Nick Cody: Hi, this is Nick from Music For The Head And Heart and I’m here with Prohibited Strangers. If you guys would like to introduce yourselves so that those watching this clip know who you are.
Will S.: Will Stockbridge, electric bass.
Josh Smout: Josh Smout, I play drums.
Joe Boyes: Joe Boyes, I play piano.
Kieran Gunter: Kieran Gunter, I play guitar.
Nick Cody: Okay, so the name, Prohibited Strangers, how did that come about?
Josh Smout: That was you.
Kieran Gunter: Just brainstorming, we wanted something that sounded a little bit mysterious, a bit hard to pinpoint what the genre is exactly from it. It was something that sounded cool.
Josh Smout: But it came from what we used to play, didn’t it? So, we started out as a band at college playing the music of a band called Impossible Gentlemen and we were like, “We need a name.”
Kieran Gunter: Something that kind of … something down that-
Josh Smout: Yeah, we’re kind of … without ripping it off, without going The Possible Ladies or something crap, something crap like that.
Nick Cody: I think The Possible Ladies may not have been the audience you want.
Josh Smout: So that’s why I didn’t choose the name … I remember where we were actually. What room we were in as well, 304A. I remember where you were stood and everything.
Nick Cody: So how long’s the band been together for?
Kieran Gunter: Since September 2015.
Josh Smout: Yeah?
Joe Boyes: Jesus.
Joe Boyes: [crosstalk 00:01:36] almost three years, isn’t it?
Josh Smout: Almost … yeah, three and a bit years.
Kieran Gunter: I feel we should stress it’s not like a full time thing that we do, that we’re just …
Josh Smout: No, no. It’s very on and off, isn’t it? Kind of when-
Nick Cody: Okay, we’ve got a couple of clips of you guys playing which I love by the way. But how would you describe the sound of Prohibited Strangers? If somebody said, okay, what kind of music, what kind of sound is it?
Kieran Gunter: Pretty jazz.
Josh Smout: Yeah.
Joe Boyes: Yeah.
Josh Smout: Contemporary, is that fair?
Kieran Gunter: Yeah, contemporary jazz but less more so on the kind of crazy grooves and crazy harmonies. There’s definitely, you could come away and humming to it or going like, “I felt very relaxed by that.”
Josh Smout: Yeah.
Joe Boyes: Just trying not to be too intrusive, isn’t it?
Josh Smout: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Without being background.
Will S.: We don’t do much swing.
Josh Smout: No. We don’t do, do we really? There’s nothing really.
Nick Cody: And from your own point of view, who’s influenced you or inspired you into the music that you play today?
Kieran Gunter: Well obviously, this actually started as a project just to meet and play the music of The Impossible Gentlemen which are the same … at the time, were the same instruments, they’ve since added a fifth person. And we just wanted a challenge to play some really hard music that we liked.
Kieran Gunter: And then from there, we just got our own ideas. And of course, we all have our things that we listen to. And then gradually, more and more original compositions came. To the point where we got to gigs and went, we could just do all our own stuff. We don’t need those tunes anymore.
Josh Smout: Because Impossible Gentlemen, the piano player and the guitar player, the guitar player’s Mike Walker, who I spoke to you about actually. And the piano player, they’re kind of like pioneers for British pianos aren’t they. So we really liked that sound and then we looked other people who did that, but also people like Nikki Iles and Iain Ballamy.
Will S.: Stuart McCallum.
Josh Smout: Stuart McCallum. People like that. And then …
Kieran Gunter: Kenny Wheeler was a big [crosstalk 00:03:35] as well. We were all quite into Kenny
Josh Smout: We were all just listening to that for ages and ages and then started writing our own songs and it kind of came out quite similar. But that’s … in my part anyway, that’s complex.
Nick Cody: For you, what makes for a really good jazz track? Or any track, the platform is talking about music. What are the ingredients were you go, okay, that’s seriously-
Kieran Gunter: I think it just has to immerse me, draw a response. I think I’ve heard plenty of tracks where you come away and you’ve forgotten it immediately. And the person might be an incredible person on their instrument, but if it doesn’t do anything for you, then it’s hard to stay enthusiastic about it.
Will S.: I think especially with this band, sensitivity is really important. Listening to what’s going on, playing off that as opposed to being me, me, me as an individual player, you know?
Josh Smout: Yeah. I think we’ve kind of got … we’ve come around to that. In the last couple of years, I think. Rather than sort of, this is stuff we’re playing and it’s really hard. Actually rather than just focusing on your part, listening to each other more and leaving space and …
Kieran Gunter: I think we’ve all gone through phases of going like, “Oh, bebop. Oh, notes. Notes, notes, notes.” Now it’s just as in it’s like, the number of people who listen to that and who actually can engage with that, it’s small. And if it kind of goes to things a little bit broader, where someone can go, “Oh, there’s that melody. That bit that goes … one of the recordings.” Gives something more tangible for people to take away. Rather than, “I think they played jazz.” Yeah, it sounded like jazz. I heard lots of notes in the right order, at the right time.
