BLOOM is a collective of musicians and friends from an experimental corner of Bristol’s buzzing music scene. Their combined musical projects are varied in genre yet consistently progressive, playful and enchanting.
The collective has formed organically over several years. The various members developed a sound together by experimenting with different styles of music and approaches to performing and recording. In 2016 they decided to represent their assortment of bands and projects in Bristol under the name ‘BLOOM’. In doing so they hope to create a buzz around their music, allowing listeners to find and join the dots between the various projects. And through this process promote independent music, create new art they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do and new outlets to perform and release it via.
Members include Leon Boydon, Leonie Evans, Lewis Fitzjohn, Peter Gibbs, Andrew Neil Hayes, Daniel Inzani, Matt Jones, Lorenzo Prati, Harriet Riley, Yoshino Shigihara, Conrad Singh, Graeme Smith and Daniel Truen.
There is no single starting point to BLOOM, but there are three obvious places where things developed from around 2005 which have now merged into the Bristol based collective.
One place is Dartington College of Arts, Totnes, where Leon Boydon, Leonie Evans, Dan Truen, Lorenzo Prati and Lewis Fitzjohn studied. Also living in the area where Conrad Singh, Bert Miller, Ryan Hamilton, Harriet Riley (although Harriet didn’t meet the rest until 2015 in Bristol) and producer Drezz of ‘The Tape Rooms’ recording studio. These musicians played together in various projects and this period produced many bands. One that continued past college was Rae, Leonie’s well crafted quartet for her beautifully written songs with Dan T, Leon, Lorenzo and originally cellist Asha McCarthy.
Another was the theatrical, story telling group Bert Miller and the Animal Folk, led by Bert and Ryan, originally with Leon, Leonie and Jerome Daniels on Ukelele, now with Leon, Dan T, Conrad and Dan I. Also in its early stages was Cloudshoes, the psychedelic freakout solo project of songsmith Conrad, who works closely with producer Drezz and at this time collaborated with Leon, Ryan, Dan T and the late drummer Jake Renbourn. From around 2010 most of these musicians and a larger contingent of other graduates moved to Bristol and started integrating into the music scene.
Another beginning was in Bath, where Graeme Smith, Daniel Inzani, Pete Gibbs, Tim Petherick, Denby Sweeting and Alex Jefferis we’re playing together in the eclectic, gypsy swing group The Mandibles, led by singer/saxophonist/songwriter Graeme. Before which Graeme and Alex had been playing with The Duckworths whilst Dan I, Tim, Denby and Pete continued to play with loud, groove prog fusion band Lap of Honour.
Whilst The Mandibles were touring across the UK around 2009 they met the musicians from Totnes and started playing together, with Leonie briefly moving to Bath and joining The Mandibles in it’s final few years. In 2012 Dan I, Graeme, Pete, Dan T and Leon formed rocksteady and ska group Count Bobo with Tenor Saxophonist Benji Ross, later replaced by Lorenzo. Shortly afterwards, Dan I and Graeme moved to Bristol and both play with various groups from the current collective.
The final beginning around 2005 was in Bristol itself, where Matt Jones and Yoshino Shigihara started playing with popular high energy world fusion rock group Zun Zun Egui, fronted by Kushal Gaya (Melt Yourself Down). Versatile drummer Matt has played with many of the musicians on the Bristol scene both as a jazz session player and in other projects such as Phantom Limb, Uncle Ecstacy and Nuala Honan.
Since musicians from these various locations have settled into the Bristol music scene they have formed a host of newer bands where the musicians from the BLOOM collective play many styles of music in various combinations. In 2013 Leon, Dan T, Lorenzo and Conrad (who all had more often played as skilled accompanists) formed The Evil Usses, a catchy rock jazz quartet which had been on the cards for many years. Graeme assembled varying members of BLOOM to play his mellow and enchanting songs under the name Dubi Dolzcek, which was previously more a recording based project he would layer up himself, including some unreleased material originally played with The Mandibles.
Dan I, Pete, Conrad, Lorenzo, Dan T, Matt, saxophonist Andrew Neil Hayes and vibraphonist Robbie Burgess (later replaced by Harriet) started playing Ethiopian Jazz Funk from 60’s/70’s together. When a short lived unnamed prog rock group Dan I had put together with Pete, Matt and Sheelanagig’s Kit Hawes and Aaron Catlow disbanded, that original material was reinvented with the 8 piece Ethiopian line up to form Tezeta around 2014. Andrew was well known around Bristol often found at jam nights or playing with other jazz and alternative musicians. He fronts heavy punk poetry group Schoolboys Death Trio and in 2015 formed sax and drums duo Run Logan Run with Dan Johnson.
After Zun Zun Egui disbanded in 2015 Yoshino Shigihara formed her Japansese mushroom inspired alternative pop group Yama Warashi with Graeme, Conrad, Lewis, Dan T and Lorenzo. Yoshino has also become a regular with the ever touring Rozi Plain as are Leon, Dan T, Conrad, Graeme and guitarist Neil Smith. In 2014, Neil (who also plays with Rozi in This Is The Kit and The Liftmen) teamed up with Matt, guitarist Luke Cawthra and bassist Jacob Tyghe to form new-wave-jazz-prog-surf-rock group The Brackish.
