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Submotion Orchestra: Leeds-based live electronic 7-piece talk to Now Then

Submotion Orchestra emerged out of a project that founders Tommy Evans and DJ/producer Dom 'Ruckspin' Howard worked together on at York Minster Cathedral. This project, mixing classical music and dubstep, lit a spark which culminated in Tommy and Dom handpicking some of their favourite musicians with the intention of developing a distinct sound out of their diverse musical influences and backgrounds. The initial intention, to "bridge the gap between bass driven electronic dance music and acoustic jazz music", has progressed through an unpredictable process of experimentation. With a common love of jazz holding their often competing creative sensibilities together, they have managed to create a sound that includes aspects of each of their musical personalities, amounting to a fusion of funk, soul, dubstep and ambient electronica. Having just returned from playing a summer of festivals, they have embarked on a UK tour bringing their newly released album Fragments to audiences up and down the country, including The Tuesday Club at The Leadmill last month. Now Then caught up with Submotion co-founder and drummer Tommy ahead of this performance. For those who are unfamiliar with Submotion, could you tell us a little about yourself and the development of the band over the past four years? The very first project was myself and Dom performing at York Minster Cathedral in 2008, where we were approached to write the music for an Arts Council commission. It was a slightly odd event and quite chaotic, very badly run and not particularly rewarding but it got us thinking about the possibility of live dubstep and about starting a live electronic project. It went from there really, and we started asking various people to come and jam to try out some of our initial ideas. So it started as an improvised project and grew, starting as one thing and ending up as something completely different, which is great. That's it in a nutshell. You have spoken before about the contrasting musical styles within Submotion which often result in a process of exploration and compromise when developing your music. Could you tell us more about this process? Do you think this could be a key factor in the evolution of your sound? Yeah, I think it probably does have something to do with that. It's great to have so many different opinions and so many different outlooks on music, because we all come from different backgrounds. We are all trained musicians but within that there is a lot of difference. Everyone brings their own ideas, their own style and their own outlook. That blend of ideas is crucial to what makes our sound what it is, although it does have its drawbacks, as it's very difficult to get everyone to agree on what direction to take. Do you think this is reflected in your most recent release, Fragments? I think it is a pretty good representation of the contrasting musicians, and what's interesting about it is that the first album was a much more one dimensional approach, in that myself and Dom wrote the whole album. It was very much in our heads already. The second album is a lot more collaborative and has been created through much more of a free process. There are so many different styles and so many different ideas but we feel like it is very cohesive. We worked towards an album as opposed to 12 different tracks and I think it is very diverse. You could call it an electronic album, you could call it a jazz album, you could call it club music. There is a lot of variation and what that leads to is a real diversity in our audience. For example, kids come down [to the live shows], but their parents come down as well, and that's something we're really proud of. What response have you got so far on tour? Most of the dates have sold out or been really well attended, which is encouraging. We knew it would do fairly well, as we now have a solid fan base and compared to when we released our first album a lot more people know about us. The album also went to number one in the electronic charts and although you can get to number one quite easily, staying there is rare. As we did that for ten days it was a big confidence boost. Which festivals were highlights for you this summer? This summer Outlook was amazing. It was absolutely chucking it down for an hour and a half before we went on stage but stopped five minutes before we came on, so loads of people came and we played and it was great. We had a very similar experience at a festival in Slovakia this summer, where there were huge thunderstorms which added a bit more drama. Other than that we have mainly played smaller British festivals. It's been a great year. Have you got any thoughts on the direction you might take for your next album? Could we expect a move towards incorporating more instruments or possibly collaborating with orchestras or choruses? We have got a lot of irons in the fire, a lot of things that could come into fruition next year. Although it is early stages yet, we are hoping to begin working with some dance companies and theatre companies and hopefully we can branch out like that. We are hoping to put an album out at the end of next year. The music industry moves so quickly that you have to keep putting music out in order to, not stay ahead of anyone else, but to keep people interested. We are quite keen to put out albums every year and see how far we get. Next year is pretty well set out for us already as we will be touring Europe in February/March and recording an album, touring over the summer and will hopefully put out the album at the end of the year, but we'll see what happens. )

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