Mike Collins writes:
Something has been stirring in Bristol these last six months. A rotating line-up of musicians - among them Greg Cordez, Jeff Spencer, Will Harris, Jake McMurchie, Kevin Figes and Nick Dover - has been performing freshly composed music under the banner of the Bristol Composers Collective at a monthly session in the Wardrobe Theatre. I met up with some of them over a pint.
We talked first about why and how they got going. It all started with an email. Greg Cordez explained:
“We all do loads of gigs, but I’d been thinking in Bristol, there were fewer opportunities to play different sorts of music especially in an environment where people are listening, a chance to try things out… I thought there must be other people who feel the same way. I woke up, had a cup of coffee and thought out loud in an email.”
The response was immediate. They soon found the perfect space in the Wardrobe Theatre above a pub just off the city centre and they were off. I asked them how it works.
“It’s a bit improvised, no set formula” offers Will. “There are some grounds rules though” (Greg)“The emphasis is definitely on composition and new pieces” (Jeff), “The ideas was to give ourselves an opportunity... a forum to play newly composed music” (Jake).
At each performance there may two or even three short sets. “You don’t have the pressure of having to fill a whole night or promote a gig… just try a couple of tunes”(Jeff) “you can try anything you want” (Kevin) “it can be a work in progress” (Greg) He continues: “We wanted to dissuade people from doing a gig, or their regular set… not paying people helps”.
Their commitment to the collective for musical reasons is clear. Anyone wanting to join pays a small subscription and has to ‘pitch’ to Jeff Spencer,who has taken charge of programming, for a slot. The performances are unpaid and the audiences invited to make a donation.
“Not paying people… means unusual combinations. You have to write for who is there” (Jake) “My favourite thing was just writing one tune for a line-up I knew was going to be there” (Nick) “I like the challenges it throws up ... It forces you to think about what you writing and why”(Jake).
Now firmly established with a core organising group and a wider pool of musicians who contribute and give their time, there’s a website, slots booked up for the next few months and already things emerging. Kevin Figes new Octet (including two drummers and two singers) has just recorded a CD, will be performing in Bristol and Birmingham soon and had their first performances in the Wardrobe “.. it happened much faster, it has given me deadlines to work to” (Kev) “.. it galvanises you.. Functioning bands are bettered by the opportunity” (Greg) “It has made a difference to me. I found myself trying things I wouldn't have tried somewhere else, and I've written very differently since” (Jake). Jake’s trio Michelson Morley with fellow collectivists Will Harris and Mark Whitlam release their début CD on F-IRE in May and are touring nationally in April and May.
The Collective are producing exciting new music. They are not short of ideas about where to go next. Keep an eye on them.
Bristol Composers Collective website HERE. Their next Monday sessions at the Wardrobe are 17th Feb, 17th Mar, 14th Apr and 12th May