Moving on swiftly to our next mix in the series, and taking on a more down-tempo vibe than the house-heavy workout from AZ&TOR, Mix #009 arrives from an artist we’ve admired for a while now. Merging percussive beats with masterful grand piano and wistful vocals, Brownswood act Gang Colours delivers an eclectic mixtape fresh off the back of album number two, and it’s a refreshing contribution to the mix series.
Scooped up by Brownswood back in 2010, Will Ozanne’s introduction on the label through his Gang Colours moniker came on Brownswood Bubblers Six with the dub influenced ‘No Clear Reason’, a track that debuted his warm style and knack for an intricate beat.
After a handful of remixes, notably his dance-floor take of Ghostpoet’s breakthrough ‘Cash And Carry Me Home’, and his exceptional reworking of Lucky Paul’s ‘Thought We Were Alone’ on Somethinksounds, Ozanne released his first EP on Brownswood with In Your Gut Like A Knife. The EP housed four stunning tracks, which showcased Ozanne’s meticulous production skills, and ability to craft textured layers and progressive elements in his sound. The title track was perhaps the standout from the EP, and still remains one of our favourites.
A year later, Ozanne returned to the label for his full-length debut, a record that advanced the Gang Colours formula by calling on his classically trained piano playing background, and incorporating these acoustic elements into the album and his live shows. The Keychain Collection meshed traditional song writing with down-tempo beat making, drawing from elements of hip-hop and R&B to create a unique record that swelled with character and coyness. For us ‘Tissues & Fivers’ and ‘Botley In Bloom’ shone as the most well executed tracks on the LP, but it was the classy ‘Fancy Restaurant’ that gained the most acclaim, and was an indication of where Ozanne was taking the Gang Colours blueprint next.
A couple of months back album number two surfaced, evolving Ozanne’s musical concept further and showcasing a more matured singer-songwriter set-up. Lead single and album title track ‘Invisible In Your City’ sees Ozanne utilising his full vocal ability and allowing it to prevail for the first time. The album is a fuller, more vibrant affair and harbours some real gems, including the bluesy ‘Home’ and new single ‘Why Didn’t You Call?’, featuring the soulful guest vocals of Lulu James.
Will’s Bokah mix echoes the variety of styles that influence his music, and works as a brilliant mixtape to give you a flavour of his Gang Colours sound. From woozy hip-hop numbers by Chance the Rapper and Shawn Chrystopher, to quirky cuts from Kindness and Pedestrian, and a whole variety of immersive beats in-between, it makes for a great listen. Download the mix below and read our interview with Will beneath.
1 Shawn Chrystopher – Minding My Business
2 John Frusciante – Murderers
3 Kindness – Swingin Party
4 Instra:mental – Lets Talk
5 Owiny Sigoma Band – All Together
6 Them ft. Van Morrison – It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
7 Dean Blunt – Y3
8 Marbert Rocel – Trench Coat
9 Pedestrian – Led Astray
10 Gang Colours – Village & City
11 Chance the Rapper – Lost (ft. Noname Gypsy)
12 Nannue Tipitier – Out of Tune. Out of Time
13 Ryan York – High Life
Thanks for putting the mix together for us Will, can you tell us a bit about the style of it and the song selection; there’s a real eclectic vibe in there.
Yeah I like finding a sense of flow amongst a collection of quite varied track choices. It’s something I do with a lot of the mixes I put out; this kind of practice I feel helps me when putting together something that needs flow and a cohesive sense, like an album. But ultimately it’s designed to keep the ear alert and occupied during the course of it’s 40 minute or so journey. As for the content of the mix, I’ve just placed tracks new and old together that I’ve really enjoyed at one time or another over the past few years.
You’ve just released your second album, and it’s a clear step towards more singer/songwriter territory with your vocals being more prominent throughout; is this change in sound something you feel you’ve naturally moved towards as an artist?
