Gotts Street Park are a proud bunch of throwbacks. The Leeds-based trio - Josh Crocker (bass, production), Tom Henry (keys) and Joe Harris (guitar) - met through various music studies and friendship networks. Individually their tastes are diverse: from North Indian classical to experimental jazz, soul to alternative hip hop but their vision is united: “The idea of doing things live in one room has always been important,” remarks Josh. “That’s how they used to do it. Our identity evolved from that.”
The inception of the collective goes back to around 2012. There have been minor line up tweaks - they currently record with a rotating list of drummers - but the philosophy has stayed the same: an ongoing pursuit to capture the raw, unparalleled vibe that comes from recording music together, usually as one take, sometimes to analogue tape.
That approach is a deliberate call back to the methods made famous by legendary studios like Sun and Stax in Memphis, or Fame and Muscle Shoals in Alabama and their in-house bands. That’s why for years, GSP set up their own studio in a shared house in a tough (but, crucially, affordable) corner of west Leeds, Armley. Gotts Park (historically the home of industrialist Benjamin Gott) was close by - the group’s name was a nod to their local geography but also the fact it sounded like an area plucked straight out of some of their favourite East Coast hip hop releases.
Their work was quickly noticed, and it was from that base where they began working with an eye catching list of collaborators: Rejjie Snow, Kali Uchis, Cosima, Yellow Days, Chester Watson, Greentea Peng and Benny Mails. Tom also played keys in Mabel’s band. Early on, while performing as a band for hire for those artists, they were simultaneously honing their own sound; a deliberately retro “heavy, saturated” atmosphere that married the languid vibe of traditional soul with the pin sharp clarity of contemporary hip hop. Old leanings, sure, but upcycled with their own modern twist. “We’re constantly trying to build a catalogue,” says Tom. “Writing new stuff and sending it out to people.” That’s why after the release of their debut EP, Volume One, in 2017 the invitations kept coming; most notably from Brits Rising Star award winner Celeste, with whom they recorded two tracks on her debut EP Lately.
Volume Two once again features an impressive raft of vocalists - all female - from established names to fresh talent. This time, musically, the overall tone is lighter; less gritty, more optimistic. “It’s definitely not as gloomy,” says Josh. “Still though, there is this kind of dark, mysterious thing that we do a lot that works,” he continues. “Like the song we’ve done with Grand Pax, for example - it’s got that kind of witchy darkness to it. I think if you do a really straight male soul voice, it can be a bit cheesy and sound like you’ve heard it a million times before.”
Their collaborations might be some of the freshest of 2020 but make no mistake: Gotts Street Park are out there looking to create something timeless.
Gotts Street Park - Volume 1 & 2 CD Released 12/03/21
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