None of these groups have ever been particularly money orientated, the focus has always been on the music and the process of making it. The resulting live shows tend to be a direct representation of that, usually material that has been written to be performed live with a balance of composition, improvisation and adaptability to the mood of the occasion. There has been more and more of a focus on recording and the collective have produced many great records, and now an increasingly frequent amount of releases are in the making. Recording has become a more regular option for several reasons, primarily because there now exists a full time rehearsal space and studio at one of the houses some key BLOOM members live at. Many of these releases have either been recorded there, produced by Drezz of The Tape Rooms with his mobile fully analouge set up, or both.
Some bands made albums using a familiar process for independent artists: Write and rehearse the material, gig the material to test it out and raise studio funds (possibly raise extra funds through crowd sourcing), go to a studio and in a short time record the songs mostly live and possibly with some overdubs. Then mix and master the audio, bring it out (through a label or independently) on cd or vinyl and have an already established fan base to sell the album to. In this way the following albums were made:
Cloudshoes – Dhypmbia (2010) recorded at The Tape Rooms
Rae – Era (2011) released on and recorded by Dawn Chorus (an independent label set up by Syd Arthur)
Bert Miller and the Animal Folk – The Album (2012) recorded at The Tape Rooms
Count Bobo – Take #1 (2012) recorded at The Tape Rooms
Rae – Awoken (2014) recorded at Ben Capp Sound Studio
Daniel Inzani – Frank and Florence – Solo Piano Pieces (2014) recorded at Alma Vale Studio
Count Bobo – Bird of Paradise (2014) recorded at The Tape Rooms
The Brackish – Big Guys (2015) recorded at a home studio in France
The Evil Usses – The Evil Usses (2015) recorded at J and J studios and released on Stolen Body Records
Schoolboy’s Death Trio – We’re All The Same (2016) recorded at The Tape Rooms
Yama Warashi – Moon Zero (2016) recorded at Cellar Tapes and released on Stolen Body Records
However in 2013 a different method of making a record was employed when Daniel Inzani collaborated with Alabaster dePlume (singer/poet/composer/saxophonist) to make The Jester. The two of them composed material for a then unformed ensemble and with minimal rehearsal gathered them at the BLOOM home studio. Drezz captured the record live on The Tape Rooms mobile the first time the pieces had ever been played, which was also the arranging process. The material was then interpreted by several artists from around the UK and released on Vinyl by Debt Records, Manchester. The album was launched with an exhibition of the artwork at The Folk House in Bristol. The Jester Ensemble was Dan I, Alabaster, Leon, Dan T, Lorenzo, Pete, Aaron Catlow, Stefan Asanovic, Dominie Hooper, Beth Porter, Hannah Miller (The Moulettes) and Jessica MacDonald.
With a tried and tested example of an album been made without an already functioning band, other records followed. In 2014 Graeme recorded Dubi Dolzcek and the Haunted Lagoon with Drezz. Graeme layered up his songs one instrument at a time as only he can, before getting some extra overdubbed flavours from Pete, Conrad, Stefan and Dan I. Then through a crowdfunding campaign raised funds to release his debut record on vinyl. Since it’s release Dubi Dolzcek has become a gigging band with varying BLOOM members and they now working on a ‘full band’ album.
Cloudshoes came to life in 2015 when Conrad assembled Lorenzo, Yoshino, Dan I, Dan T, Leon and Graeme to do three consecutive full moon late night sessions, again with Drezz on The Tape Rooms mobile studio. This time the gathered musicians performed Conrad’s songs live with no rehearsal or even having heard the material beforehand. A selection of the takes from these sessions, some with a few overdubs make up the completed album which is due for release soon, you can now listen to the single from the album Invisible Armbands.
Also in 2015 Leon recorded a lo fi solo album The Price Of Milk with producer Ryan Hamilton at his home studio near Totnes. The material comprises of minimal layered up instrumentation based around solo guitar pieces and was released digitally. Ryan and Bert moved from Totnes to Bristol with other musicians from Totnes, but both moved back to the Totnes area after a few years. Ryan has since become a skilled producer who worked on The Evil Usses latest record and releases original material under the name Oscar Rowe. He and Bert still work closely together on new material for Bert Miller and the Animal Folk.
Later in 2015 Leonie embarked on an ambitious project entitled Collaborations Volume 1. Whilst other members of BLOOM stayed in and around Bristol, Leonie has travelled all over the world and collaborated with many musicians and collectives. Whilst in New Orleans in early 2015 she wrote an albums worth of material and on return recorded each song with a different band/collective from her numerous UK based musical allies. Her song ‘Mi Balcon’ was recorded with Count Bobo/Rae and ‘Kagayku’ with Yoshino and Conrad, both at the BLOOM home studio. Other bands on the record include Honeyfeet, The Jamboree Collective, Lapis Lazuli, Cocos Lovers and Syd Arthur. The album is to be released on vinyl by Smugglers Records, Kent and the launch event will be at Smugglers Festival 2016.
Other releases from the BLOOM home studio coming soon include Tezeta’s debut album, new albums from The Evil Usses and Dubi Dolzcek, and a collaboration between Graeme and Dan I of rocksteady tunes to be presented via Count Bobo. Recording has also started for new albums from Bert Miller and the Animal Folk, Yama Warashi, The Brackish, Run Logan Run and Count Bobo.
As well as new albums to look forward to, BLOOM have started a monthly night at The Wardrobe Theatre called BLOOM presents, are releasing a compilation album to celebrate the formalising of the collective (including exclusive previews of yet unreleased material) and will make a series of live acoustic videos from the BLOOM home studio.