A&E » Arts

The sounds of the streets



The Pocket Dwellers dealing in funk, soul, hip hop, rock and jazz

Who: Pocket Dwellers

Where: Garfinkel’s

When: Wednesday, Aug. 20

In a world full of one-dimensional popular music, it is rare to find a musical act with such diverse styles and talents as the Pocket Dwellers.

This seven-piece outfit is a multi-talented, multi-instrumental and multi-influenced collective. Musicians, ranging from classically or jazz trained, to street-smart and self-taught, the Pocket Dwellers bring their diverse talents together to create a whole new sound that is anything but conventional.

The lineup includes guitar, bass, drums, a cadre of horns, a couple of turntables, a hip-hop M.C. and a wallop of energy. The Pocket Dwellers meld all of these colours into one unique and powerful sound. Funk, soul, hip-hop, rock, jazz, drum & bass – all representing the sound of today's streets.

Which made us think to pin down MC Nigel Williams to find out more…

Pique : The Pocket Dwellers seem really proud of being different and inventive. But do you all find it a struggle balancing innovation and uniqueness with the reality that going mainstream can get you further ahead?

Nigel : When we cut our first record we were like, ‘Oh we don’t need a radio song, we don’t need that kind of support’ which turned out to be a stupid way to look at the business. We now know after struggling for all these years that it pays to have something accessible. It really was a struggle coming to terms with that harsh reality. It’s not even mainstream acceptance that we want. But it’s become quite clear we need a mainstream media presence to help get our message and our music out there to as many people as possible. But we’re not about to become like the Backstreet Boys in terms of looks, dress or music to be accessible – don’t worry. We’re still going to play music we like as musicians but perhaps simplify the structure a bit. The song doesn’t have to be difficult anymore in order for it to be good or make a statement that will linger in people’s minds.

Pique : What’s with the name Pocket Dwellers anyway?

Nigel : Being in the pocket, being in the groove of the music. That’s where all of us in the band live. Everyone thinks it’s something sexual though, which is funny.

Pique : How do you come up with such diverse rhythms within your sets? You really do seem like a bit of everything to everybody.

Nigel : It comes from all the different personalities in the band. We write everything together and that’s quite a process in itself but also what makes us so special. I have a hip hop, soul, R&B background with an ’80s flavour, and then there’s guys who grew up in rock, or strongly influenced by jazz and everything in between, and so we throw all our influences into the mix and see what comes out at the end. Sometimes it works and we use it and other times, it’s terrible.

Pique : You’ve just returned from your first international gig. What was that like for the group? Has it set your horizons on a much larger scale now than perhaps just conquering Canada?

Nigel : Absolutely. We played the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and it was a fantastic experience. Everything is so old in Europe so it was just great to play in a place steeped in so much history. The response we got was so encouraging, we were asked back after our first night playing. We’re definitely going to go back and we all know that Europe is where we want to get to. For what we’re doing there’s a mad amount of people in Canada that enjoy the music but it’s the industry that doesn’t get behind us so it makes it difficult to make a living with just our home country. We’ve all heard the legends about how many people you can get to your gigs in Europe and how much they love this style of music so it’s definitely in our sights.

Pique : Congratulations on the retail release of your first live album, Life Check. What was the motive behind this latest recording?

Nigel : Everyone who comes to see us thinks we’re really good live and so we wanted to capture that for those who may have heard of us, or been told about us and wanted our CD but not necessarily seen us live. This particular album really captures the essence of what we’re all about. We want to do a live album every year now, as well as do studio recordings because the fire in us comes from performance on stage.

Tickets to see the Pocket Dwellers at Garfinkel’s on Aug. 20 are $12 at the door.