A few weeks ago, we had the good fortune to come across Benin City’s Fire in the Park and we immediately had to write a review. With a blend of hip-hop, jazz, electro, spoken word poetry and a tapestry of themes emerging from the band’s home city, London, our listeners were given a real musical treat.
After the post, The Music Ninja was able to sit down with Josh Idehen (vocals) and Tom Leaper (Tenor Sax) in order to get an inside look at who the band is and how they make their music.
TMN: First off, thanks so much for the album and for sitting down with the Music Ninja, even virtually. Our readers will be excited to get an intimate look at the band and your comments about how you and Fires in the Park came to fruition.
TMN: I guess I’ll start with a question I like asking bands–what’s the significance of the name “Benin City”?
Tom: I think it’s best if Josh takes this one!
Josh: its mine and my parents’ hometown; its history is intertwined with Britain’s colonial misadventures, which a lot of Britons I’ve encountered don’t know much about, which is unfortunate. Also, the name sounded cool, I have a thing for places and there was no better alternative.
TMN: The first time through Fires in the Park, I was struck by just how much variety was in the album. There was obviously the hip hop influence, the drum and bass, the electro, the jazz touches, and more–all fitting together seamlessly. I found myself wondering who your sources of inspiration were as a group?
Tom: We draw inspiration from all over. Personally I’m big in to electronic music, jazz, soul, GOOD pop, classical, film scores. All sorts really. When it came to making the album it was off the back of releasing “Baby” so we had a good idea of how we wanted it to sound. Then we sat down and talked through everything that we love listening to whether it be about the songs themselves, the harmony, the melody, the lyrics, the production, the arrangements… Then we narrowed it down to a core list of influences. Although the album is still pretty eclectic, this list stopped us going too far in any one direction and helped the album hang together as a whole.
Josh: Quite diverse- I’m the official movie soundtrack loving, left-field hip hop jamming, eclectic dude. Theo and Tom both love and play Jazz, but while Theo is into his dubstep and DNB, Tom loves his electro funk and acid/broken beat Jazz. It took a while but we managed to work them all into the album into something we thought was cohesive.
TMN: This one is for Josh: Lyrically, there are a couple of themes I noted in Fires in the Park: the sort of Carpe Diem feel to “People Will Say,” the love songs, the social commentary about living in poverty, friendship, an ode to London. Did you set out looking to explore those themes lyrically, or did you discover those themes as you went?