Welcome to our sonic rendezvous, where I’m thrilled to introduce The Wise Bloods. More than just musicians, they are torchbearers of an idea sparked from personal breakthroughs and urban struggles.
Merging reggae vibes with spirited purpose, this group has etched a narrative that echoes through London’s system of streets—a narrative conjuring unity and enlightened collectivism.
Today we peek behind the grooves to unveil how The Wise Bloods have channelled adversity into their harmonious crusade for change. Each member infuses the band with unique fervour, making every beat a battle cry for peace and authenticity.
So lean in as we explore the heartbeat of The Wise Bloods: their formation, their passion, and their unyielding drive to resonate beyond melody.
1. First things first – for those not yet in the know, could you share with us how The Wise Bloods came into existence?
The Wise Bloods has two aspects; The concept and then the band. The Wise Bloods as an idea was a phoenix that came out of the embers of an old teenage school band in the form of an old song. Following the decision to leave my job and a toxic relationship, I came across old stems from an unfinished song. I began to write a song around it. It turned out to be the first release of The Wise Bloods called ‘Smooth Runner‘. That came out before the current lineup of the band existed. At the time of conceiving a new band, certain things were going on. A very strange news report came forward on the tv.
It was about the Bloods and the Crips being fed up of living the poverty-stricken lives of their city life. They were sick of their infighting and came together with an idea for a truce and a desire to overcome the situations that they were all in. I thought to myself. wow, did the bloods and crips just get wise? It reminded me of Bob Marley’s sentiment in his song Zimbabwe ‘No more internal power struggle’. It sent me off on a romantic thought process of what if the citizenry of this world collectively became aware of the oppressive conditions and corrupt nature of global forces that people found a way to overcome the causes of our ongoing conflicts, It would bring us into a new era of human civilization, characterized by co-ordinated co-operation at a grassroots level to replace what currently seems like an inevitable and unwavering global system of conflict, domination and exploitation (both of nature and humanity).
So in that respect ‘The Wise Bloods’ is an ideal about collective enlightenment. Our logo is a cog with blood dripping from it and a feather. the cog represents the system, the industrial complex and its hold on our lives in the modern/post-modern era. The feather represents finding freedom in this time and it also nods to a more tribal, spiritual or natural philosophy for life. I guess that’s quite a romanticised interpretation of ‘tribal’. really, on a personal level, I just yearn for a more simplistic life that isn’t offered in modern urban living.
So yeah The Wise Bloods is the idea first, the band came after. I had to bring these new songs to life with musicians, and so over time, I found the right people for the music.
I was at a Reggae jam night in a place called Troy Bar in Shoreditch. Makeda Moore (one of our singers) was singing there, both performing songs and performing backing vocals. I was blown away, she is actually someone you just have to watch perform live, very captivating and full of great stage presence. I approached her about joining the project, she brought her sister Kandaka Moore on to provide harmonies. I actually found Ryan (our bassist) through Instagram. My previous bassist Rudi Creswick left to tour with Tom Misch and pointed out that Ryan was an active Reggae bassist. After that, it wasn’t long until Makeda put Jason forward to play drums.
That for me is the core members of The Wise Bloods. Those members have helped shape the sound, and the vibe and have become friends whom I trust and understand on a fundamental level. Since then we’ve had a couple of really good key players be a part of the band and recently I brought in my old band’s horn section, which is exciting. Keys are essential for reggae and Horns are always fun. I’ll be honest. The current members have stuck because, not only do I vibe with them, but they came to the music I had been writing with more talent and musical capability than myself. it was slightly intimidating at first, but it has brought a new dimension and authority to the live show.
