'That, I believe is the beauty of being a creative - pushing oneself to be the best possible version of oneself.'
Evan Dale // Jan 20, 2018
North London's Alex Parvenu is a musician who doesn't only understand his roots, his art, and the nature of its fluidity, but thrives under the umbrella of that understanding and knowledge. From a vast and varied musical background calling home to an array of choir and collective band projects, he now looks to a future defined by solo vocalism. Influenced by seemingly every corner of music's past, his own sound comes to life in a debut single and video drawing inspiration from gospel, soul, and Motown, hip-hop, ska, and funk, and everything in between, emerging a transcendental force ready to take the UK's stronghold as an indefinable creative haven to its next chapter. Though at the beginning of a new creative journey, his head is right, his sound is tight, and his soulful music is ready to take flight.
RNGLDR: The UK has quickly become the most influential market for neo-soul and modern funk / jazz adaptations to take root. For you, as a young UK soul artist, can you speak a little bit on the scene and what it is about it that makes it such fertile ground for music at large?
Parvenu: I think one of the beautiful things about living in the UK, the major cities and London in particular, is that it has such a worldly feel; it's an amazingly diverse city, with cultural influences from all over the world. This also spills into the music being made here. We have this sort of melting pot, whereby you have so many different cultural, social, and economical groups merging, that this is also mirrored in the music being made, genre wise, lyrical content wise etc. I believe that's why the music scene is the way it currently is in the UK. As for soul music specifically, that's culture and heritage.
RNGLDR: In terms of your own sound, it seems as though you’re inspired by a wide range of music and thus have become a conglomerate of a lot of different influences. Who are some of your biggest influences that grant us some insight into who you are as an artist today?
Parvenu: Man, I feel like music, is a feeling and a language of its own.. So when you're talking influences, you can attribute what you do to the many artists who came before you who inspired you, as much you can to your day to day experiences - how people made you feel, what you've been through, what you've seen etc. Genre wise, my dad played everything from Paul Simon, to Toots and the Maytals, to Bob Marley, to Stevie Wonder, James Brown, The Temptations, Aretha, Fela Kuti etc...I'm influenced by all of these guys. I took a personal liking to the Fugees of this world, the Lauryn Hills of this world, the Amy Winehouses, and I grew up singing in a Gospel Choir; so you may hear some of these influences in an Alex Parvenu record. I'm also a 90's kid, so anything that was popular in the 90's, most definitely influenced me too.
RNGLDR: In particular, there seems to be a vibrant Motown influence in your sound where the lighter side of soul music blends with a lot of instrumentalism and pristine vocalism. What kind of effect has the Motown era had on you?
Parvenu: I believe Motown got it right. There was a real musical sensibility and a real pop sensibility...coexisting - a great balance. Some argue that's what most popular music today lacks... a great sense of musical sensibility. I love the Motown era, the harmonies, the lyrical content, the musicianship, even the fashion.
RNGLDR: Let's talk about your debut, It Wasn't Me and its music video. It displays and acknowledges a lot of artists past and present. What was the thought process on the characters included in the video? Which of them are inspirational to your music and the track specifically?
Parvenu: I would probably have to do an entire interview to really break down the entire animation video, as there's lots going on in there - more than meets the eye. In the stage performance elements of the video, I pay homage to James Brown, The Temptations, and Carlos Santana to name a few.
RNGLDR: The video is one of the more fun-loving animated shorts that we can think of. What was the inspiration behind the video?
Parvenu: You know what, outwardly, I probably come across as quite a serious individual; people are always telling me I need to smile more. But at heart, I'm a big kid. I love to laugh, so you know, there's always going to be a bit of humour in whatever I do. After story boarding for the video, I knew the best way to bring it to life was to do an animation, so we spoke to a few animators and the rest is history.
RNGLDR: Now that you have your debut single and video in your rearview, what is it like moving forward? Is there room to breathe and a foundation to build on, or does it feel like there is pressure to create within the confines of what you’ve already done?
Parvenu: I personally like to believe that there's always room to breathe. I'm hearing otherwise from 'industry people', but you know, I think it's always about finding balance. There's always going to be a certain amount of pressure to achieve in any field, but that I believe is the beauty of being a creative - pushing oneself to be the best possible version of oneself. My ex use to say 'nuh watch no face'.
RNGLDR: On the subject of moving forward, are there more singles on the way? More videos?
Parvenu: Yes! My EP Blue Summer is a visual EP with five music videos which tell a story. We filmed all five of them over in New York.
RNGLDR: And when do you think you’ll have a debut EP on the way?
Parvenu: Summer time? Let's see!
RNGLDR: Going back to the UK, who are some current artists on the scene that we should be aware of?
Parvenu: I'm feeling Kojey Radical. I love his track Water.
RNGLDR: Who are some of your favorite neo-soul and R&B vocalists in music right now?
Parvenu: Those two terms are kind of muddied terms right now - R&B and Neo Soul. I mean, if you're asking for my favs within Neo Soul, I'm probably going to stick with some of the pioneers; Lauryn, Erykah, D'Angelo, Jill Scott, Raphael Saadiq, Bilal.
RNGLDR: We run a series called Collab Elation where we discuss hypothetical collaborative projects that we want to see in the music industry. So, if you could collaborate with anyone in music – past or present – who would you choose to work with and why?
Parvenu: Probably any of the artist I've mentioned previously within this interview - because they're all awesome, and I'm sure we'd come up with something incredible.
RNGLDR: And if you could have any two artists – not including yourself – collaborate with one another, who would you want to see work together? Why?
Parvenu: I've always wanted to see a Lauryn Hill and Jay-Z collaboration. They're two icons within the culture, and I think it would be a positive thing.
RNGLDR: We also run a narrative series called Dream Venue where we take the reader on the perfect adventure culminating in the ultimate live performance. So, if you could go on a Dream Venue adventure of your own, how would it unfold and who would you see perform?
Parvenu: I don't know. Maybe we'd visit Wakanda and then watch a Bob Marley concert in Reggae Heaven.
RNGLDR: Performance and theatrics seem to be an integral part of who you are as an artist. And even as such a young artist who perhaps hasn’t had too many opportunities to perform at this point I your career, what would be your ideal Dream Venue as the artists performing?
Parvenu: Man give me a great sound guy, and a big enough stage so the band can breathe, then we're good to go at any venue.
RNGLDR: What do you think the state of music returning a little to its roots and coming to respect and admire the work of instrumentalists and retro-nuanced sounds says about music and where its headed?
Parvenu: I'm all about balance man; Yin and Yang. I'm not going to knock anyone making music that is outside of those confines, but ultimately, I am excited to hear more and more live music on the mainstream charts.
RNGLDR: And what do you think it says about society at large?
Parvenu: Society? What is that? *Kanye Shrug*
RNGLDR: What do you think is it about the UK that really respects and admires the work of artists who utilize a lot of retro techniques and classic sounds in their music?
Parvenu: Like I mentioned previously, the UK has a unique history on the world stage; I believe this has shaped by and large how we hear music and our appreciation of niche genres.