Zero 7 - The Hippest UK Band of The 2000's
Zero Seven, a new music for new generation
When the world woke up to the strangeness that is the album “Simple Things”, it was clear that British Modern music was undergoing yet another monumental change, not seen since the rise of the Supergroup known as Massive Attack. Most people might not know this incredible Brit band, but everyone will know the music of Zero 7. (This is a Myspace link to their official site.) That strange mellow, ambient, chilled yet adventurous and intelligent melodic beauty that wafts out of our iPods and CD players and changes our moods instantly, like the way a well-made car turns on a dime.
It’s a sort of curse that befalls some music groups when they do something unexpected and thrilling, by somehow achieving the impossible. It was the success of producing a best-selling album like Simple Things that gets Zero 7 (official Uk site) an honourable mention in the Music Album Hall of Fame. It’s just something a band can’t plan or predict, just like U2 could not plan their course through music. It just evolves that way. It just happens.
Zero 7 are the product of two people from the UK, Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker. Both men have known each other since childhood and are both music engineers who have worked on music for the likes of Pet Shop Boys and Robert Plant. Their music sense is proven and trusted enough to have allowed them get their break through Nigel Godrich, producer of Radiohead’s “Ok Computer”. Re-mixing “Climbing up the walls” and airplays on BBC Radio One led to more remixes for the likes of Sneaker Pimps and Lenny Kravitz. Binns and Hardaker knew their music and in 1999, they released their first EP, titled “EP1” and then in 2001, released “Simple Things”. The album is a blend of Downtempo Mellow Trip-hop blended with ambient Acid Jazz. Bringing some amazing vocalists on board like Sia Furler, Sophie Barker and Mozez simply made this album the acoustic perfection it is today. It contains some of the most memorable and catchy and distinct music of the last decade. It was a constant favourite on the music festival circuit.
Simple Things has been described as close to perfect chillout music and late evening music. It really takes you to a special place not just in music, but inside yourself. You discover a part of your imagination and emotional make-up that you didn’t register before. You react to it nicely. It washes over you and you trust it and let it have its way with you, like a mystery lover. Its built-in sense of knowing and cool hip confidence really caught the imagination of the music business and following the “Best Newcomer” Muzik Award, attention focussed on the guest vocalists who collaborated on the album - Sia Furler (lending soulful sassy vocals everywhere), Sophie Barker (vocalist on the song “Destiny”)and Mozez (vocalist on “I have seen” and “This World”). It was obvious that the band heralded serious talent.
Sophie Barker had an interesting start in music. Having joined her first band at age 16 and then completing a 2 year stint at UCL, then joined a second band, she knew music was to be her destiny. She quit university deciding that being an Oxford dropout wasn’t so bad,and signed with Sony. Because of artistic differences, her first album was never released, and we have all been denied what could have been a fantastic moment for Sophie, but she persevered as a song writer, collaborating with Grooverider and Groove Armada on their Vertigo album. On a fateful day in 2000, she got introduced to Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker. History was so close now.
Mozez is a singer who, by his own admission once said – by way of a fan who remarked to him that although he didn’t look like an angel, he has a voice of one, and was said at the Glastonbury Festival that he possessed a voice on stage with Zero 7 as being one that “...could guide you to heaven”. He sure does and he is what helps to define the sound of the Simple Things album in so many ways. For full review, see this link to Glastonbury 2005.
And Sia Furler, how to describe this mega-talent? A large book might be needed to fit her amazing music CV – so impressive and large it grows! Just think of the single "Titanium" and you are there. Some people think her talent may even eclipse Zero 7 itself, she is just that amazing. Originally an Aussie girl, she had a proven pedigree musically with the singles “Drink to get drunk”, “Taken for granted” and “Little Man” from the album Healing is difficult. The Wookie remix of Little Man is universally loved as a regular fave at Nightclubs the world over, and Sia was being heralded as a future Nelly Furtado or even Lauryn Hill. Sadly due to “difficulties” with her music label Sony, she left them and joined Go! Beat Records. In the following years Sia managed to blend her membership of Zero 7 and the many successes they had together with solo projects such as her solo EP “Don’t Bring Me Down”. Her music was used in films, and her second album “Colour The Small One”, a more downbeat mellow creation that included “Breathe Me” and “Where I Belong”, a track rumored for inclusion on a Spider Man movie soundtrack. Incredibly the American success of “Breathe Me” came when it was used in the hit TV show Six Feet Under, used to memorable effect...
While music groups like Massive Attack were starting to prove their great song writing ability, Zero 7 was touring their new group and planning their follow up album. And in 2002 “Another Late Night” was released. Only this wasn’t an official 2nd album, but more of a DJ mix album, made for Azuli Records, in fact it was part of their Late Night series, which allowed some hip and chillout artists to display their talents and it also included a cover of Johnny Osbourne’s “Truth and Rights”.
The next album for Zero 7 was titled “When it falls” – released in 2004, and saw a change in the line up in Zero 7 again. In addition to the original three vocalists, a talented new star Tina Dico from Denmark was added, bringing new singer and song writing talent. The album was well received – seeing Tina Dico write and perform on “Home” and “The Space Between” and Zero 7 were now established and with a musical pedigree to boot. It is the kind of success that most music groups can only dream of. Binns and Hardaker have to be credited for being willing to allow new potential music and vocal talent to come on board. It is as though Zero 7 was a constant work-in-progress, allowing a space to be in their music and letting it be filled with sure-fire music talent, much the way other groups have done. It takes guts to be willing to experiment with the formula, even after the success of “Simple Things”. It certainly prevents things from becoming musically stale. Musical repetition is the enemy of all bands and music artists. Music has to grow, and evolve, no matter how much people love their music. Zero 7 was becoming known as a group where anyone with real talent had a chance to hit the big time. Zero 7 were becoming a way of showcasing major new Future Talent. So how was official “album number 3” going to be received?
“The Garden” is a change of direction for Zero 7 in some ways. Retaining only Sia Furler and a new vocalist named Jose Gonzalez, the band also premiered for the first time the vocal talent of Henry Binns, a scary moment for him, since he was unsure of what people would make of his voice on the album.
The album works on the precept of allowing vocalists and writers to bring new things to the recording, just as before, and The garden was well received by fans and sold well. The next album Yeah Ghost was a new departure for Binns and Hardaker, and resulted in a new different sound for Zero 7. Today the producers have their own music label "Make Records" and are working on a long list of remixes of new and established musicians, and writing a new chapter in their music legacy.
(P.s. if you are a music fan, why not read my Hub on the french Music Group AIR. )
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