James Robinson Band at James Street Vaults
For the past seven years Plymouth singer/songwriter James Robinson has fronted Brighton-based alt pop ensemble Two Spot Gobi. But he returns to play a few dates across the South West this weekend, stopping off at the James Street Vaults for a free show tonight, to deliver tracks from his debut solo EP, Ropes, with his brand new band.
Distinguished by their unique cello and trumpet sound, TSG enjoyed success touring in California with Grammy award-winner Jason Mraz, recording their second album at his San Diego studios, as well as supporting him in Europe and the UK with gigs at Hammersmith Apollo. They played numerous shows and festivals around the UK, shared stages with everyone from Newton Faulkner in Plymouth to Bruno Mars in LA, but despite garnering a solid fan-base, they never quite found their musical niche in the music industry.
Earlier this year, James felt the time was right to move on and the band went their separate ways.
“It was really difficult as I wasn’t sure that stepping outside of the only music project I have known would do me any favours,” says James.
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“For a while I’ve been wanting the freedom to write without having to filter songs through the other band members – I had already written a few songs that didn’t really suit the band. But it’s can be a double edged sword at the same time – once you have that freedom you ask yourself, OK, now what do I really want to say?”
His debut offering Ropes – produced by Max Gilkes, who has worked with Lily Allen, Roots Manuva and Fink – features five soul-searching offerings essentially about finding out who you are and what you want from life. The one which resonates especially well, If It Don’t Mean Nothing, is a wistful jazz-infused ballad augmented by an accompanying video, shot by Alexander Thomas which has received plenty of positive plaudits on YouTube:
“The response to it has been great,” says James, “just what I’d hoped for. People seem to relate to it, both musos and non musos. It’s a reflective song, simply asking whether you really spending your time wisely, are you giving your life’s energy to the things that are most important, or should you move on…”
However he’s not all about reflective, downbeat stuff. Within the new band line up there’s a lot of energy and plenty of up-tempo vibe. The rhythm section consists of Brighton-based drummer Sam Johnson and bass player Leo Clark:
“They’re brilliant musicians, young and eager to get out and play. Then Alec I met at One Love in Plymouth after Christmas and I was blown away by the fabulous tones he got out of his Stratocaster. He’s the leader of local band Freshly Squeezed, so I was delighted when he said he’d like to be involved.
“We played our first shows in Brighton and London last week as part of a seven date tour and the energy was really special. We’re just hoping people will come, check us out and see what we’re about.”
Catch James and his band at JVS tonight when they’ll be playing new songs, a few TSG songs and even the odd cover and again at the Barrelhouse in Totnes tomorrow night.