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Submotion Orchestra is a seven-piece band from the UK that mixes electronic, dub, neo-soul, and house music. Formed in 2009, they released their fourth album, “Colour Theory,” on Feb. 19, and are preparing to tour it in the UK. Founder, lead songwriter, and drummer Tommy Evans sat down to talk with BTRtoday.
BTRtoday: You’ve just released your album “Colour Theory,” how has the fanfare been from that?
Tommy Evans (TE): The new album came out two weeks ago, and it’s gone really well, we’ve just started to take on touring in the UK and Europe, which is fun. It seems to have gone down really well; we’ve gotten a lot of feedback on the album, and that’s nice.
BTR: Why did you choose the name Colour Theory?
TE: We had about 40 or 50 tracks, demo tracks for the album that we’ve compiled over the last 18 months, or so, and just by complete chance a lot of the titles of the tracks or ideas had a color reference, and so we begun to toy with color themed names. Someone mentioned “Color Theory,” and from there it just kinda stuck. As it happens, some of the tunes that had the strongest color references we didn’t use, and others had to be brought in, but it seemed to be kind of a theme that happened to tie the whole thing together.
BTR: What was the recording process like for Colour Theory?
TE: Well, this is now our fourth studio album and I suppose we’ve progressively done things more and more electronically. Our first album, “Finest Hour,” was completely acoustic; we recorded it all live. There wasn’t a massive emphasis placed on the production side of things. I wouldn’t say it was “rootsy,” but it was a more natural, analog sounding record, which was great, that’s where we were at the time.
Since then, we’ve gotten more and more production focused, and electronic sounding. So with this album, a lot of the material was written in a studio and we did this sort of snowball effect where one person would have an idea, then send it to the rest of Submotion; write it on keys; maybe demo vocal it; send it to the bass player, ask him to play his stuff in; who in turn would send it to the piano player and he would add his part in.
It’s basically gone through our producer, Dom, who we’ve given much more creative control to with this record. He’s been the artistic director, which is great actually, because it’s so difficult to do things in a band democratically, you usually have an artistic director or a musical director.
BTR: Before this album were things more democratic?
TE: Yes, up until this album we had done things almost entirely democratically; sometimes it worked well, sometimes it didn’t. Having an artistic director [on this album] has streamlined things and made the whole creative process a lot quicker and tighter I think, which has been good. But what has been funny is that with us taking that body of work, that album, on tour, what we’ve had to do is then learn this music, which has been a weird way around it; rather than writing the music, learning it, recording it, and then taking it out on tour, we’ve written music, recorded it, then we have to learn it as a band before we go on tour.
Sort of a backwards way of doing it, but that is what’s worked for us and we’ve actually enjoyed relearning that material and finding interesting ways to play it live.
BTR: You along with the rest of the band have different side projects, yours being the Tommy Evans Orchestra. Are there projects being worked on for that, or has it been put on hiatus?
TE: Well, that was something I got commissioned for a few years ago by a jazz festival in the UK. They had approached me and asked me to do a 90-minute suite for my own orchestra that I would set up for the commission, so that was originally planned to be a one-off project. However, it lasted quite a long time because it got quite a lot of recognition and won several awards over here, which was nice! It ended up touring for a while, but we all have multiple projects and we all come to Submotion from different backgrounds, which is why I think its such an odd eclectic mix of things.
BTR: Will there be a U.S. tour for “Colour Theory”?
TE: We’d love to come, it’s been kind of hard, a little bit out of reach for about two years now. We’ve had loads of offers to come over, but it’s just a question of making it work, with the touring schedule and the routing, it’s very expensive to take eight or nine people on tour, and we just haven’t been able to make it work. But we’re hoping that this year we’ll be able to make it to the U.S., fingers crossed!