2. Was there a particular moment or experience that served as the catalyst for forming this band?
I’m not sure if it’s a catalyst, but certainly a pivotal point, where certain events going on around me coincided with my decision to pursue music once again
I mentioned before, that a small political clearing of clouds appeared to me in the news. I guess that spurred on the concept and inspired the band name. On a more personal level, things had begun to get a little dark. Out of deciding to pursue music again. A long-term relationship not only began to unravel, but the nature of its toxicity had become stark to me. The experience of sobering up from your own delusions and the effect it has on your mind and personality is an unsettling one.
Not only that, my return to my home town in London as an adult was beginning to take a turn and the place was appearing to me more and more tragic and sinister. I’d had two friends in the area lose brothers. One kid was only 17 and died after a stabbing to the leg. It was so heartbreaking because he was the youngest of the family and was just a really good kid. All around that time, I wasn’t making things better for my friends or myself but just carrying on with self-sabotaging behaviour and escapism. I was getting into trouble most nights I went out.
However, the difference between me and my friends was in the week, I was working on a career in tree surgery. Others around me were dealing with some really serious life issues with very little prospect of improving their lives. I realised people around me were in and out of jail, losing loved ones and even dealing with homelessness, on top of that some of them were new parents. I was feeling really frustrated with one friend. I just felt like all this madness we were getting into was just escapism from our own feeling of inadequacy and shitty situations. Seeing that behaviour play out in a friend to the point they’re not addressing their homelessness is a terrible moment.
Out of that time, I wrote ‘Smooth Runner’. I wrote it to those old recorded stems taken from my first band. That became the first song from The Wise Bloods. Back then, none of the current band members were a part of it. Now, if we play that song, they play it way better than the recording (which was made mostly at home on a laptop with no prior recording experience).
The first moment I see as defining us coming together as a band was when we jammed out ‘New Blood‘, which is a song about fresh conflicts and major disasters popping up around the world and the inherent hypocrisy of the state about judging the legitimacy of the use of violence. I was trying to point out how a government’s stance on global affairs is determined by its geopolitical relation to the regions and populations involved. That then of course is conveyed to the public in mainstream media. I’m quite proud of the lyrics,
label ’em a terrorist if they take a pop,
but supply arms on a regular to murdering despot,
a country built on war draws new blood just to stay on top,
our safety just a small price for a war dog boss’
When we jammed that song the first time it was like an introductory meeting of all our musical essences. the vibe was strong that day… That was Jason’s first ever rehearsal with us, also his first late arrival to practice…not his last
3. Each group has its own dynamic; who would you say is the ‘glue’ in The Wise Bloods that holds it all together?
Musically it’s Jason‘s drums and Ryan’s bass perfectly in sync. Like all proper reggae, they are the foundation.
In terms of keeping the band together. It’s me, I bring them together in this setup and do all the homework.
4. How does living and creating music in London influence your sound and lyrical themes?
As you can probably tell, quite a lot. Although I tend to allocate songs to ideas that are a bit more universal. I don’t want every song’ to just be a ‘London song’. Of course, a lot of the music is inspired by moments within London so there is always going to be an aspect of that in the music, especially on the sound. In some songs, London is perhaps ingrained in the music but in others, the song is London in every way. It might not be so obvious in previous songs, but with London Summer Loving I went all the way. So much so that the song uses London slang, and describes London scenes, the final verse is fully in a London accent. I feel like only people from London will truly understand a lot in that song. I’m hoping people from cities around the world can relate though.
5. Diving into your latest single “London Summer Loving” – what’s the backstory? What summer breeze brought this song to life?
I feel like no matter what is going on in people’s lives, that feeling of the sun on your back, or a cool breeze or sunset is just something that gives us instant relief and happiness whether you are rich, poor, healthy or unhealthy. That moment when the sun starts coming back after winter and warming up the days you just get this feeling of relief and excitement for what’s to come even when you have stresses and worries, summer is a time you have an excuse to have a good time no matter what.
That’s the initial inspiration. Then I thought to myself, Summer is a straightforward song theme I need to jump on on a promotional level, I can release it in the summer and people get behind it as a summer reggae anthem… then everything got delayed and I released it in November FFS. So I’m gonna ramp it up with some visuals next summer I think… but then again I’m just ready to make more new better music now.
