NEW MUSIC; 'THICK BLOOD' by JUNIPER ROOTS - WE TALK TO AN OPEN MIC FAVOURITE TURNED PRODUCER ABOUT HIS LATEST EP.
With a new month upon us in 2021, February is already panning out to be a slightly different month in comparison to the last 11 months of lockdown, with what seems to be a surge in new music from local acts making its way through the system.
First up this month is Ben Sullivan, better known in the scene as Juniper Roots - a singer / songwriter and now producer from Essex, now residing in Yeovil.
A regular at the Antix Music Network’s Open Mic events at the Globe Inn, Somerton, Juniper Roots became a quick favourite, and a talent that really caught our eye.
His brand new EP, called Thick Blood, fully self produced, is out now on all platforms. We spoke to Ben about what went into the EP, and what he’s been up to in recent months.
Frazer Mitchell; Hi Ben, how are you getting on?
Juniper Roots; Yeah I’m good man, struggling with the lack of live music but supercharged to hit the scene again when we are able. I think that it is going to be a significantly vibrant comeback.
FM; I completely agree - it will be very busy when things open up again. I ask a lot of people the same question at the beginning of interviews, but what have you been up to since last March when we were all locked down? By the looks of your Spotify account, you’ve been making the most of the downtime!
JR; I’ve been working a lot, and channeling my frustrations into music. Like many people, this last year has been challenging. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve lost my mind at times. Music is universal, and for me it serves a purpose to channel the mental health issues I have in a positive way. That may be why it’s sporadic, and doesn’t follow a commercial pattern. What happens, happens. And then I just send it out in the world and hope some people get something from it.
FM; So talk to me about your Spotify page; there’s actually quite a few EPs and singles on there that have been released in 2020. How are these songs being produced? Are you doing them yourself? Have you got a home studio set up?
JR; Some of the earlier tracks on ‘You Want Working on Boy’ span back at least ten years ago. I started writing music when I was 13, and I’m 32 now. I revisit ideas I have and sometimes they work! When I was recording certain earlier tracks, I was literally using an old computer microphone (like Packard bell style shit) and using a free sequencing programme called Krystal. I’m not sure if they are available on Spotify but sometimes people can get wrapped up in the production over the song quality itself or the content. However I have used cubase and protools, I love working with 414 microphones and SM7 Shure microphones for when I make hardcore tracks and have a good shout because the bass response is phenomenal. Currently I use a pretty simple set up with Logic X, a Focusrite external, and an m audio keyboard. Along with a collection of guitars.
On the whole I take on most of the songwriting, production and instrumental duties. But I have been very lucky to work with some incredible friends and great musicians who feature on tracks. Andy Greening, Auris Grismanauskis, Greg Johnson, to name a few, have all played a part in the musical journey I have tried to undertake.
FM; One in particular EP which I’d like to talk about is Thick Blood; I only became aware of the EP after you DMd me a link to it - instantly I loved the style and the quality of the EP. A stand out track for me was “Early” - I’m massive fan of funk and soul, and hearing someone on the local scene producing music like this is very exciting! Which of the 7 songs on the EP are you most proud of, and why?
JR; Thick Blood is a collection of tracks almost solely written and produced whilst living alone, struggling with addiction and life in general. The themes in the EP are personal to me and it was ready for me to share. I spend my time trying to perfect things, that don’t always need perfecting. Production wise, there are certain issues, there are mistakes in those songs. I like to think that it just creates a sense of realism. I spend my life listening to polished music, which is great and I love some of it. But my style holds roots in folk and that rough feel. The same authenticity that you’ll find in Nirvana’s music for example. A great song doesn’t have to always be a gloss template. Sometimes it needs to be real.
FM; Do you have a set way of making music? Is there a pattern to how you write? Do you come up with guitar patterns and vocals first and then work around it?
JR; Honestly on most occasions, it’s guitar based. I’ll come up with ideas on guitar, sometimes piano and I’ll build around it, layer it and work on lyrics later on. That isn’t always my method. I will write lyrics and wait, sometimes years, for something to fit. And when it does if it works for me, then I’ll know its the right time. Sometimes a song can be written in 30 mins. Other times it can be a process that takes years. And I love harmonies. So I tend to abuse the hell out of that!
FM; As I mentioned earlier, you were a regular at our Antix; Open Mic events and came to Air107.2 for a live set on the Lounge a while back, was live music a big part of your act before lockdown? Where else were you performing?
JR; I've played live music since I was 10 years old, in bands playing originals since 14. Been in several bands, and loved every part of it. I’ve played and toured around the UK, around Europe. Been lucky enough to tour with Feeder, Pigeon Detectives, Pulled Apart By Horses. I was a vocalist in a hardcore band, guitarist in an alternative rock band, I have another release of a project coming out this Friday on Spotify of a band called TUDORS of which I am incredibly proud of. I live for music, and always have. So to get back out and do what I love can’t come soon enough.
FM; So looking forward to the future and a post COVID world, what are your plans as Juniper Roots? Is there anything in the pipeline we should be getting excited about?
JR; More releases! There is so many tracks just waiting to be put out at the right time. And if just one person can relate to any of it, then that means I’ve made an impact, And hopefully a positive one.
FM; Thank you so much for taking the time out to chat with us today; it’s great to hear you’ve been keeping busy through lockdown, and all the best for the future - hope to see you at Open Mic soon!
JR; My pleasure dude. Catch you on the other side!
To listen to Juniper Roots’ original music, including Thick Blood, go and check out his Spotify here.
Frazer Mitchell - Producer, DJ, and Events Coordinator at Antix Music Network