Submotion Orchestra

Submotion Orchestra is an ensemble of multi-instrumentalists who formed when Ruckspin and hip hop underground label Ranking Records were commissioned by the Arts Council to write and perform a live dubstep piece in York Minster. Since then, the band can count Giles Peterson and Oneman as fans, and have played a sell-out show at London’s Jazz Café. Founder, Tommy Evans, gives us a glimpse of how the Submotion machine works.

How would you describe your sound?
Giles Peterson described it as falling somewhere between Cinematic Orchestra and dubstep, which seems about right to me. Submotion started as an attempt to play dubstep live and has developed into something quite different. What we have now is a crossover between jazz and soul-influenced-dubstep, which takes reference from artists like Miles Davis, Gill Scott, Adele and Erika Badu. It may not sound like it, but at the heart of the project is dub.

Could you talk us through the experience of playing in York Minster?
Honestly? The whole thing was a complete shambles and the performance was pretty ropey, but it got us thinking about the possibilities that playing dubstep could have. I would say this was one of the important initial catalysts for the project.

You’ve been busy  this year – have you worked on any new material?
It is difficult because currently the band is split between three cities. Tommy and Fatty live in London, Ruby is based in Huddersfield and Dom, Taz, Danny and Si live in Leeds! It is hard to find time to rehearse, but we book in week slots months in advance and make sure we all bring material to the table at these sessions. We’re currently in the process of writing our second album which is beginning to take shape nicely!

How does your live show differ from your studio recordings?
Submotion walks the thin line between acoustic and electronic music. But live, we keep everything acoustic. We are all trained jazz or classical musicians so this is, I suppose, the only way we know. There is a lot of energy on stage, in part because we are all so into the music and we love playing it. On a good gig there is an amazing ebb and flow to the set with these ongoing waves of energy. It’s a lot of fun to play.

Being a seven-piece, you must have a clash of opinions. How do you resolve these differences?
There are a lot of clashes, but this is because we are all so passionate about the project. We all know what fits into the Submotion “sound” as it were, and so the song writing process is trial and error, whittling ideas down until we have something that everyone is into.

If you had your pick of five artists to collaborate with, who would you choose?
This is a hard question. I’m going to split this into legends and currents because otherwise it’s just too hard. Legends: Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, J Dilla. Current: Roots Manuva, Burial, Mala, Little Dragon, Cinematic Orchestra.

Bethany Rex