Introducing: Normanton Street

You have to won­der: does the real Nor­man­ton Street, from which this group takes its name, match up to the mys­tique and class of this tal­ent­ed ensemble?

Nor­man­ton Street are a group from Brighton cre­at­ing rous­ing, jazz-infused soul and hip hop. They are also a group whose visu­al aes­thet­ic – see pho­tographs of the trio, snap­pi­ly dressed and pos­ing like your cousin’s oh-so-smooth high school friends, on emp­ty city streets – suits their sound to a tee.

“We want peo­ple to feel good and vibe out to our music,” Nichol­son Davids tells Fringe Fre­quen­cy.

And you will, because the mem­bers of Nor­man­ton Street gen­er­ate a haunt­ing chem­istry when they make music togeth­er. It’s trav­el music for wan­der­ing between the vacant cafes and green spaces of the sub­urbs (‘Take a Walk with Me’). For pon­der­ing rela­tion­ships and their com­plex­i­ties on the late night (‘No Dra­ma’). And doing a lit­tle rem­i­nisc­ing over days gone by (‘Fly Lady (Get Mon­ey)’).

The evoca­tive jazz of Bad­Bad­Not­Good is a close com­pan­ion to their sound – some­thing they share with fel­low UK jazz-hip hop col­lec­tives, Fur and Gotts Street Park.

“I guess our love of cre­at­ing sim­i­lar music brought us togeth­er,” says Davids.

Davids and fel­low mem­ber Ned Archi­bong are close friends, hav­ing grown up togeth­er on the same street in Brad­ford. Both are com­pe­tent gui­tar and bass play­ers. They moved to Brighton (along with the group’s two oth­er orig­i­nal mem­bers, Bukky and Jack), and start­ed per­form­ing at open mic events. Slow­ly, big­ger shows fol­lowed. They start­ed their own label, QM Records, and have released all of their own music through it.

But, the biggest musi­cal mile­stone is sure­ly the addi­tion of its third mem­ber, vocal­ist Phoebe Freya. The two friends met Freya (orig­i­nal­ly from Bris­tol) while per­formed a gig at The Mes­merist pub. “She was work­ing as a bar maid. A mutu­al friend intro­duced us, and we start­ed to jam togeth­er,” says Davids.

“Our car broke down on the motorway, in France, on the way to a gig in Paris. We then had mad issues getting home. But we all bonded quite nicely on the trip and it gave us more motivation to make moves” – Nicholson Davids

Nor­man­ton Street is a band of many shades. The bumpy glug of their song ‘Ange­lene’ is a good rep­re­sen­ta­tion of why it doesn’t take long for them to hook you.

Rough gui­tar twangs and live drums set the mood for this wonky, intox­i­cat­ing ode to casu­al highs and the home­girl who sup­plies you. Into this usu­al groove, you get the jux­ta­po­si­tion of the core mem­bers’ voic­es. Davids’s nasal­ly Omer-esque drawl. Archibong’s straight-talk­ing growl, a lit­tle akin to Kele Okereke (Bloc Par­ty) or grime artist Wiley. And final­ly, Freya, whose silky voice brings to mind Alice Rus­sell and Amy Wine­house. The end result is mes­meris­ing, as the boys’ rap vers­es and Freya’s fem­i­nine coun­ter­point wraps around you, induc­ing its own out-of-body sensation.

To date, the group have played across the UK, main­land Europe and a few spots in the US. They’ve released five EPs, includ­ing The Phoebe Freya EP, which has had 175,000 streams on Spo­ti­fy alone. EPs Much Respect and Life’s Real are both full of street life and root­sy vibes that will make lovers of Bad­Bad­Not­Good and their asso­ciates very happy.

“One time, our car broke down on the motor­way, in France, on the way to a gig in Paris. We then had mad issues and trou­bles with the insur­ance com­pa­ny, and spent a week­end in a bud­get hotel that resem­bled a prison. The way back con­sist­ed of a €260 taxi, a boat, and then a £10 taxi from New Haven. We all bond­ed quite nice­ly on the trip and it gave us more moti­va­tion to make moves,” explains Davids. “That what the song ‘Supreme’ is based on.”

Nor­man­ton Street’s next release will be the sin­gle, ‘Unclear’, self-pro­duced and out on Decem­ber 10. And the group plan to tour Europe in 2018, as well as do a few dates in New York.

“Longevi­ty and self-suf­fi­cien­cy” are the focus for their music careers, says Davids. They plan to achieve that through a whole lot of tour­ing, build­ing their rep­u­ta­tion as they go.

Noth­ing is cer­tain, but with music this fly from a trio who hus­tle hard and stay hum­ble: they’re only going to move in one direc­tion, and that’s up.

“We’re still out here in a tiny Renault Megane mak­ing it hap­pen.” Amen.

Group mem­bers: Nichol­son Davids (bass, gui­tar, vocals); Ned Archi­bong (bass, gui­tar, vocals); Phoebe Freya (vocals); Jon Lafon / Nadav Schneer­son (drums)

Select­ed discography

  • Nor­man­ton Street EP, (EP, 2012, Self-released)
  • MOVES (EP, 2013, QM Records)
  • The Phoebe Freya EP (EP, 2013, QM Records)
  • Much Respect (EP, 2014, QM Records)
  • Life’s Real (EP, 2016, QM Records)

File next to: Thelo­nious Monk; MF Doom; Nina Simone; Amy Winehouse


Social media: Face­book, Insta­gram, Twit­ter, Sound­Cloud

Nor­man­ton Street’s EPs are avail­able to stream and down­load. Their new sin­gle ‘Unclear’ is due out on Decem­ber 10.

Image: cour­tesy of Nor­man­ton Street