Each month on the Wordplay Podcast we choose an artist who we feel you should be listening to. We scan the incredible pools of talent around the globe, and with a different focus each month we find 1 artist / group who we love and think you will too! Our Amplify artist for October is the incredible Bristol based singer / songwriter China Bowls, who’s soulful vibes has had Wordplay Towers feeling mellow this month! We caught up with China to find out a little more about one of the UK’s finest up and coming Neo-Soul talents…
So what have you been up to the last few months?
We’ve been recording an EP. Getting the songs ready. They’re songs that i wrote, just me and a guitar, so getting the band together has been part of that. It’s 3 tracks, and we’ve been in the studio and focusing on that mainly.
How would you describe the sound of the EP?
They’re 3 quite different tracks, because this is the first thing i’ve released so they’ve come from 3 quite different time periods. There’s quite a jazzy influence, soul influence, i listen to a lot of Neo-Soul, so that genre gets chucked around. Some of the other songs have a quite dark, Gypsy tinge to the them, but i think the songs in the EP are quite light and Sunny.
Who artist wise influences you?
Well, i was obsessed with Hiatus Kayote for about 2 years! I had to stop myself listening to them! But i also really love the more produced Hip Hop sounds like J Dilla, and new artists who’ve been influenced by him like Tom Misch and Jordan Rakei. I love a lot of Australian artists, so listening to a lot of them at the moment. I’m actually listening to more produced stuff now, as i wrote the EP when i was listening to a lot of live stuff, so it’s funny how you kind of move on, and then you finish recording and you have to go backwards!
Talk is a live EP, do you see yourself continuing on the live route in the future or will it be a fusion of live and produced?
I think definitely a fusion would be the goal, yeh. To get the kind of sounds that i hear in my head i think it does need to have that produced element, i like the kit to be played almost like an electronic drum kit, but definitely a blend. I play guitar and i love playing live, so that will always be there.
So which came first, was it guitar or vocals?
Vocals. I’ve sung all my life, much to my family’s joy! Then guitar was kind of a necessity for writing songs, and i used to listen to a lot of Fat Freddy’s Drop, well actually i still do, but not so much. So originally i was playing a lot of reggae, just major chords, and then as i got better at guitar i was actually able to write the songs i was wanting to hear, with jazzy chords, i was like “oh, THIS IS IT!!”. When i bought an electric guitar that made me love the guitar a lot more when i found that sound.
Have you been doing much on the live front?
Yeh. So i play a little stage at festivals called The People’s Front Room, which is essentially like a Living Room space / art installation, and i’ve been playing with them for the past 4 years, and that’s really helped me grow as an artist. It’s a collective, so you do have your own individual set, but you also make a band on the day and they’ll be your band, the you all jam. Plus the audience is a metre away from you so you can’t escape them! So that’s been really good in terms of learning how to deal with an audience, and also how to jam with people, and then yeh, bits and bobs, solo gigs mainly, but now hopefully as the EP is with the full band we can get more gigs with that sound.
How has Saffron Records been supporting you as a label?
When i was first talking with them after the said “yes, you’re signed, we want to record with you”, we were working out what they could do, so they were asking me “what do you feel weak on” and “what do you feel we could help you develop”, so they paired me up with Eva Lazarus, and she’s been giving me some mentoring sessions. It’s really collaborative, so i’m involved in everything, it’s not like “here’s your artwork”, it’s having a support network really, but they do a lot of the conversations. For instance when we were recording they found people and asked who i’d like to work with, and were setting things up.
So what’s your next steps in the short term?
Well, we had an EP preview gig, and the Saffron 1st Birthday was sort of the launch for it too! We hijacked the gig as the birthday for Saffron and the EP launch party! Also, i went to Palestine with Saffron Records halfway through Summer, so that was a massive experience that took a lot of energy and focus, and the EP, so we’ve not really not planned too far forward, but it’s mainly booking gigs and pushing the EP. including outside of Bristol aswell.
Do you see yourself staying as a solo artist or do you see yourself doing collaborations with other vocalists?
Definitely want collaborations! Also, the way i’m writing songs now, they need a 3 part harmony. But yeh, i performed at Bestival with a few MC’s like Solomon OB, and a few others, and that’s definitely something i want to explore. Collaborating on more produced hip hop tracks, and different musicians aswell, and maybe different instruments on different tracks.
Where can people check you out?
I think i’m on everything!
I’m on Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/chinabowls/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/chinabowlsmusic
I do have Instagram and i’m learning how to use it! – https://www.instagram.com/chinabowlsmusic/
And i do have twitter! – https://twitter.com/chinabowlsmusic
I’m ok at Facebook, not so good at Twitter and pretty bad at Instagram! But it’s all there!
Interview by Vice
Images by Jack Cullis for Wordplay Magazine