Formed in 2011, live hip hop, jazz and swing troupe Cut Capers have become part of the fabric of every summer’s festival scene, piling into their van and playing around the country from Glastonbury to Boomtown. They even have their own beer dedicated to them, after Cartref Brewing Company saw their set at Boomtown. Launched in Bristol last month, the Cut Capers-created 5.6% wheat beer is called Pinstripe in honour of Cut Caper’s first ever song.
Eight years on and Cut Capers are ready to release their second album Metropolis this month. Recorded at Monnow Valley Studio (previously home to the likes of Queen, Black Sabbath and Iggy Pop), the big, brassy and bouncing record is testament to how far this now nine-piece has come.
the big, brassy and bouncing record is testament to how far this now nine-piece has come
Cut Capers was born out of an old friendship, when school friends Mark (vocals and sax) and Nick (guitar) met bassist Zac and drummer Matt. They found an online ad posted by Bristol-based Galician MC Eloy and began jamming together as a five-piece, with a mission to create live, energetic hip hop.
Cut Capers continued to grow in size and influences, recruiting baritone saxophonist Tom and vocalist Jane as their sound veered further into swing-infused, jazzy hip hop territory. Cut Capers’ quest to beef out their horn section was finally complete after rounding up Babyhead’s trombone player Long, who met Cut Capers at a gig as Babyhead was coming to a close, and Royal College of Music-trained trumpet player Elliot, who had previously played with Imperial Leisure and The King Blues.
‘Nine is a good number – nine fits in a van!’ Jane laughs, as we sit down to chat with her, Mark and Nick (before Matt joined us for a few photos).
With members’ birthplaces ranging from Algeria to Essex, there is a mix of culture apparent in their sound that runs deeper than Eloy’s hard-hitting Galician rap vocals at the forefront of their sound.
‘The basslines Zac comes up with when he’s jamming, he has a slightly different way of thinking’ says Mark.
‘He’s got an Algerian brain, doesn’t he?’ says Nick. ‘There’s a North African rhythmical element in the bass, and then Eloy with his Galician lyrics and vocals – those are the two big ones. And then I’d say Bristol’s sound is our main influence after that, that combination of reggae and hip hop and brass.’
There’s a North African rhythmical element in the bass
Despite nine musicians’ individual personalities, there’s no doubting they’ve rubbed off on each other over the years and countless gigs they’ve played together. As a nine piece they have a fluidity and intuitiveness that can’t be feigned, no matter how many hours of practice are put in. The horns and rhythm anticipate ebbs and flows in the vocals and vice versa, allowing Cut Capers to improvise and give an in-the-moment performance every time.
‘You can definitely tell we’ve been together for a lot longer on this album’ says Jane.
‘The first album we did, we were just kind of forming’ says Mark. ‘There’s a more cohesive sound across this album.’
One of the things that makes Cut Capers so special is a sense of storytelling to the point of fairytale in the way their songs are delivered, that far transcends the cabaret-esque sentiment that often comes with swing-influenced music.
‘We always try and make everything we do enjoyable, so if it’s an escapist kind of angle, that’s fun for us’ says Mark.
It’s about creating that fun atmosphere and vibe
‘It’s about creating that fun atmosphere and vibe’ says Jane. ‘Our songs are a reflection of what our gigs are like. Feet Off the Ground on the new album is basically written about when we were in Venice on tour in 2017.’
‘Which was amazing’ adds Mark. ’It was like, oh my god, we can literally travel the world together and play music.’
A good statement of the band’s progression from a live party band into polished and professional recording artists is their choice to include re-record the title track from their debut album Say What. With a few more years under their belt and a renowned recording studio at their disposal, they took the chance to give a great song justice. The re-record will be dropping in late 2019 with a variety of remixes.
‘The reason we rerecorded Say What is because we love Monnow Valley and the sound we produce there is amazing. We love Say What so much that we wanted to be able to give it that Monnow Valley sparkle.’
we wanted to be able to give it that Monnow Valley sparkle
Cut Capers built their reputation as a live band and, aside from a collection of great original songs, the biggest feat on the new album is how well they have managed to capture their energy – something live bands routinely struggle with.
‘We just do the same thing!’ Jane explains. ‘We basically all got in a room and did the track live and jumped around to get that fun feeling and translate that live energy across the recording. It’s quite difficult if you’re all recording your parts individually to get that across.’
Getting that energy on record is hard and that’s the main thing we really wanted to do
‘Getting that energy on record is hard and that’s the main thing we really wanted to do’ says Nick.
‘We had all the horns recorded together facing each other and having a laugh’ says Mark. ‘And when me and Eloy did our rap stuff, we were in the room together with quite a lot of the band backing us up.’
‘We’d switch the lights off sometimes, so people could go a bit crazy!’ says Jane.
We’d switch the lights off sometimes, so people could go a bit crazy!
Cut Capers signed to Freshly Squeezed at the beginning of this year, who will be putting the album out around the world this May. However, the album itself was pretty much finished by the time Freshly Squeezed got involved, with Cut Capers’ fans helping fund the project via an Indiegogo campaign, where fans could preorder the finished album, as well special perks including a credit on the album or even a drum lesson with Matt.
‘The album was pretty finished’ Mark explains. ‘They added some sparkly extra bits, but Freshly Squeezed have been more of a great platform for it really.’
Despite signing to a record label and putting out a highly accomplished and polished studio album, fans needn’t worry that Cut Capers’ focus has shifted. You can still expect to find them at more than 20 gigs and festivals this summer. Cut Capers are growing in both directions, with an increasingly personal sound and bigger and better shows in the works – including their biggest Glastonbury show yet on this year’s Avalon Stage and a headline UK tour, kicking off with their album launch at SWX on 10 May.
‘We love gigging and we love recording, so any kind of music playing and making we can do, we want to do it’ says Jane.
Talking about their album launch at SWX, Mark says: ‘We’ve got an 11-piece band for that show, with a five-piece horn section. It’s going to be big, brassy hip hop with singing and rapping – exactly what Cut Capers is.’
It’s going to be big, brassy hip hop with singing and rapping – exactly what Cut Capers is.
‘And our usual jumping around with loads of fun antics’ Jane adds.
Antics is a word anyone who has seen Cut Capers live would use to describe their performance. You can expect to see all members jumping, singing and having a right old knees up on stage, with an energy that feeds directly back into the crowd. Even after eight years together, they’re having as much fun as when they started and they don’t need any extra motivation to get their dance on.
‘It’s something that comes naturally’ says Jane. ‘I think because we have so much fun doing it, it’s not like “oh god, another gig tonight, I’ve got to go and put on face and pretend to have loads of fun”. We actually just go on stage and have loads of fun. It’s all natural, high-energy fun.’
When you guys look round and you smile and we play the first note, it all comes to life. I get just as excited every time
‘I feel like when you guys look round and you smile and we play the first note, it all comes to life. I get just as excited every time’ says Nick.
Photos by Dominika Scheibinger