Ahead of their gig at Tooth & Claw in May, Anthony Standing of The Leonard Jones Potential chats to Chris Lemon of IGigs.
The Leonard Jones Potential are one of the most iconic bands of the area for the last several years. As with any band they have managed through adapting to change and in a way reinventing themselves. The forthcoming club night sees them play their first gig this year, so what better time to catch up with them?
The Leonard Jones Potential is not The Leonard Jones Potential of old are the changes evolutionary or revolutionary, and in think about the process of change, was there a temptation just to start again with a fresh name?
Whilst the look of the band has changed somewhat, the same potent ingredients are still present – pulsating grooves, screaming keyboards and wah wah guitars. Change is most definitely evolutionary in a sense because the old LJP went far deeper than most fans realised, with many, many tunes never seeing the light of day. In some ways the new set up has resurrected the best of the ‘unheard of’ old stuff, putting a modern twist on it by adapting to our more streamlined band set up. But it has also allowed the creativity of the band to flourish and seek other areas of inspiration which includes dalliances with hip hop, afrobeat, jazz and most importantly electronica.
I would describe our new sound as electronic soul. To me personally, it’s been an easy process of change and it’s felt perfectly natural. It’s still about the groove, the melody and the energy in executing it all. There was I suppose a temptation to change the name and several people wanted us to do that, but more asked us to keep it, realising that all bands evolve, members come and go, but the core soul of the band remains true. So we kept it and I’m glad we did. I always described the LJP as a band that was like a learning community. We learned and grew together as a group and as new members join or work with us, they are welcomed in as well and become contributors in the musical learning process. LJP is a musical attitude and it will continue.
You had announced that Michael, Michelle and Jamie had left the band in November, how difficult was it to replace the trio?
It’s a bit like building a title winning football squad by having two for every position! You would be surprised by the versatility of the LJP with many members being able to play 2 or even 3 instruments, so we always had some flexibility. Michael leaving was a blow for me personally, being a founder member with me many years ago. We sort of evolved the dream together over 10 years or so and our musical understanding was what I would describe as ‘telepathic.’ However, once we convinced our percussionist Andy ‘hammer hands’ Pearce that he was indeed a good drummer, there was no more looking back. He now fuels the engine that provides the steam for us to go out and conquer new worlds!
Michelle was a blow as well, as for many people, she was the darling face of the band and had her own loyal fan club to prove it. We haven’t replaced Meesh as such, but have decided to approach vocals duties a little differently. We like the idea of using a ‘stable’ of singers, different styles and voices for different tracks. I’m really keen on the idea of offering opportunities for new young inexperienced singers to come in and play with the band, get some valauable experience, add in new ideas and freshness along the way. It’s that learning community idea again!
We have worked with several singers since the last ‘old LJP’ gig at Bella last year. First up we worked with Tamzene – whom I know most folk will now have heard of in and around Inverness, and what an amazing talent she is. Tamzene co-wrote a couple of things with us and we have some excellent material recorded with her that we would hope to release at some point. The sound is really about modern Latin jazz pop and we are very excited about it. We also worked with another young singer, Lily Mullery, again from Cromarty. Another talent, yet not a household name locally. Again we co-wrote several things with Lily, some of which will be included in our set at Tooth & Claw on 5 May. We are currently working with another young talent Olga Bogdanova. Olga will join us on our next live outing as a guest singer. I mentioned hip hop, so I need to mention the very exciting hook up we have with Spring Break’s Butterscotch. He joined us for the gig we did as support to Smoove & Turrell in November where we debuted several hip hop influenced funk numbers. There’s more of them coming your way live soon.
Butterscotch was (is) always one of LJPs biggest supporters, so it’s been a pleasure to collaborate. His style and our groove making are a match made in heaven as they say. Jamie leaving the band was in keeping with the way the horn section was destined to move. The new sound was always going to be less horn heavy, with guitar and keyboards taking more centre stage. We still have the trumpet of Fat Doug and the trombone of Andrew Morgan, but they are less prominent in terms of the old LJP sound and are used now more flexibly. Overall, I think people will be excited about the new sound and hopefully they’ll join us on the next leg of the journey and be part of it with us.
You have mentioned the new sound of The LJP, was it a challenge to create a sound that was different but still staying true to the heart of the band?
Nah. The new sound, might sound new to many, but really it’s always been present in much that we have done already. Main ingredients are still in there as I said earlier, but we do utilise keyboards a lot more and the guitar is much more prominent. I wrote much of what the LJP previously did so for me what we are doing now is just an evolutionary extension of that and realising the true potential of some of the earlier material. So, as for the heart and soul of the band, it’s still there, ever so true and still ferociously beating. Always wanting to improve, get better, learn and make a connection with people. I would describe the current band as confident, confident in its own skin and confident in it’s sound.
Having got at least one festival appearance booked, what are your hopes for the band now regarding live gigs, but also about recording new material?
We have loads of new tunes so really the current live set is pretty much all new. We might add in the odd older number here and there, but these will have been rearranged as well, so they still sound fresh and vital. We’ve been doing tons of recording and writing. We’ve probably got enough material for several albums, but the plan will be to release singles every 6 weeks or so. We’ve spent a fair bit of time trying to hone our ‘recorded’ sound. I think folks are familiar with what we sound like live, but LJP recordings are scant fare really and have been over the years, though I have a personal treasure trove of pretty much everything we have done. How many albums did they say Prince actually recorded – most of which never saw the light of day? I bet we could have given him a run for his money!
Live wise we just have the two gigs lined up for now – Tooth & Claw on 5 May and then Woodzstock on 17 June. Looking forward to them both, band will be coiled and ready to spring! After that who knows. Let’s see what offers we get – we’d be keen to get a whole lot busier live wise, now that we have a settled line up. We also want to start getting the recordings out there, and reconnect with our audience and hopefully start to build a new one as well.
Friday Funk Street Night, debuts on the 5th of May, what can you tell us about the evening that you are launching with DJ Butterscotch ,and I am assuming the future of the nights at the venue?
The LJP previously had been involved with the New Soul City nights at the Ironworks, and they had had proved very popular, the band became a sort of houseband for that night and we loved playing on those nights. We were very keen to start something again, so when Steve (Robertson) approached me with his idea for Friday Funk Street, it was a no brainier really. A straight forward format, a DJ, a vibe and a band, and let’s take it from there. The venue is intimate and has a great sound, it’s the sort of place you could build a decent regular club night. That’s what we are hoping to do. Let’s see how it goes. Hopefully some of our old audience will be there to support and get behind us, but hopefully some newer, inquisitive types will come along too. This family of funk is an inclusive business and we are open for business. The Leonard Jones Potential, to me, were always about fire and skill, and you know what, I think we still are. Some things never change.