Time does fly quickly when you are having a good time and recently we have been having the time of our lives (yes, Baby is not sitting in the corner anymore!). We have been to countless gigs, several parties, open mic nights and even to a Halloween extravaganza, but this is a tale for another day 🙂
Today, we would like to introduce you to one of the best neo soul musical collectives from The Midlands. They are called Population:7 and they are very popular among faithful city residents. You should see their gig at Marrs’ Bar during Worcester Music Festival, it was so packed that Rita got a panic attack (she is claustrophobic), yet people still wanted to get in and were queuing outside! Something like that has not happened since the early 90’s according to the owners and we truly believe them.
Ladies and Gents, let us introduce you to a group that can make old Worcester City dance like the stars on BBC1 on Saturday night 🙂
Haydn Rogers: Vocals
Rachael Medhurst: Vocals
Sam Ruane: Vocals
Rob King: Guitar/Synth/Vocals
Pete Mann: Guitar/Vocals
Rob Taylor: Bass/Synth
Jon Kasch: Sax
Hannah Webb: Sax/Flute/Clarinet
Carl Browne: Drums
Being in a band these days is certainly not a walk in the park, yet the technology available can make musicians’ lives so much easier. The least experienced group will sound pretty good in the studio even if minimal production is applied. Reconstructing that decent sound on stage is another keg of beer whatsoever. In the spotlight, lack of skills or sloppy presence can send the unlucky ones straight into rock and roll oblivion. Don’t be alarmed, Population: 7 are fantastic on the record and in concert. To be honest, they are one of the few bands that can make you dance and jump right from the start. Talking to them is a pleasure as well. We met with Haydn Rogers to discuss their three records, linguistics and the dynamics of working in a musical collective.
There is no doubt that Population:7 is a fantastic name for a band. It’s short, easy to remember and carries a certain element of mystery. Can it be linked to the current population of Earth (7 billions people) or does it mean something completely different?
Haydn Rogers : Finally! Someone gets our name right! Yes, it is a reference to there being 7 Billion people on our planet (currently its 7,571,613,961, but it changes every second). I think we were having a conversation about Desmond Morris (a prolific scientist and writer) and exponential population growth and it all went from there. You would not believe how many people come up to us at shows and say something like: “What’s with the name? There’s like 9 of you and your name has a 7 in it!” Maybe it’s because of groups like SClub7 that people just assume its’s how many members you have!
You are so far the biggest group we had a pleasure to host on our blog. Would you be so kind to introduce all 9 members of your collective? Don’t worry, we like long answers!
Haydn Rogers: Currently, there are roughly 9 of us. I say roughly because we have members that come and play with us for a season or jam with us from time to time. On vocals we have Sam Ruane (alias Ruane), Rachael Medhurst and me (alias Phantom). On the guitars, we have Pete Mann (alias Swagadon), Rob King (he also plays synthesizer) and Rob Taylor who plays bass guitar. Carl Browne is our drummer but this summer he was replaced by Ben Pemberton as Carl was away. Also, there is Hannah Webb who plays alto saxophone, clarinet and flute. We’ve played with loads of other great players that we hope to play with again in the future.
Other bands are struggling to recruit members, yet you managed to gather quite a crowd. How did you all meet? Have you started out as a regular 3 or 4 piece band and kept adding new instruments or vocalists or have you just got together one day and decided to make music?
Haydn Rogers (laughing): We all met in a submarine, just off the coast of Puerto Rica. The Cubans had taken a top secret super weapon that would endanger all of the Eastern Sea on board. So, naturally we were in a nuclear stand off until we started playing this groove in the mess hall (witch for some reason was full of instruments). It was so righteous that we played it over the sub space radio and the Cubans heard it and immediately de-armed themselves and opened the peace negotiations. After that, we decided to form a fusion band instead of a top secret black ops division of MI6.
I met Sam Ruane few years back when I was playing with Rob King in a band called This Wicked Tongue. We were just chilling in the living room when Sam told us he was a rapper which really impressed us. After little collaboration with Sam’s band TWT, we decided to “do some hip-hop”. At that point we all gathered around a totally out dated lamp-shade iMac (absolute classic computer) and we would make beats with whatever we could get our hands on. At the same time, Pete Mann AKA Swagadon (a mysterious blues/rock/math demon) started writing with us and playing guitar, adding a whole new dimension of insane riffs and enigmatic dance routines. Slowey, we started working with other artists as well. Members of TWT and another group named Mansize were always involved with playing parts and jamming. Two girls, Tina Maynard and Anya Pulver did some fantastic vocals on our first album “Dead City”. When both bands broke up, half of their members moved to Bristol, the other half stayed in Worcester and we formed Population: 7. We wanted it to be a live act and not just a living room/studio project. The first incarnation included Sam, myself, Rob Taylor, Rob King, Pete Mann and Rachael Medhurst, who joined shortly after our first album was released. We needed a drummer, so we sent a couple of our songs to Carl Browne, our mutual friend. It was just few days before our first gig and he nailed everything without rehearsal. We asked him to join us and he said “Indeed shall!” The last person to join was Hannah Webb. She brought a new element to our music with the saxophone, clarinet and flute, giving us a funkier/jazzier sound. We also played with two other amazing sax players along the way – John Kasch (the blues wizard of sax, incredible player) and Katie Ind (amazing jazz multi instrumentalist).
