”Written byFreddie Hiney
This is the versatile formula of Hartleyvale, a group of jazz-cats not sticking to any one genre but doing what feels right to them
Four talented musicians rooted together by the soul of Jazz. Hartleyvale’s sound is unique and expressive, taking inspiration from all corners of the musical world. ‘I don’t hate any genre of music, I find it impossible to, I take influence from everything’, explains bassist Luke Verrezen (22). This is the versatile formula of Hartleyvale, a group of jazz-cats not sticking to any one genre but doing what feels right to them. From psychedelic rock and indie pop to even a sprinkling of drum and bass, each song is different in sensibility while distinctly jazz. An explosive mix which makes for good listening.
Having all met at the South African College of Music studying jazz, each band member comes with their gift and expertise. Enter guitarist and lead vocalist James Nevin (24), captivating on the strings and smooth on the mic – he already has experience of the South African music industry having performed in several Capetonian bands. Next is Luke Verrezen, a gifted bassist who makes intricate and meticulous cords look effortless: ‘I’ve been playing music since I was six. I started with a classical background on the cello and piano. Then in high school, I picked up the bass and never looked back’ he says. On drums, we have Keagan Hollywood (22), masterful on the sticks, who can steal the limelight with his fast and baroque playing. On keys is Ryan Stopforth (22), an all-around musician and remarkable pianist who can play anything from classical to rock, whilst making it look all too easy.
Together they make up Hartleyvale, a band taking experimental Jazz to new depths.
Together they make up Hartleyvale, a band taking experimental Jazz to new depths. Their first album ‘For a Little While’ is an excellent example of their all-around abilities, no genre is out of reach. It includes a funkadelic mixture of everything from neo-soul and bedroom pop to indie and rock whilst maintaining the fusion of Jazz. Songs such as ‘Don’t Try’ and ‘Waiting’ are great showcases of how they can blend indie and pop with Jazz. ‘Colour Blue’ sees them utilise Jazz to the fullest, but with a modern twist. With each member being tied to different bands (some multiple bands), they see it as a chance to all come together and play music without the usual pressures. And, more importantly, a moment where they’re free to explore the alternative realms. ‘It’s a chance for us to quench our thirst for improvisational music and to play expressively’ notes James. Having studied and spent the best part of the last four years together they are lucky enough to be trained in the same language of music. ‘What we normally do is go here’s the tune, the harmonic content. Like a skeleton of the song, and then we all trust each other to bring something to the table and present something that we think will be best’.’
They have been playing together for years but Hartleyvale started two weeks before lockdown began, meaning it wasn’t the smoothest of entrances into the live music scene. But it was a time for them to pause and start manifesting the conceptualisation of the band they wanted to be. ‘We took to ourselves, and each wrote some tunes and developed the idea of what we were doing. And, in that little window when lockdown lifted in October, we got a bit of relief, and some gig offers, and we were inspired.’ As the world began to unhinge itself and events started to flow, they took to the stages and have been cementing themselves as a ‘must watch’ band. It’s an experience and a show, each musician taking their instruments into another sphere. From a crowd’s perspective, it seems that they’re in an improvisational jazz-like flow-state, all connecting through their secret language of music.
From a crowd’s perspective, it seems that they’re in an improvisational jazz-like flow-state, all connecting through the secret language of music.
As the shows began to take the flight, so did the makings of their first album. However, this was a quicker process than you would imagine. ‘It was an entire experience; we smashed the album out in a day.’ An impressive feat for a band of any calibre. So, how did they pull it off? Well, just like their music, they took the unorthodox approach. ‘It was an interesting way to record an album, we were all in the room playing live together. I’ve never really encountered that properly with another band where they’ve organically done it. We were just in the moment. It’s cool because you can hear the small things. My favourite thing is on ‘Waiting’ when we are coming out of that long section you can hear Keagan go 1’2’3.’
With summer beginning and the final chapter of university soon to be completed, there is an exciting future in the pipeline for Hartleyvale. Having already played two shows this month, they’re on track for an eventful summer, with their next gig being ‘Jam On The Dam’ in early December. Regarding new releases, they’re going to use December as a time to ‘hone into the studio, so expect a new album in the new year.’ In the meantime, go check out their wonderful merch designed by the talented Dee Geyser and be sure to catch them live when you get the chance. You won’t regret it.
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All the best for the final’s boys.
To keep an eye on Hartleyvale’s upcoming gigs and new releases click here.
Make sure you go check out their merch, click here.
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