last year’s girl at the festivals: the blueswater’s “blues”;
I met Felipe Schrieberg, frontman for 11-piece Edinburgh blues collective The Blueswater, at a panel I spoke at on making it in the music industry as part of the Fringe. It was one of those conversations that could have been incredibly embarrassing, given the sheer volume of stuff I’m sent on a daily basis (although I had probably done a good job at making that clear during the discussion, to be fair), as Felipe mentioned that we had previously been in touch.
The thing about The Blueswater though is that they stand out. Whether it’s Felipe’s distinctive vocal yelp or the group’s fusion of blues, funk and old-time rock n roll with modern lyrical themes they’re not about to be mixed up with ten-a-penny guitar pap or the majority of music that you’ll read about on this blog. Following the release of their self-titled debut early in the summer, the group has put together a show tracking the history of their favourite genre which will be on every night at theSpace on Niddry Street until the end of the Fringe. I had a chat with Felipe about the genesis of the show, as well as the collective itself.
Who’s in the band, and how did you get together?
The Blueswater is now about 11 members strong (it does vary with each gig, and for the Edinburgh Fringe we’re 13). We’re a mix of mostly students and graduates that are based in Edinburgh. The band started out in St. Andrews, in Fife. A bunch of us wanted to put a blues band together, and so we did! We played around the town as well as some of the balls that you get all the time in St. Andrews. However, there is a live music pub called Aikmans where we had our best gigs, and it was the energy from those that inspired us to keep going with it. As the years have gone by, members have come and gone, and it’s only within the last few months that we’ve had a really consistent line-up. Before, the band was more like a looser collective.
Three words to describe your sound…
Sweaty Rhythm n’ Blues
What influences you?
We take all kinds of influences onboard. We grab things from jazz, prog rock, delta blues, and fit them into our style. However, I would say a major influence has been the live scene at the Jazz Bar in Edinburgh. We are often listening to the music there and the jazz funk bands that play after midnight really are phenomenal. We definitely have been influenced by the guys there when it comes to writing horn section parts. Chicago blues from Chess Records in general has also been a major influence.
Your recent album fuses elements of funk, blues and rock n roll to create something that, although still contemporary, sounds nothing like the ten-a-penny guitar bands we music bloggers tend to fawn over. What is it that, to you, makes The Blueswater stand out?
The fact that we used to be a proper blues band definitely permeates everything we do, and shines through on the album. We’re also a bigger group than what you’d usually hear from your average band in Scotland, so it means that we have more instruments to play with to add to the sound. We just do our thing and hope that as a result it stands out in this saturated music market.
A related question – despite the “old skool” trappings, lyrically, the band covers topical themes (“Do It In A Double-Dip Recession” being the most obvious example). Do you think there’s anything your stylistic choices would prevent you writing about?
Nope. If we can come up with a good hook, a good main riff and great horn parts, we could probably get away with most topics.
You’re performing at The Fringe this month, tracing the history and the stars of the blues rather than performing your own material. How did that come about? Any surprises in store?
The Fringe is fantastic. It’s hard work, but a lot of fun. I came up with the blues idea while performing with a theatre company at the Fringe. A theatre in the Fringe isn’t really the place to perform your original songs unless you specifically book a music venue, and a history of blues music provides a great narrative to work from. It’s definitely helped the band improve and tighten up very quickly around great songs. The show also serves as a reminder for ourselves about our musical roots. As for surprises, we hope there aren’t any! We’ve planned this thing very meticulously and so far everything has gone smoothly. Some highlights have been playing in a strip club and at the BBC Festival tent on the same day to promote our show, or the gigs that we’ve put on in the Cabaret bar of our venue company, theSpace.
With eleven core members, you must have a fair few future projects and releases up your sleeves – anything you can tell us about?
We’ll be doing a tour of London in early September. We’ve got some really exciting gigs coming up. We’re REALLY excited about playing Ain’t Nothin’ but the Blues, one of London’s top blues clubs, as well as a wild-sounding night in a fantastic Brixton nightclub called Hootenanny’s. We’re also hoping to find a sponsor in order to do some live studio sessions that we would record on video and put on YouTube on a regular basis. We hope to bring in all kinds of musicians from different scenes to play with us, and eventually create an excellent way to encourage some interesting collaborations.
And finally, can you recommend us anything else at the Festivals?
I’ve always been a big fan of The Showstoppers, they’re a musical theatre improv group. A company also performing in our venue called Fourth Monkey I have heard does an excellent production of 4.48 Psychosis, a very dark play. And I always highly recommend anything going on at the Jazz Bar.
Blues! is on every night until 25th August at theSpace on Niddry Street at 8:55pm. Tickets are available here.