You easily blend jazz, hip-hop, soul, R’n’B and funk into a powerful cocktail of rhythm and irresistible melodies. In your opinion, does Population: 7 sound fits any particular genre or are you happy to keep your fingers in many pies?
Haydn Rogers: Thank you! I think we initially intended Population: 7 to be a live hip-hop group but through all of our different influences and ideas of what that should be, we ended up with something very different. Our music is an expression of our love for playing, jamming and creating, we get into a room and it just happens. The creative process is organic that way, more intuitive than conscious. The influences from other genres are intrinsically a part of us so when we play they manifest through us and form our fusion of sounds. We can be put into genres or a single genre but that is more for the listener to decide, we are too close to what we are doing to truly know. Also we’re happy to keep exploring music; it is always an adventure and a voyage of discovery
You have impressed Andrew Marston of BBC Hereford and Worcester so much that he described you as one of the best neo-soul acts in the country. After seeing you live he wrote:“What an incredible live performance. Fun, energetic and have the crowd enjoying themselves as much as the band!” It’s hard to disagree with his words as you nearly brought the entire Marrs Bar down during Worcester Music Festival on Saturday 16th of September. It was packed tight.
Haydn Rogers: We are very thankful to Andrew and the BBC Hereford and Worcester for playing our music and having us on at Lake Fest last year! We put a lot of effort into making sure our live shows are full of energy and it’s great to know that people appreciate that when we play. The Marrs Bar concert organized by The Task in Hand was a really enjoyable night for us and the crowd was amazing! This makes it easier for us to perform and have a great time doing it. It was a packed night and the atmosphere was intense. To capture that energy, we decided to film part of the show to make a video for our song “Swag” which will be out soon! We loved the other bands playing that night with us as well: Hoggs Bison, Theo, To The Wall, Esteban and Rosebud – check all of these out if you haven’t already!
Recently Population:7 has recorded two albums: “WHYP7” in 2016 and “Fiero” earlier this year. Despite just a year of difference between both releases, there is a massive change in your sound. “Fiero” is much more complex and adventurous. You use various singing and rapping techniques, you are not afraid to experiment with ambient and dubstep, everything seems to flow more naturally, almost with ease. We can freely use the word “mature” to describe it. You have evolved considerably as a band in a really short period of time.
Haydn Rogers: Again, thank you! A lot changed for us in that time including members and musical tastes so the music naturally moved with us. We also had time to play a lot of shows and practice hard, further discovering our sound and what P7 is and means to us. The sound will no doubt continue to change and evolve as we do as people. Music is all about people really, it’s a social thing. It is as much about our relationships and culture as it is about notes and musical structure. That is its true power – it connects people or sometimes the opposite – in our case we all agree on how it makes us feel which drives us to achieve more. We are currently bringing together the material we have been working on for the last year with a view to turn it into an album to record sometime next year.
We are intrigued by the name of the album. Tell us, what exactly is “Fiero”?
Haydn Rogers: “Fiero” is an Italian word that has several meanings. I first came across it when I read “Emotions revealed: Understanding faces and feelings” by psychologist Paul Ekman. It is amazing, read it! Jane McGonigal, American game designer and author gives a good definition of fiero in her book “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World”. She says: “Fiero is what we feel after we triumph over adversity. You know it when you feel it – and when you see it. That’s because we almost all express fiero in exactly the same way: we throw our arms over our head and yell”. We decided to use “Fiero” as the album title after having lots of problems with the titular song. There was a very tricky section in this song, that when we eventually got it right this is exactly what we felt. It also means fierce or proud and is also the name of a 1988 mid-engined Pontiac.
Two tracks included on and “Fiero” are standing out: the hypnotic “I Say” and the crowd pleasing “Blindspot” which opens the record. We’d love to hear more about those songs.
Haydn Rogers: “I Say” is a song about not feeling in control of your life but accepting that fact. It’s also a lot of fun to play and there’s a flute bit in it that Hannah came up with that completely defines that track. “Blind Spot” is one of our older songs and has changed a fair bit over the years until we recorded it for “Fiero”. We also did a music video for it earlier this year in our friend Diff’s basement. Thanks Diff, you are a legend!
The collective is constantly on the move. You play a lot of shows at home and away. Recently you have supported Benji and Hibbz in Birmingham at a sold out concert and enchanted the audience during very successful performances at Lakeview Festival and at The Wharf in Stourport-on-Severn. Where will your fans have to see you live next?
Haydn Rogers: We really enjoyed playing with Benji and Hibbz at the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham. They are a really talented bunch of musicians and great people too! We ended up having a freestyle jam with them and the other act, Glimmer & Wiz. It is really refreshing playing with a band that is genuinely up for live jamming. We have a couple of shows coming up. Please come and see us on 2nd of November at the Marrs Bar supporting the Toasters and 2nd December at the George and Dragon in Belper. We’re also planning to do a Christmas Show show at the Marrs’ Bar but we are still confirming the dates.
You can follow Population:7 at:
Reverb Nation: https://www.reverbnation.com/population7
You want to hire them for your gig? Please send all request to Population7uk@gmail.com! They will get your party started like nobody else. Trust us, we haven’t danced for years but our feet start moving on their own! It’s a dangerous thing to go to their performances. You never know, you might be off showing your best moves on the dance floor in no time!
Have a fantastic Novermber kids and keep your eyes open. Population:7 are going to be even bigger, very, very soon.
Rita and Malicia Dabrowicz