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Brand New Heavies - Forward [The Okayplayer Interview]

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.Brand New Heavies Forward Interview

The Brand New Heavies are back, baby. They never really left, of course, but with two new singles--"Sunshine" and "Addicted"-- featuring "Never Stop" singer N'Dea Davenport at the helm after an extended hiatus from the studio, it feels like everything Heavy is new again. Longtime Okayplayers will of course remember BNH best from their breakout jam and the incredibly seminal Heavy Rhyme Experience project featuring GuruGrand Puba, Masta Ace and grip more of rap's most versatile mic controllers--a concept collaboration that arguably introduced the idea of blending rap and live music (sounds like someone you know?) for the very first time. But true Heavies will already have dunked their trunks the whole catalog of the funk that never forgets. When we heard that those two shots were the first of a new Heavies album--the appropriately named Forward--we knew Okayplayer had to be the ones to tell the world. Without further ado, stream The Brand New Heavies' new full-length Forward right here, and read on to get the story of its birth from Heavy drummer, keyboardist, writer, vocalist and producer Jan Kincaid--not to mention some tantalizing tidbits about a Heavy Rhyme Experience 2 (read below!).

Okayplayer: How does it feel to be back? We know you guys have always been making music but the recent material with N'Dea Davenport certainly feels like a reunion to those of us who've been fans from the "Never Stop" days--what's the mood

Jan Kincaid: It feels great to be "back"...the main thing to be aware of here is we are a working, rolling band. Although its taken us way too long to get this release out, we haven't stopped being on the road (the world's a big place) writing, jamming and living, starting families, re-shaping our business and all that good stuff.

So when it came time to get into the studio there was a lot of frustration built up to let out, fuel for the fire so to speak. A lot has changed in the musical landscape--not all of it good--and we felt it was long overdue for a brand new classic from the Heavies, with a few twists here and there.

We've never stopped working with N'Dea but as is the way in most artists' lives we all work on other things and with other people too, it's very healthy and you learn a lot from the process. When "Sunlight" surfaced as a track early on in the album process, N'Dea was the obvious choice to sing a soaring disco opus and she nails it. Other tracks too like "Addicted," "Remember" and "T.T.M.U" also were crying out for her trademark skills. One thing about the Heavies is we have always been keen to explore and evolve our sound through collaboration and using all of our collective talents.To this end we also hooked up with a seriously talented British vocalist, Dawn Joseph who contributes on four cuts too, and has also been doing great work live. I also sing on three cuts: "Heaven"; "On The One" and "One More For The Road" and Simon weighs in on the remaining vocal tracks.

The vibe overall was great, we are excited again and feel very strong creatively--partly through frustration at where music is at, partly through honing our craft and taking on the life experiences that shape any creative person..hence the name FORWARD.

OKP: We know getting this album made was a bit of a journey--how did Forward come about? Maybe you can update us on the runnings since the Dunk Your Trunk instrumental album...

JK: This album came about as it was way overdue and we couldn't deny our fans or ourselves any longer...we set up a new studio and it was ON. We jammed, went through tons of jams,wrote songs,got inspired and tapped in to our creative pool of contributing musicians, horns, etc. who are all old friends and part of the family. It shaped up pretty quickly to be honest and we were left scratching our heads as to what took us so long in the first

place. But we are really proud of it and feel it was worth the wait--but we're definitely not gonna wait that long again!

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.Brand New Heavies Forward LP Art

OKP: Tell us a bit about the evolution of Brand New Heavies--if the classic sound was inspired by souljazz, James Brown and flower power, the recent material seems to be on more of a disco flex. Is that conscious, is the direction influenced by what the band is listening to or other gigs members are playing? Please exfoliate...

JK: We are a constantly evolving product of what we listen to and have been listening to, musical sponges if you will. As collectors and fans of the whole spectrum of music with soul, those influences come out over time...J.B., the funk era, jazz funk, reggae, rock, hip-hop, Latin music, to name but a few have all run through our veins and still do. The sophistication of disco, strings, horns, a diva vocal, quality songwriting have always been there too and somehow that came through strong this time round. We love house music too and electronic music is in there (hey it's a big melting pot) we wanna make classic timeless music you can believe in, that brings people together with lyrics that speak to all our lives. Let's be honest, there's plenty of artists and parts of this money-hungry industry that could use a little quality control right now..I hear so many people saying, "at last an album I can play from end to end." WTF...what happened y'all??!! When we were growing up they all played end to end. So if we can put out an album and warm it up it little, it's all good. As our our greats disappear into the ether WHO WILL WE REPLACE THEM WITH? I don't see many.

OKP: What about the emotional side--what was the songwriting process like, what mood or feeling were you trying to get to or express with this record?

JK: There's always an emotional side. The songwriting process is diverse; we pool, we write separately, we collaborate, we edit, we mould...'til we are done. All with love. The basic mood is forward looking, bombastic, life-affirming good vibes. A little escapism, some depth of feeling in the love department...all of that and then some. We wanted to create a record that flows, that is diverse yet unified overall; never dull and would stand the test of time. Here's hoping.

OKP: There has been loose talk of a Heavy Rhyme Experience, Part 2 project in the works--is it true? If so, when might we expect to hear it? Have tracks been laid and what MCs are you working with--and are you taking suggestions?

JK: Send us your ideas! Listen,we would love to get into this again at some point, but it's not easy to do..there's a lot of schedules, egos, managers and labels to deal with and the rap game and the industry has also changed so much...when we made the last record, we were pioneering a live music/mc collaboration that is now everywhere...hip hop was still in its golden age, still vibrant, still pure. Don't get me wrong, there are still many great MCs old and new that recognise the importance of this artform but there are also plenty who don't. Like many forms of music, commercialization has tainted the art, but like I said there are still giants out there--known and unknown--still messages to spread, still

parties to rock SO...the gods willing we will get in there again sometime soon. We are totally up for it. HOLLA at us..wherever you are.

OKP: Brand New Heavies was born of a certain moment that also included Native Tongues, Soul II Soul, Gang Starr, The Pharcyde, Jamiroquai, Loose Ends, Massive Attack. What newer artists are you listening to or feeling--are you still hiphop fans and are there groups out there you consider kindred spirits in 2013?

JK: Music is a constantly evolving landscape, artists come and go...we learn from the greats and move on and new greats are born, that's how it should be. There does however seem to be a crisis in creativity versus commerciality...there is no shortage of talent but increasingly, they are having to self-fund, self-maintain or rely on the patronage of more well-known artists. We live in the Information Age but many things slip through the net because there is no center. To be a successful artist now, you have to be stronger than ever, more in touch with your whole game and you better have good people around you...We love artists that are not afraid or given the chance to shine and show their own personality through what they do and that transcends musical boundaries, because we grew up with bands and artists that did just that. Major labels took chances, artists were developed...even if it took a few albums to get going. It took David Bowie ten years in the wilderness before any one took any notice of him...would that happen today? Think what greats we might lose in this way.

We have so many contemporaries, some of whom I've probably never heard. But its about an attitude, fearlessness...whatever the music, how much the marketing budget is or who they know; The Roots, Janelle Monáe, Hiatus Kayote, Little Dragon, Jay-Z, DOOM, Karizma, Jneiro Jarel, Gregory Porter, Robert Glasper, Budos Band, Sunburst Band. Man, there's so many...

OKP: What's next for BNH, can we expect a tour behind this new record?

JK: We are on the road already and will turn up outside your house soon. You better have a well stocked fridge, a good relationship with your neighbours and a willingness to throw caution to the wind. Come on down.