the band in 2013 and their reputation as a new hybrid of soul, jazz and electronics has been growing ever since. The band have released a special live recording on Society of Sound and here Dave explains how the compositions are created:
“All these songs have developed over a long period of time, whilst on the tour or during blocks of writing period, absorbing the influences around us. Some tracks came to us very quickly and the tracks almost write themselves, such as the title track ‘Slowly Rolling Camera’. Built on very simple ideas, the music on this track takes on its own structure once all the parts come together. The music on this recording was predominantly written first by me as I build the skeleton or structure, harmonically. From there, depending on what the track requires, Dionne will then add the lyrics and vocal lines or it will go first to Elliot Bennett, on drums, who will build the dynamic support for the track. Once the track has the basic drum pattern, vocal lines and harmonic structure Deri Roberts then takes it over, building the soundscape and production. With each of us bringing our own set influences, this process immediately helps to develop an overall band sound.”
Elliott Bennett is the drummer with the band and the heart of the groove – driving their unique sound. Playing live he steers the performance and here he explains how each element fits together:
“The makeup of Slowly Rolling Camera is a little different to most bands, but I guess we all have one thing in common, the desire to write and perform music using the ‘sum of its parts’ to the best of our ability. There have been many subtle changes of the years, but amongst such variables we all try to work together, to write and perform to the best of our ability. Creating a sound so that the listener really listens.
I guess we all have our own role within the band, based on the musical discipline and for me it is the drums. I guess being behind the band I try to steer the music in certain ways. The soloing make up changes occasionally – for instance when we use another saxophonist or guitarist, and my role changes accordingly. My aim is really to support the playing styles, changes of vocabulary and still give the music and performance direction. Every musician has a different voice and supporting this is valuable to the overall sound.
We have just come back from a successful couple of dates playing abroad and on both of these dates Nicolas Kummert was the new saxophonist. He had a different tone and way of phrasing compared to Ben Waghorn (our long time friend and member of the group). Such changes however, offer an opportunity for change. As Nicolas was aware of the main form of the tracks but unsure of the endings, we decided to open up sections, listen and respond accordingly; in short using our ears to shape the beginnings and ends of the tracks, arriving at the resolution where it felt was right. I guess in these situations, I think about the length of the track, the length of the set, whilst still trying to add light and shade, tension and release to the music – ‘real time’ changes. Being the loudest musician in the band, the direction and energy often starts with me, but all major changes are openly discussed before hand.”
Slowly Rolling Camera are building a reputation as a live band with a special fusion of soul, jazz and hip hop. Electronics is also at the centre of their sound. Deri Roberts gives us an overview of what he uses on stage to make that happen:
“For the live electronics we use two systems. One is running Ableton. This platform allows us to trigger pre-recorded parts such as the backing vocals, strings and any other element of the track that’s not on stage. The other system is running a Pure Data patch that I wrote. The patch uses granular synthesis amongst other manipulations to re-shape audio live. The Patch is controlled via an iPad using Touch OSC; this is then fed through a Kaoss Pad for more sound processing possibilities. This manipulation of sound in real time allows me to interact with the other musicians in the live environment.”