High Cross Society is something of a super group ahead of its time. In a cocktail of some of the UK’s greatest upcoming live musicians, the band shakes together a slice of soul, a pinch of classical, a dash of hip hop and a stella serving of talent. The result? An eclectic liquorice allsorts band whose live shows promise to be as zesty as their studio production.
Despite the time tested musical accomplishment of its members, High Cross Society is a relatively new project; the band’s debut single, ‘Every Time I Look’, was only released on 16 November 2013. As a rare luxury, this gives us the pleasure to follow a new band whose workings are already very finely tuned.
High Cross Society’s potential for a seamlessly creative sound was put to the test with the release of their debut single. ‘Every Time I Look’ sees the cheeky ‘get up’ vibes of Gentleman’s Dub Club collide cleverly with the slinky band-style hip hop of The Mouse Outfit and the urban grit of The Four Owls (these two bands also deserve to be on any hip hop fan’s radar).
Over five minutes ‘Every Time I Look’ grows into a body of trudging hip hop drumbeats, rapid rhymes, intelligent lyrics and potent metaphors. Wholesome trombone bumps, ragtime piano plonks and a jazzy, improvisational trumpet run like the veins of the track, pulsing golden brass through every nook and cranny. The magic: we have a tune that is as funky as it is gritty. In a unique touch and something very unusual for hip hop, a gossamer violin swells midway as if borrowed from a classical symphony; this is infinitesimally more three-dimensional than your typical DJ/MC hip hop setup.
To get the full effect, though, you have to watch the music video. A rather dark opening – a pseudo news alert about gang crime – is softened down as we follow a masked-hero on his comic venturing around London in a Batman meets The Incredibles wannabe mission. Hilariously he dons his spandex, DIY cardboard superhero belt and mask. He smiles a grin that treads somewhere between loveable and baneful, taking the music through a story that overflows with character.
The Society’s ‘members’ are the ones to thank for this bands praiseworthy musicianship and slick, yet wacky persona. Sewing the High Cross seed were Lazy Habits – the 21st century’s answer to ’50s New Orleans Jazz – and Joshua Whitehouse (More Like Trees) who met at an improvisational night inaugurated by Joe Driscoll. One tune turned into two, which snowballed to eight before Fjokra injected his one-man-band genius and took the driving seat on production. The band swelled to include world-class classical double bassist Lachlan Radford (More Like Trees), drummer James Breen (the Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate band) and percussionist Steve Abunab (Lazy Habits). In the studio master of the mouth organ and 2009 and 2010 beatbox champion Reeps One span in his bocal genius joined by Fjokra’s electric bassist S.E.B, vocalist Josh Bevan and producer John Hendicott. If our comic superhero from the music video fell short, this team certainly won’t.
Double bassist Lachlan said, “There’s a musical genius in every corner and the focus is on jamming and having a good time with the music, what more could you ask for!?” The debut album hit the shelves in December 2013 with artwork from Reeps One’s alias, Yeff.