For this personal geography, we get all up in Elliot Bennett’s grill – he’s the drummer for (mostly) Cardiff-based jazz band, Slowly Rolling Camera. Read on for Elliot’s slant on the city (he’s second from left in the picture).
Tell us about your Cardiff connections …
Although Dave (Stapleton – pianist/composer) now lives in Newbury, we were all students that studied at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. It was here that we started composing and playing together. Similarly, whilst still being a student, I was also the house drummer at the old Toucan Club, and Dionne (Bennett – vocalist/lyricist) was the vocalist in the funk and Latin band that played there on the weekend.
Tell us how Slowly Rolling Camera formed.
The band started out with Dave and myself discussing the need to write some new music that differed from our quintet. The want for a fresher approach that could have a wider a reach and echoed more of the things they were listening to, such as the Cinematic Orchestra, Robert Glasper, Christian Scott, Massive Attack and Portishead.
The writing process began with Dave sending me some ideas to see what I thought. Hooked on what I’d heard, I began playing around with the ideas presented and recorded some grooves and rhythms that would cement and support the phrases and melodies. This process continued for sometime, until we both realised that an ingredient was missing, the voice. There was only one person I had in mind that had the depth, warmth and soulfulness needed for what had been written. It was then, that I pitched the ideas to Dionne Bennett, a lyricist and vocalist that I had worked with many years ago.
Once Dionne had added some ideas, again me and Dave thought that a more electronic, produced sound pallet was needed to bind the existing ideas together, which is when I called upon my old university friend Deri Roberts to help. Like Dave and Dionne, I had worked with Deri many times in a number of different ensembles, some of which included the others. Fast forward to the present day, the four us through our friendship and work in various ensembles have written – I believe – music that has a little of all our personalities and life’s journey embedded with the fabric of the album.
Where was your first gig?
Our first gig was at Chapter Arts Centre, which I guess is regarded as a bit of a hub for music, drama and the arts in Cardiff and therefore, seemed the perfect location to showcase what we had written. Thankfully, the gig sold out and the response and feeling from the audience and players booked for the gig was great. The four of us now knew that the product worked, both as something to listen to at home, or as a live performance.
What are the great things about living in Cardiff?
Cardiff is a very friendly, lively and cosmopolitan city. It has great entertainment, a diverse music scene, good night life, and shopping all within walking distance.
How does it feel to be releasing an album?
I’m sure I speak for the others when I say that we are very proud to release this album. We wanted to collectively create something that appealed to a wide audience, that didn’t fit into a neat label or box that say’s ‘genre’ on it. Something that musicians would appreciate, music that would stand up for its production, engineering, the way it was recorded and mixed. It’s an album that contains snapshots of our life as friends and musicians, which like our name have slowly, rolled and evolved.
If you had friends coming to visit Cardiff for the weekend, what would you recommend they do?
During the day, stop for a coffee and a bite to eat at the Pen-y-lan Pantry or maybe visit Cardiff’s award-winning farmers’ markets on Sunday 10 – 2pm. And team that up with watching a knock-out performance from an amazing new band called ‘Slowly Rolling Camera’!