Solomons Garden: A Gardener’s World
Kent four-piece Solomons Garden has brought an indescribable new element to the musical sphere
The ethereal harmonies and atmospheric melodies that make up the sounds of Solomons Garden are as easy to listen to as they are marvelling.
It is really difficult to pigeonhole the group’s sound, or to even really sum up the music because every track is so different, with different beats, influences and expressions. Yet, the calming elements of each track from their latest EP, Naked Bearings, tells you that it is Solomons Garden.
The four-piece group, which came together through campus connections – University of Kent at Medway and University of Greenwich – and a love of music has been propelled from session musicians to closing the BBC Introducing Stage at Latitude Festival 2017.
The founder members are MKFWI (or Mak), a Rochester-based producer and songwriter who has been involved in the gospel, hip-hop, R&B and rock music scenes for 10 years working with the likes of John Gallen, Chip Kendall, Superhero, 3LAU, Switchfoot, Guvna B, Triple O, Jahaziel and Reuel Elijah; Dan Todd, a Gillingham-based producer and singer-songwriter who brings the soul to the group with his rich chord progressions and rich soulful vocals and dynamic keys; Bromley’s Chanel Hemmings, a triple jumper turned singer-songwriter with captivating vocals; and vocalist Erica Torres, a singer-songwriter and smooth vocalist who has gone from backing singer to front and centre.
Mak and Dan were the first to work together having started out as a production duo.
After working with their first artist, the group felt that they’d be better moving forward as Solomons Garden - creating and releasing their own music.
So, tell us about the very beginning of Solomons Garden and the group formed and created your first track, Sand Dunes.
Mak: Well, Dan played the keys for a Kent rapper called Mr Maze, and that’s how we first met, through him. We had both done session musician work before, and we were always behind another artist. As a production duo, our first artist was actually Chanel. But we felt like we could move forward as a group.
Dan: To create something of my own was something I strived for. Once Mak and I started working in a production studio together, we kind of had that moment where we realised it was going to work.
Mak: Dan just has a way of playing the keys that speaks what you are thinking. The first song we made was Sand Dunes and it was formed from just two chords. We definitely knew we had something to move forward with.
Erica was on the same campus – I studied Music Tech, and she studied Music – and we stuck together after uni. There was one session and we had Erica join in.
Erica: It was after listening to Sand Dunes that they asked me to join the group, and I thought, ‘if it was to make music like Sand Dunes, then hell yeah, I’ll join’.
Sand Dunes got traction really quickly and had thousands of listens across Soundcloud and Spotify, and then you got the band settled, so, surely it was just the name left to sort, right?
Mak: The origin is a bit lost, we can’t really remember where it came from, but the meaning is to ‘bare forth rich fruit’ and that goes for everything we make. We put our heart and soul into the music, song writing and maybe even making films to go with the music.
Erica: When I think of it, I think of a place where each person who visits, can make it their own individually. We don’t ever really say what each song means, because we want people to interpret it whatever it means to them. We know why we wrote them, but each of us takes a different meaning from the songs and why we wrote them.
How does it work with writing and recording, does one person take the lead on a particular song or is it a group discussion?
Dan: The way we work is very organic. We don’t have a fixed structure, every song is made differently.
Erica: It works both ways. It could be Dan wanting to write about a subject or Mak will have a beat that we could write around. It is really weird how Mak will play us a song and we will each take five minutes to write around it and so often it fits.
Dan is originally from Jamaica, via the British Virgin Islands, Erica is Portuguese but moved to the UK aged 13, Chanel grew up in America and Mak was born in Ghana but raised in Wales; apart from a whole load of weird accents, does that mean all your musical influences are very different?
Dan: Yep. I am from a jazz, gospel background, Erica is more RnB, and Chanel is more old soul.
Mak: I have a bit of hip hop, rock and indie, psychedelic sounds. A lot of bits and bobs.
Dan: We bring those different influences in and put it in a big melting pot.
Erica: It’s really hard to say what kind of genre we are. It’s such a big mix. It’s hard to describe.
There is a bit of rap, electronic, soul and some funk in there, but everything we have read about you, Solomons Garden is continuously described as ‘neo-soul’, what does that mean?
Dan: Neo-soul is a formulation from old soul with elements of hip hop, jazz and RnB. It is very organic. I like a lot of electric piano, and listen to the likes of D’angelo, Erykah Badu, Dwele and loads of those guys, so they have influenced the way I play.
We have had EPs Welcome To The Garden and From Dust, To Gold in 2017, and this year you have released Naked Bearings, will you be continuing on with EPs?
Mak: We are writing an album, but we are just taking our time and making sure we invest the proper mindset and ideas into it, so that it is to becomes an album to be remembered.
Dan: For us writing is a continuous process. We don’t sit down and write out everything for an album at once. Whenever you have something, you bring it to the table.
Mak: I suppose we have already kind of created an album but split them into three EPs, so that people don’t get sick of us!
You’ve been getting some great airtime through BBC Introducing getting record of the week a couple of times, and obviously you closed their stage at last year’s Latitude Festival, was there a moment you knew you were onto something special?
Mak: It was as soon as we brought out the first EP everything just went crazy.
Dan: We started to get a lot of recognition.
Mak: I don’t think any of us really expected it. Because originally we did this as a side project. In that first month, every week there was something new happening, (a gig or a new piece of recognition) and we knew we had to keep pushing on.
Dan: Latitude ended up being our very first gig. We closed the show on the Friday of the festival on the BBC Introducing stage.
Mak: That was actually Chanel’s first ever live performance with us, too.
Erica: She was so scared, bless her. But she was brilliant.
With so many sounds and such a mixture of musical styles, what is a Solomons Garden live gig like?
Mak: Well we have a full band. We have an extra two players, on bass and guitar, but we all play our own instruments. Erica’s is her voice, Dan on keys, Chanel sings. But for me our show is and should be ‘expect the unexpected.
Erica: There’s always a vibe and its always so much fun. We’ve done a few Sofar Sounds (secret and intimate gigs). It is a really small crowd and they are purely there for the music, and that is so much fun. You can really chill with the audience.
You have got gigs coming up at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club and Hideaway Jazz Club, is a tour on the cards?
Dan: We want to be doing this full time, getting a tour out of it eventually, but we do want to release new music, too. There’s so many different things we want to do, and we will achieve it.
Check Solomons Garden out online at solomonsgardenmusic.com or follow them on Instagram @solomonsgarden and Twitter @OneandOnlySG