The Prague Proms International Music Festival is well underway and this Friday offers something special: a concert by up-and-coming Czech singer Patricie and British musician Robin Banerjee (former guitarist for the late soul, rhythm and blues and jazz great Amy Winehouse). They, along with additional musicians, have collaborated on a project called Moods. One recording, 1929, is already getting a lot of attention.
Ahead of Friday’s concert I spoke to both Patricie and Robin in back-to-back interviews. Patricie began by telling me about her meeting with Robin and her reaction to learning of his past work with Winehouse.
“Well first when I heard that he had worked with Amy Winehouse I went ‘wow’ because she was a big star and made great music and that of course made an impression. But as I Robin and I began playing music together I realized he was a very talented a humble but great musician and I started to concentrate more on the musical side of things and we became friends. The fact that he used to play with Amy Winehouse wasn’t a ‘big deal’ anymore.”
What kind of project is Moods, how did it come together?
“The whole project is a big surprise for me and I can’t believe how it has all come together, the result of many incredible coincidences. Robin crashed at my apartment one evening when he needed a place to stay, and stayed for a few days. In the evening we were playing music together and we found out we enjoyed working together. So we got the idea of working together on a project and I asked the management of the Proms if they would be interested and they were. So then I went to London and we recorded some material including the first track and now we are playing these concerts so we are really having a lot of fun with it. I am very happy how it all worked out.”
I imagine that finding really good people to work with can be something of a rarity… that when it really clicks it can be really great for a project such as this one…
“Most definitely. There is a lot of energy and that doesn’t happen in all collaborations.”
In terms of style, Moods has been described as a mix of pop, jazz, and swing: is that a fair description?
“Oh yes. Also soul. It is all of those. And it is still growing: we are still working on newer songs and the style, I think, is really crystalizing.”
The track 1929 has gotten a lot of attention: can you tell me a bit about what it is about?
“I won’t be too original here: it is about the year 1929, us looking back at what was going on before the famous stock market crash in the autumn. It looks at that last summer before everything fell apart, with people partying, dancing in Harlem, the boom before the crash, he social impact. I felt there were parallels between what happened then and the time we are living in now and wanted that in the song. There is an element of nostalgia, you might say, but it is laced with irony as well.”
This Friday you perform Moods at the Prague Proms: how much are you looking forward to it?
“Very much of course! Last night we played too and I saw how much people enjoyed it and I am looking forward to performing again this evening.”
Is Robin ready to come on?
“Yes he is here, ready to answer your questions.”
Thanks again. Robin, you probably got a sense of the interview beside Patricie there, what are your feelings about the project?
“Very much the same. Patricie and I have similar listening styles and play similar music: pop, soul, jazz, electro-swing a lot. I am very happy with the project.”
In an interview for Czech TV, you described the work as a mix of different styles, could you describe some of the twists and turns from song to song?
“Sure. Off the top of my head, 1929 is very kind of electro-swing, jazzy, with a pop twist, while another song, Burning Still, which happens to be my favourite, is more melancholy, rocky. I don’t like to compare but maybe a little like Madeleine Peyroux a bit. It wasn’t written with that intention but there are elements that remind me of her a bit and I like that style.”
What is the state of the project? Will it be released as an album?
“That’s more for Patricie to answer but she is indicating that there are plans for an eventual release. I certainly wouldn’t be against it and we will likely be recording more material together soon. I would like to mention that the band we have worked with on Moods is wonderful, a real cool Prague band which includes Matti Dunietz, Matěj Černý and Jan Steinsdorfer, as well as backup vocalists, myself and of course Patricie.”
“There are similarities: with Amy I performed a lot of heartfelt, dramatic jazz and pop. There are similarities in that Moods has elements that are autobiographical, based on Patricie’s life experiences. Where it is different, is that it is maybe more modern, more straight pop, which I really like.”
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