THE RECOMMENDER: Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor on Black Peaches
03 Mar 2016
Hot Chip frontman Alexis Taylor on the brilliance of the musical polymath behind new "psychotropic" boundary-pushers Black Peaches
The Recommender is a regular RFB feature where we get established musical hotshots to tip their favourite, less well-known acts: an internet-based passing on of the baton, if you will.
This week, Hot Chip frontman Alexis Taylor talks Black Peaches: a self-described "psychotropic stew of country boogie, spiritual jazz and funk". Taylor and BP leader Rob Smoughton have a lot of previous - Smoughton's been a member of Hot Chip on and off since their formation - but as you'll see, Alexis is clearly as much a fan of the musical polymath's eccentricities as he is a friend of the guy behind them.
"I first met Rob Smoughton in MVC London Bridge (a DVD and compact disc shop) back in 2000 or 2001 - probably in the Big Star section, but possibly under the gondola by Fela Kuti's divider. We worked together there but Rob also played in an amazing double-drumming group - the wonderfully eclectic and rhythmically adventurous Naciente Quartet. He was mostly on drums, sometimes on charango and always a lot of fun indeed. We hit it off straight away.
He joined Hot Chip as our drummer before we released our first album and we gigged a lot in London, sometimes wearing panda masks and sometimes not. When he wasn't wearing one he could see, sing and play guitar from his drum stool better than when the mask was on. But he was always the most talented musician in the band, whatever the head gear.
I guess it shouldn't have been a surprise then when Rob removed the mask, moved on from both Hot Chip and Naciente and made a beautiful electro-soul solo album as his alter-ego Grovesnor, which still to this day contains some of my favourite songs by anyone. He then made another LP which was equally fantastic and featured a timeless ballad in 'Nitemoves' and felt like the record we all hoped Jim O'Rourke might be capable of making.
It comes as no further surprise now to find Rob back with a new project which sounds nothing like Grovesnor, Naciente, Hot Chip (he re-joined us a few years later, luckily for us) nor, for that matter, any band at all currently making music. And although Black Peaches might be masterminded by Rob Smoughton, it is very much a band too. They play extremely well together, like their lives depend on it.
Black Peaches is funky, swampy music but it's not as murky as that might suggest - it's a lean and tight machine to make you move and to throw you in different directions when you least expect it but need it most. It recalls Steely Dan at times, but there's an obvious love of more down and dirty music too, as well as Brazilian rhythms and the funk of Dr John.
Black Peaches live is a phenomenal force to be reckoned with; this group takes the fun and the funk of live music seriously. It's like all of the excitement and guts of a Royal Trux show combined with the speedy and slinky fury of a Doug Scharin combo (Wait, can something be combined with a combo? Do fries come with that shake?). If Black Peaches' music is starting to sound like the aural equivalent of a Fully Loaded Combo Meal due to my simile-heavy descriptive passages, well, they do like their boogie Southern, but it's more Grits 'n' Gravy than Colonel Harland Sanders.
The band are clearly all big record-lovers, but it doesn't make this an overly serious experience – it's sexy and fun every time I have seen them live, percussion rattling away as sinewy basslines and snaking lead guitar parts shift and move all over the place.
Recently I watched Scritti Politti in concert at The Roundhouse. I was struck by the notion that no-one else other than Rob Smoughton could simultaneously be the perfectly metronomic and nonetheless nonchalantly cool electronic backbone of that ultra-futuristic pop group, AND the quietly-getting-on-with-it steel-pan player, vocoderer, synth/ bass/ guitarist of Hot Chip, AND the flamboyant, up-front singer, guitarist, writer, producer and leader of Black Peaches, effortlessly throwing off slippery guitar solos whilst keeping people dancing to a new kind of beat that's completely removed from the current trends of the radio. He's truly one of a kind, and he's brought some fantastic players with him along for the journey this time.
Black Peaches is genuinely stepping out where others tend to stumble these days. In the words of Neil Young on the BBC in '71: 'Don't miss it, don't miss it!'"
Following their forthcoming, sold-out show at the Shacklewell Arms this month, Black Peaches return to London for a headline show at Moth Club on May 19th. Tickets and info here: http://bit.ly/1L6tqYb