Smoove & Turrell are a breath of fresh air in the world of soul bands. The boys make no attempt to sound or look like anyone else. 2020 sees the release of their 6thstudio album “Stratos Bleu”– a slightly different direction for the boys as they take influences from their infamous DJ sets where they fuse northern soul with funk and electronica. The production is a marriage of everything that they grew up on fused with elements of modern music but with the distinctive drum heavy dancefloor production Smoove is famous for.
The challenge for both was about finding the right balance between the Smoove & Turrell sound that has brought them such a fanatical following and the raw dance music they grew up on, while always striving to be original. The tougher electronic sound will be a surprise to some but those denizens of the night who have seen these guys work a crowd from the DJ booth will know what to expect – extraordinary lyricism and tight beats.
The story of Smoove & Turrell began in the post millennium North East of England with a group of working class lads and a shared passion for soul. Smoove had met keyboardist Mike Porter through the local music scene in Newcastle and recruited him for his “Smoove Live” project for the label Acid Jazz. Around Mike’s house one day they overheard a neighbor singing sublime melodies in his garage with friends which turned out to be none other than a young John Turrell practicing in a band called The Stevies. After a couple of further sessions ‘scouting’ him they finally knocked on the door and had a chat and hit it off straight away.
A man of many facets, John Turrell was a skilled carpenter, working and teaching the trade to apprentices at a local college as well as his musical endeavors. After the trio performed several gigs together with various other guest musicians it was agreed they would create some new material and so they started to write and arrange a clutch of tracks that Smoove would record and produce.
Their first track was the now classic “I Can’t Give You Up” recorded at Mike Porter’s house as his Hammond Organ was immovably wedged in his utility room! If you listen closely to the (now extremely expensive) original 7 inch recording released on the German label Club Tikka you can still hear Mike’s mum retrieving a pack of peas from the freezer… The track was so popular in the underground Mod and Northern soul scene all initial 500 pressings of the record sold out, resulting in online bidding wars, with the record going for as much as £166.
The first few tracks were received with a rapturous response and their newfound northern soul style demanded that a Smoove & Turrell live band was formed so they swiftly filled out their ranks with a crack team of like-minded Geordie musicians. Now as a full soul band they were creatively allowed to really stretch their legs both live and in the studio and their debut album “Antique Soul” was released in 2009 on Jalapeno Records. It was in fellow soul head Craig Charles that they found their first radio champion as he supported them heavily on The Craig Charles Funk & Soul Show which was a kick-starter for their assault on national radio eventually landing Radio 2 ‘record of the week’ twice and a playlist on BBC 6 Music.
By the time their second album “Eccentric Audio” was released the band had already been touring far and wide building up a loyal fan base helped by continued support from radio which culminated in two playlists and a New Year’s Eve live session on Radio 2. With two critically acclaimed albums under their belts and word starting to spread across the pond to America – S&T tracks were used on TV shows, feature films and an ABC network primetime ad campaign, as well as in video games such as The Crew. KCRW in LA put single “Hard Work” in their coveted Today’s Top Tune slot further exposing the band to west coast tastemakers and the boys becoming unlikely darlings of the US sync business.
Sticking to their roots and keeping a close relationship with their fans was always a key driving ethos behind the crew. By the time their third album “Broken Toys” was released, their extensive touring and appeal across borders was recognized by BPI as they were awarded Music for Export Growth Scheme funding to assist with an extended touring schedule. This ‘get in the van and play the show’ willingness has built up one of the most loyal fan-bases in the industry today, proven when the boys were invited to play Canadian Music Week and crowdfunded the costs to take them there in just a couple of days.
Album number four “Crown Posada” was released in 2016, with the whole band involved in the writing process. An album which infused their northern soul and funk style with early electronica influences, rock, pop, disco and jazz whilst still maintaining the signature Smoove & Turrell sound. Socially conscious lyrics are very much a centre piece of the themes explored on the likes of “Beggarman” and “Money”, highlighting the divide between the rich and the poor and offering an insider’s look at what it’s like to grow up, live and raise a family in the North East. “50 days Of Winter” in particular offers a bleak picture of the isolation that can strike when life on the road stops and real life kicks in.
As always though with Smoove & Turrell, the highs and the lows of life are represented and the hard times realism of some of the lyrics is tempered by the irrepressible dancefloor euphoria of others.
Never one to rest for long, the Georgie soul crew returned in 2018 with a stunning fifth album “Mount Pleasant”, which gave the band multiple BBC Radio 2 and 6 music spins. An album which true to their style draws on subject matters which are aimed to make us stop and think, with songs such as the politically charged “Hate Seeking Missile” , balanced fittingly with uplifting stompers, such as “I Feel Alive”, guaranteed to get even the most resistant of dancers toe-tapping.
Sixth album “Stratos Bleu” is scheduled for release in June 2020 and sees the boys depart from their trademark northern funk sound to explore their dancier side, continuing in the tradition of bringing foot-stomping music with a message.