Releasing their debut, self-titled album earlier this year, The Seven Ups are experts of afro-beat and funk. Performing at AWME in November, we spoke to the group about their writing process, influences and plans for the future!
How did you get your start in music personally, and how did this eventuate into The Seven Ups being formed?
As a guitarist, I started like most guitarists do, around 11 or 12 and wanting to play rock’n’roll. In my late teens, I got into Funk and Soul and started playing in cover bands. In my early 20s, I discovered Afrobeat, and The Seven Ups formed shortly after that.
How does the writing process work with your music? Do you write individually for your respective instruments or is it more collaborative?
I’ll usually come into rehearsal with a song pretty much good to go. I’ll have the guitar, bass and horn lines written, then we work on the groove as a band and usually tweak the arrangement a bit.
Most of the music I listen to is quite lyrically driven, although your music seems to convey a lot of meaning without the need for a vocal part. Do you find it challenging to do this or does it come naturally with the genre you’re working with?
Our music is heavily influenced by Fela Kuti who’s songs go from 10-30mins, and longer live! Usually, the first half of his songs were all instrumental, so for us playing instrumental seems to work pretty well. I try to keep the titles of the songs pretty broad, so listeners can imagine their own meanings.
What have been your favourite venues to play in? What was so unique about them?
Well, we’ve never played at Max Watts, but have seen some amazing artists there over the years, so it’ll be a thrill to get on the same stage. One of our favourite locals is The Spotted Mallard in Brunswick just cause it’s so warm and homely but big and grand at the same time. We’ve played pretty much every stage we can fit on in Melbourne at one point or another and they’re all unique in their own way.
Are there any artists or groups in particular that have been instrumental in influencing The Seven Ups? What was it about these artists that inspired you?
Obviously Fela Kuti, but also artists like The Meters, Sly and the
Family Stone, James Brown, The Funkees, Budos Band and Antibalas. All these artists just have solid as grooves, but it doesn’t get too complicated or high-brow, I guess that’s kind of what we’re going for.
Your debut album was released at the beginning of the year – congratulations! – can you tell us a little about what it’s been like to have that album out for some time now and how it feels to have the album so warmly received?
It’s been great to get the album out. Our very first release was a vinyl 45 and we always had people asking for CDs, plus we had all these songs that we’d been performing for about 2 years and hadn’t recorded. Having the album out has also got us more industry attention and bookings for bigger shows which has been really exciting.
Speaking of the album, the artwork is quite a quirky collage with an urban feel to it. For instance, there’s a tram protruding near the bottom half, as well as a Johnston St street sign. Are these kinds of things representative of the themes and Melbourne lifestyle your music is reflective of?
Our percussionist, Michael, designed the album using photos he took around Fitzroy and Brunswick. I wouldn’t say it is or isn’t specific to the themes of the music, but it does represent us as a band and where we come from. There’s pictures of some of the venues we played, our instruments, the recording studio and my dog, Oscar.
What’s next for you guys? Are you writing/recording again anytime soon or still focusing on the debut album?
Yeah, we can’t wait to record our next album! We’ve got most of the songs together and are playing some of them live. It’s just a matter of getting the time and money to go into the studio. We’re hoping to record early next year, and release the album mid-year.
What other bands are you looking forward to seeing live at AWME?
We’re really excited about, I think we’re all planning to see anything and everything! In particular, Emma Donovan, The Meltdown, Mojo Juju, Deep Street Soul, The Deans and Kingfisha should all be amazing gigs.
The Seven Ups at AWME
Thursday, November 12
Max Watts, Melbourne VIC
with Mojo Juju, Emma Donovan & The Putbacks, Quarter Street, DJ Emma Peels, DJ Chelsea Wilson & MC Chris Gill
(7.30pm till 12.00am)