That was the backdrop and starting point. From there I had a rockers riddim idea and from there I just used that backdrop to write bars just for me and to share something about London authentically from my perspective.
6. Can you talk about any memorable anecdotes from writing or recording “London Summer Loving”?
I mean what is written in the verses of that song is just years of memories on memories. Smells, visual memories, historical moments, emotions and sentiments about past friendships and all the things that make up my home town, which is a borough in south London called Deptford. So in terms of anecdotes- it’s a big long story balled into something digestible in song format. Recording it. I mean, I recorded the vocals in a dusty backyard shed. The backing vocals sound sort of like they were recorded in a shanty town by some old-school reggae dudes, like the Congos or something, which wasn’t intentional but is cool.
It’s a total contrast to the lead vocals, I ran those bars over and over in the shed till I had something that sounded passable. I’d do a take that felt so good in expression but I’d look back and think naah that sounds crap. It’s weird trying to fit in with things that come before you so people can pick it up and their brain goes, ‘ah yeh I recognise this sound, it’s such and such, it cool, legit and I like it,’ but still try and innovate and be authentically yourself as opposed to formulaic and completely derivative. There’s a thin line, the less you are in the process, the harder it is to get into that pocket.
7. Musically, what direction did you aim to take with “London Summer Loving,” and how does it align or differ from previous projects?
We wanted to make the music just for us. Rather than approach the music with a mind for what should a reggae song sound like, it was more like, what way do I want to express this for myself. Like, What way can I deliver this in a way that satisfies my curiosity and expresses what’s in my heart? LSL is also a single from a project that has brought in the band at a way earlier stage. So I had the ideas and straight away I got Jason and Ryan in to run their parts and develop them. From there each session helped the song grow.
I actually had two versions. A looser live recorded skeleton and a more straight version based on a programmed idea that we played on. It was faster and less organic. I wasn’t sure on which one to use. I took the two to Keys player Noa Rodriguez. She came up with this Latin/Cuban sounding piano idea and it blew me away. She brought that idea to the faster version and in one take she did something proper bwad! Listen to that plinky plonky piano theme in the background of the chorus, I think its genius. I was thinking, ok now that version has something.. like a new forceful energy, it made me want to write bars not so much sing.
In other projects, I was a lot more concerned about the listeners or radio picking it up. For ‘Eye Out For The Devil‘ I was like, I want to do what’s right and authentic for me right now and if people like it then good, if not, fine. So yeah, it’s maybe a more selfish exercise in music. The music sentiment is a little more F you I’m doing it like this! I think that carries through to every member’s performance in the recordings.
8. Regarding “London Summer Loving”, was there anything outside of the music itself—like film, literature, or art—that inspired its creation?
Not so much outside music, but definitely outside the reggae genre. For me, I love those songs that represent an artist’s place. It’s so wicked when you can tell they have really done the place justice and represented it to the max. They paint a picture and you feel like you are from their town now. Songs like Nas’ ‘NY State of Mind’ or Nina Simone’s ‘Baltimore’, also covered brilliantly by the Tamlins- That version with that hornline, thats one of the best reggae songs of all time. 2Pac’s California Love or Alborosie’s Kingston Town, a modern reggae classic. Also, it’s not explicitly about a city but ‘Master Blaster’ by Stevie Wonder, he vividly describes a street party and I feel like I wanted to write a song in that way where the song takes you into a scene of a real place and the listener is transported there, that’s the inspiration from others there.
9. A question about the process: When working on new material like “London Summer Loving,” do lyrics typically come first, or do melodies dictate where words will follow?
