For anyone who isn’t yet aware of South-London based Jazz/Soul outfit The Grove, one thing you need to know about them is their ability to draw crowds, from far and wide for their numerous gigs across London, is beyond reproach. As they unpacked a plethora of equipment before their gig at Morocco Bound, people were streaming into the venue by the dozen, eagerly anticipating the next instalment in a series of performances from the ever captivating six-piece. This speaks to their raw magnetism and sheer talent.
The lights dim to the trademark Morocco Bound array of colours and a hush falls on the ram-packed crowd as the band pick up their instruments. The audience remain as captivated and enthralled throughout the whole set as they marvel at the sweeping guitar lines, the spacious yet funky rhythms and the enchanting vocals from singer Habiba Sesay. You can tell that there are many mutual acquaintances here, but make no mistake, everyone is here to see The Grove.
The Grove are typically comprised of an array of different musicians and there are never two gigs which look the same. They are making a constantly evolving and unique brand of music which is perhaps what makes them so captivating- you don’t know what you're going to get, but you know it will be good!
Having said this, there are two constants in The Grove, guitarists Pete and Sheffield (Shef). Both born outside of London, Pete from Oxford and Sheffield from a certain northern city (no prizes for guessing which one). The pair met in South-East London and have been performing and writing with The Grove for just over a year now. Together, they have been creating and writing music together for the better part of a decade. Before the show, I was joined by the duo and asked them a few questions about their music and creative process, the upcoming show and their future plans for The Grove.
MB: “Hey guys, how are you doing? What are your some of the influences behind the kind of music you are making with The Grove?”
Pete: “The music we make is catered to our singer - Habiba Sesay- bit more jazzy, a bit like joe pass. But I'm more into my rock personally, when it comes to guitar. Like Pantera and Dimebag Darrell, Angus Young and obviously Jimi Hendrix. Mainly soloists but also rhythm players like Malcom Young. Shef: “I like Stevie Ray Vaughn and Oasis.” MB: “What is your writing process when forming the songs?”
Pete: ‘We’ll usually come up with a riff and then Sheffield or Habiba will come up with a little melody and some lyrics”
MB: “So do you like the collaborative process rather than allowing one person to write the whole tune”
Pete: “Yeah yeah, Sheffield once referred to us as collaborative lads on our instagram page”
MB: "And did you like that?"
Pete: 'na not really no, it was a bit cringey’
Shef: ‘Rest in peace the collaborative lads’
MB: “Do you ever have the whole idea of what the music will be in your head?”
Shef: “Well sometimes, with the Grove me and you (talking to Pete) both have ones we’ve basically done on our own and then everyone else (in the band) brings their own kind of flavour to the dish.
MB: “So do you play your songs note for note from how it was originally written or is it more of a jam?”
Pete: “There’s definitely room for improv. The fills are always a little bit different”
Shef: “Call me Hartwells because there’s always room for Jam Pete: “Yeah...”
MB: “How would you describe your music?” Shef: “Kind of jazzy/soul stuff but theres also some folk-y stuff in there as well. There are a couple that are quite moody but also a bit funky. Pete: “I’m doing an instrumental as well that I’ve taken a few ideas from Tomo Fujita who taught John Mayer at Berklee, who's a really cool player, and a couple of ideas from a guy called Michael Lemmo who does guitar demos for Norman’s Rare Guitars on YouTube” Shef: “There’s also some singer-songwriter stuff in there as well”
MB: “How are you feeling about performing in our space tonight?”
Pete: “This is one of our favourite venues we’ve played in. Its comfy and really nice, there’s not too much pressure to perform as much you just kind of be yourself. I do like the performance vibe but it can be a bit stressful as well.”
MB: “Does the fact people are sat down factor in at all?”
Pete: “Yeah definitely, it means you can play some of the slower stuff. And there’s a great selection of craft beer as well!”
MB: “What are your plans for the future?”
Shef: “We’re just gonna be doing this til the day we die, whether we play Wembley or not, doesn’t matter” Pete: “Yeah, we’ve got other things going on but we’ll see what happens. We don’t want to put too much pressure on it to be successful” Shef: “Well its already successful, you know what I mean?” Pete: “Yeah its already successful in our heart”
MB: “Have you got any new music coming out soon?”
Pete: “Yeah we’re recording some demos and we’re heading into the studio soon”
Shef: “We’ve been recording a lot of stuff recently. You can check out most of our stuff on our Spotify or Instagram.”
MB: “Whats your favourite song to perform of your own and your favourite cover to perform?”
Pete: “We have an original song by me and Habiba called Sun & Rain. It's kind of about Ying and Yang, darkness and lightness, balance and stuff like that which is quite topical at the moment with global warming and shit. It's probably our most upbeat song and it’s the first time we’re playing it live tonight!” Shef: “I love all The Grove tunes. The ones I bare rate doing are Your Infante which is sick and also Alpha which is banging as well, its got big chords” Pete: “And then cover, we did a really good Santa Baby cover when it was Christmas time and that was like our sexiest cover” Shef: “And we also do a Nora Jones cover which Habiba sings with a beautiful voice, she hits the nail on the head with that song”
MB: “Final question, as a bookshop we have to ask… do you have a favourite book, and why?”
Shef: “Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is mine. It explains the game in a perfect way. Good for the soul!”
Pete: “Yanis Varoufakis’s Talking to my Daughter. It’s intuitively written and I like the story of the author. I’m more of a communist myself but capitalism has some cool things’
Written by Cahal Bakaya
Photos by Frankie Fitch-Bunce