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)’).
“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)
- 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
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