Josh Smout: Sometimes I’m also worried about, we’ve got this gig tonight at Book Club, and my chiropractor [Unit 00:05:25] is coming down and he’s like, “I really want to see a good jazz gig.” And I was like, “Do we really sound like jazz?” I’m quite scared that he’s going to get there and be like, “What? That wasn’t jazz.”
Kieran Gunter: But then if you go to Renoss Welts or something and you go to the downstairs show, there’s all kinds of stuff. The upstairs bit, the jam is very much, on certain nights, is very much a straight-ahead thing. And the core standards. But if you to downstairs inside, I’ve seen Becca Stevens there which is definitely not straight ahead jazz music. It’s almost folky pop. But …
Nick Cody: So in terms of writing, how do you go about writing the tunes that you’ve created which are mostly all originals what you said.
Josh Smout: Do you two want to do that?
Joe Boyes: After you.
Kieran Gunter: I work backwards really. So the lads … it normally is one person who comes in and says, “I’ve written this tune.” And we’ll come in with either just a master chart and we all go from that. Or individual parts. And then it’s still open to interpretation and a lot more suggestion. It’s not an autocracy but … certainly when I’ve written I’ve normally got quite a clear sense in my head of what it should be.
Kieran Gunter: Before that, it can come from anything. I definitely found that if you compose from your ear and that without even being on your instrument, you come in with something that’s not straight from just muscle memory. Your options actually are much wider. And then it’s the sum of everything you’ve listened to, really. Which is obviously bigger than just some you’ve played.
Josh Smout: Yeah. I kind of always think about it. They … I’m awful at thinking of titles for songs. And I always think I’m going to write a song about, I don’t know, a place I lived, or a person, or something like that. When actually, I can’t do that at all. Because I just don’t do it. So you kind of just, whatever’s going on in your life around then, you just kind of write a song and then. Do you know what I mean? Comes and-
Kieran Gunter: I’m the opposite. I normally go from something with a thing. So that’s to do with something quite personal. Asil as well, that’s another one.
Josh Smout: Was 25 hours for you girlfriend? Was it 25 hours?
Kieran Gunter: Yeah, it was.
Nick Cody: And if people want to find out about you or hear some of your music, what’s the best way to do that?
Kieran Gunter: Currently at the minute, we have a SoundCloud page. We’re a bit social media not savvy, but we have a good SoundCloud page. With lots of live recordings from a gig in 2018. So you can check that out.
Josh Smout: There’s your YouTube as well
Joe Boyes: Yeah, there’s some stuff on YouTube.
Josh Smout: Yeah, there’s stuff on YouTube. Type in Prohibited Strangers and it comes up. We did a couple of videos.
Kieran Gunter: High quality ones. In early 2016, yeah?
Josh Smout: Yeah.
Joe Boyes: Fake early days.
Josh Smout: There is a Facebook page.
Kieran Gunter: It’s got four now.
Josh Smout: Four likes up. After this. 4000.
Nick Cody: Okay. So one final thing if people watching this, and there will be people watching this and they’ll all different types of persuasions. For anybody who’s like an artist who’s looking to sort of create music, what would your one piece of advice you think would be useful for people?
Kieran Gunter: I think just listen to as much music as possible.
Joe Boyes: I’d probably say, just go out, play with people you don’t always play with. And just keep changing it up. Because you never know, it might just sort of be quick.
Josh Smout: I think, yeah. I think the strength of this band I always thought was the fact, especially in the early days, we were rehearsing non stop, weren’t we? It was mental how many hours we put into it. And we don’t do those hours now but we’ve got to set the basis with all those …
Kieran Gunter: We live in different parts of the country.
Josh Smout: Yeah exactly.
Kieran Gunter: If you come in together, there’s no chance to rehearse. I was looking at the charts and I was like, “I haven’t played this in months.” In any context. But there’s iron bonds we’ve essentially forged from really, really intense early in the process.
Josh Smout: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. It’s there somewhere.
Kieran Gunter: I think we could leave it for a couple of years and it would still be there.
Josh Smout: Yeah, definitely. For sure.
Kieran Gunter: We don’t have to … five, 10 years. Just leave it before you go in and go like, “I’ve forgotten how to play with these people.”
Josh Smout: Yeah. I think just go out and play with people. And I think just having an open mind to everything. Like I like listening to everything and it will come out in my writing. I’d like to think so but I think, yeah, just be open to lots of different things. Lots of different people’s playing and lots of different types of music and kind of try and feed your brain a bit. Go watch movies, go read books, all that kind of …
Joe Boyes: It’s not always doing music.
Josh Smout: No, no. Not at all, no.
Joe Boyes: it’s like you find things to write about and if you just play music 24/7, you’re not going to find those things.
Josh Smout: Yeah, definitely. As an art form, there are lots of different art forms, not just music. I think musicians kind of get sucked into this whole musician sort of … that’s all there is in life. There’s just music.
Nick Cody: Great. Well, thanks for dropping by to Music for the Head and Heart. I’ve enjoyed listening to you guys play and enjoyed listening to your comments as well.
Josh Smout: And thanks for that