The creative process depends on the song but almost always its melodies before the lyrics. If I write lyrics without musical clothes it ends up terrible and unmusical. Sometimes songs are created in a more contrived fashion. so for example, I’m gonna make a roots rockers track- so you build the riddim and then ideas stem from that vibe. London Summer Loving was like that. I think of that process as the Hip Hop/ rapper or artist-to-producer type creative process. There’s the production and then the lead ideas on top. For me, those types of songs take the most work to get the vocals and ideas to grab something authentic. It’s like you have to work it until authenticity comes, rather than come straight from a place of authenticity and make that come to life.
I came up with the ideas for LSL and it just felt too lifeless and the more I worked on it the worse it sounded. I had to stop and go back to vibe. So I just sang some jibberish to find a melody and delivery. From there I was like that sounds like an Afrobeats singer, how the hell am I gonna make a London song from that? I separated the chorus melody delivery from the verse delivery to make it work, but to be honest I still don’t think I made 100% the thing how I wanted the thing, but you have to know when you’ve worked on something enough and put it down to experience and allow the work to be imperfect.
The most natural songs come from a feeling. Something may have happened or you just might be feeling in a certain space and the Melody, the harmony and the vibe come to you. I think those are the most authentic real songs. ‘Eye Out For The Devil’ our previous single was like that. I felt terrible about humans, myself included, I had to get something out and the music ideas just flowed from there. I also think that’s the best place for reggae to come from. If you are in a point of desperation or darkness or hardship and music is used to overcome, that is reggae at its most authentic.
10. As artists tend to be critical about their work – if each of you had to choose one thing they love most about “London Summer Loving,” what would it be?
I’m not with the guys at the moment. I’ve got something from Ryan but the rest will take an eternity to get back to me, so other than Ryan’s input I’ll take the opportunity to point out some cool parts of the music that the guys pulled out of the hat, purely just improvised on the spot whilst in session.
RYAN: I really liked putting down this bassline. I had some fun with it. I like to draw inspiration from a lot of people around me. I was reminded here of a song by Natty titled “Seasons Change”. I’ve depped for him several times and have even watched how “Tallis” who is his main bassist and one of my inspirations in the bassline, plays it live. The other inspiration is one of my mentors “Don Chandler” and his style and approach to reggae bassline. I like putting those influences into the new music I play. What I enjoyed here and with The Wise Bloods in general is the freedom I have to experiment a bit, but still somehow be able to complement Jesse’s style of songwriting and composition.
Jesse: there’s always a sign of that experimentation from Ryan. If you listen to the third verse, there’s a breakdown. The bass goes into this sub-low frequency…that is Ryan just showing off. It’s so deep and it hits so good. he just doing it in the pocket of what the music wants.
Jason’s drum machine overdubs: To be honest this drum performance is just flawless, he destroys that beat, and the fills are insane… but what you might miss is his drum machine overdubs. There’s a weird whale moan in there. He just kept hitting this pad. Someone poked their head in the room and looked at Jason and said ‘The black whale’, we were cracking up and Jason flipped and said, ‘Yeah your laughing now but you’re gonna hear back and think that’s fucking sick!’, it does sound sick.
Noas Piano: the piano theme I mentioned earlier you hear in the chorus and the breakdown. That was an improvised idea that pretty much became the glue of the song. For me, that part is the most important part of the track.
With regards to vocals, I think the third verse nails exactly what I wanted. I feel it captures London in Summer for me in song format and it’s ghetto AF. There’s no one out here writing reggae like this, maybe hip hop but not reggae.
‘Vietnamese, Jamaican, Pho and curry in a pot
dealers keep it moving in a stuffed crotch sock
ballers in their beamers turn to boujin’ out the block
Crackheads on the corner hope this day never stop…’
11. In terms of vocal performance on ‘London Summer Loving,’ how were decisions made on delivery style? Does it encapsulate specific emotions tied to London summers?