I’m a big fan of the ‘do it yourself’ thing, probably because generally I like to be in control, especially of my own artistic output. And as time goes, and I learn more and more about the music industry and its process, I slowly gain more of a hold on each element of that process. Having just released my second album, I feel I’m now equipped to do most things myself (apart from mastering!). Vocals and lyric writing is one of those things that I had always wanted to have a go at, I really feel that with enough imagination and practice anyone can do it – and I’m really enjoying sharpening my song writing skills at the moment. It really opens up the possibilities of a track, and if done right can punch deeper into the gut of human emotion.
Do you think you’ll ever return to the beat-orientated/instrumental material such as that of your debut EP, or do you see yourself continuing to move away from that musical style?
I wouldn’t put it out of the realms of possibility at all. I do still yearn for those instrumental type beats, there’s a certain skill in that for sure, the whole ‘less is more’ thing still rings true for me. And if it fits in whatever project I’m working on then yes I will do it. But the challenge for me at this time in my life is to get the balance of vocals and backing music dancing side by side, seamlessly like those birds called ‘Clarks Grebes’ that Attenborough did a piece about on one of his programmes ages ago. It’s a feat I have yet to master; I’m just knocking at its door trying to get in (and enjoying the challenge in the process).
Your recent single from the album ‘Why Didn’t You Call?’ sees you collaborate with Lulu James, which is the first time you’ve recorded a track with another vocalist; how did this come about? After the success of this collaboration can we expect to hear you working with other artists in the future?
Well she introduced herself to me after a show in Brighton a couple years back, and from there the seed was planted! A few months later I started work on my second album and suddenly had an idea for a boy-girl response track and she was literally the only person I had in mind to do it. Perhaps due to the personal connection that had initially been made, it wasn’t just a faceless internet exchange (which I have nothing against by the way!). Fortunately, she liked the track and came back with what you can hear on the track now, after just a couple days of hearing the track and my ideas I had for her part. She really smashed it, and went beyond my expectations. It’s those moments that make collaborating with another artist really exciting and interesting. I’ve been lucky enough to work with a few other great artists over the past couple of years, and although nothing has yet been released from those sessions, the learning experience has been invaluable.
You’ve continued to work with Gilles Peterson under the Brownswood label, how did this relationship come about? Will the label continue to be a home for your music, or do you see yourself releasing elsewhere?
The catalyst for my whole relationship with Gilles and my Brownswood family was a guy called Obaro, who you may also know as Ghostpoet. We had been friends on MySpace for a long time, and he was one of the few people I would often converse with on there; we had a mutual respect for each other and when he gained success he threw the rope down to me to start climbing. I’m really happy to be releasing music on such a great label; they have been extremely supportive of me and have allowed complete freedom of expression. Who knows what my future might entail, I just know at this moment in time I’m honoured to be apart of the Brownswood family.
The live side of your music has always been a big part of what you do. What drove the decision to make that leap from being a producer to bringing in the grand piano and performing your material semi-acoustically?
I remember listening to Michael Jackson as a spiky haired youth and often visualising me up on stage singing those lyrics to a huge audience, and that would then result in goosebumps all over. So I think some of the drive to perform live stems from that tiny childhood fantasy. I want to be able to give people a moment; something authentic that came from my conscious and is now being pushed into the consciousness of whoever cares to listen.
I see it as another challenge of the whole being an artist thing, and something that I’m constantly thinking of how to improve in whatever way I can.
How has the live show developed with this new album?
Well this time around we have an incredible drummer on board called Gillan. His power and incredible skill behind the drums really fills the venues that we play now, which was something I often felt was lacking in my show before he came along. I’m just doing things bit-by-bit really, so getting a drummer in and seeing if that worked was first on my list, next on my list is a guitarist I think.
What’s next for you musically – are there already plans for another album? The last one seemed to come around pretty quickly!
Well I don’t want to give much away, as I like to keep the element of surprise. Also I don’t know that what I’m working on at the moment will even be ready in the time scale that I’ve vicariously set myself, and I know I’d kick myself if I started announcing future releases and then down the line I couldn’t adhere to my promises. I’m just keeping the pressure on at the moment, working as hard as I can with the same level of ambition and honesty that I approach all my musical endeavours with.
Finally, what tune can’t you get enough of at the moment?
Dean Blunt – Imperial Gold