The chorus I am certain is influenced by Afro beats. The whole vocal was at first delivered in that fast-paced MC delivery. but the chorus was just missing some flavour. the high end almost falsetto vocal delivery came from just feeling a melody out. Afro beats is becoming a big thing in London and it’s hard not to take influence. As I mentioned before, I had to separate the chorus and verse in my mind. The verse delivery is definitely bringing a London energy. London in summer has a hazy bliss but energetically it also has this relentless menacing drive, like everyone is out to just live life, no matter what.
I admit it’s a gamble, this vocal is a bit marmite. Love it or hate it, but in this song, I achieved my goal of capturing an essence and a vibe. Like London, it’s not for everyone.
12. Let’s get technical: could we geek out a bit over which instruments, gear, or production techniques stood out while crafting “London Summer Loving”?
If we are going to talk technical we have to mention our tracking and mix engineer Jaime (pronounced hai-mey) Zugasti. The foundations of the track are recorded by an actual reggae genius at BBMC Studios. The overdubs-like vocals are recorded in my shed home studio on an SM7B on a Scarlett USB interface, which is the best budget mic you can get, but it is by no means a high-end mic and boy did Zugasti let me know about it. Also, I have ADHD, I do things so scatty that half my stems need extra work, and my mic placement is a mess… If Jaime Zugasti hadn’t worked on it, the music would not be hitting your ears properly at all. The most unique thing about all of the music from the ‘Eye Out For The Devil’ project is that Zugasti has done the final mix using an analogue board. The Verb is an actual real spring reverb. You can really hear his hands-on work in action when you listen to the dub versions (LSL dub is out on 8th December).
13 . Your music carries an infectious energy — when performing live, particularly new singles like ” London Summer Loving,” how do you translate that studio magic onto stage?
the newer tracks have more energy because they are closer to the live. the bass and drums were recorded together and the songs themselves were jammed live before they were recorded. so when we play these tracks the translation to the live show is less of an issue. In fact, we just add more vibes with the added performers. Before some of those tracks were just tracked and built on ideas laid out on the computer beforehand, with no live jamming or input from the players prior.
I would like to bring some recorded stems into a live show at some point just to maintain some signature production sounds, but what’s more important is capturing the band’s dynamic in new recordings more and more so the transition to the live show is more seamless. That said, the live show is just always more energetic and brings a whole new element. People have said they got more into our songs after seeing us live.
14 . This might be tough but describe ” London Summer Loving” in three words – no cheating now!
You just said it, it’s in the title… hmmm. Ghetto Surf Reggae
15 . And finally, looking ahead can fans expect more sunny vibes à la ”London Summer Loving” from future releases? Or are there surprises up your sleeves?
We’ve been playing with several reggae styles. In this project, we’ve had two steppers, one Rocker and the next is going to be a soulful ska love song, then of course the dubs. I’ve been working on this fusion of hood style with the sunny reggae feel quite a bit, so I’m sure we will have some more. The idea is to bring the original London style but deliver it in a way that people are still getting that juicy harmonic and melodic reggae hit. I’m still wanting to reach that sweet spot with our sound and style. Also, we are not just a reggae band. We have funk/soul and hip hop-influenced tracks, so we are going to have more bangers coming like our previous song ‘Lonely Hours’ featuring the late ones.
I think from here on the guys are going to be involved in the writing of the music from the get-go
I’m going to write ideas from my end but won’t bring forward any skeleton sketches of bass or drums. I’m also going to ask the guys to bring something to me. This way I can focus on the songwriting and the vocals and get out of my own way of what I’m worst at production.
I’ll keep practising and doing production in my own time, but I want this project to become what I always planned for it to be, an actual band where all the players are equally the artist- there is not enough of that in reggae these days. Well, in the US they have that because of the heavy influence of rock, but everywhere else reggae is- artists with a band supporting them. I get why, it makes things more clear cut, but The Wise Bloods was always meant to be a band’s band. – High energy in your face live music but with deep roots in our foundations.
So yeah, just expect an even better iteration of The Wise Bloods.