Van Gelder/Fleming

“It’s all live instruments, all played by me. There’s Carl Hudson (keys) on one track, and there’s some programming on ‘Hold On’. I played all the bass, guitar, keys, and real drums…The beats are provided by the drum kit.” – Nick van Gelder

“Yeah I think a lot of people look at me and they can’t believe the kinda voice that I’ve got; they think it might be a little bit more poppy. But I’ve been brought up with Aretha (Franklin), Chaka Khan, George Benson and all those types of singers.” – Sulene Fleming

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

On paper the combination of Nick van Gelder and Sulene Fleming seems a strange one; however one listen to their superlative funky debut album release ‘Loveland’ will allay any preconceptions. The ukvibe team were invited down to a mini live showcase and album launch at Caipirinha Jazz Bar in early February to witness Nick, Sulene and their band pump out a selection of groovy foot-tapping tracks from the new CD. Michael J Edwards sat down with the duo betwixt rehearsals and performances to get the lowdown on how their union came about, and gain first-hand insight to their ‘Loveland’ album.

Michael J Edwards: Nick van Gelder and Sulene Fleming a.k.a. van Gelder/Fleming, welcome. May I congratulate you firstly on putting together an ear, feet, mind and body stimulating collection of songs on your new album ‘Loveland’ – From the uplifting opening vibes of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ through to the bluesy emotive rawness and depth of ‘Time’, the album is very accessible and energising. Was the recording process fun?

Nick van Gelder: I enjoyed it, yeah! Some of it we recorded separately; so the vocals were recorded at Sulene’s place. And then for me I’ve got vocals already just to make beautiful music, and then some of the tracks I already had some music started,
and Sulene added her vocal to that.

Michael J Edwards: Over what period of time was the album written and recorded?

Sulene Fleming: Over a year and eight months or something.

Michael J Edwards: Where exactly was the album recorded – the vocals etc?

Sulene Fleming: As Nick said before, I did the majority of vocals in my home studio, and then Nick did the production.

Nick van Gelder: And then it was all recorded and mixed, apart from the vocals at my studio.

Sulene Fleming: He did everything, he produced the whole thing.

Michael J Edwards: Was it a joint collaboration with regard to the writing of tunes, or did you Nick just focus on the music and let Sulene write the lyrics?

Sulene Fleming: There’s two songs, ‘Never Gonna To Get It’ and ‘It’s All Right’. Those two songs are pure jams.

Nick van Gelder: Yeah those two are jams, the rest are all written by Sulene.

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Michael J Edwards: Sulene, would you describe yourself as a contemporary singer with an old soul. Your voice has been likened to Etta James, and Chaka Khan to name a few?

Sulene Fleming: Yeah I think a lot of people look at me and they can’t believe the kinda voice that I’ve got; they think it might be a little bit more poppy. But I’ve been brought up with Aretha (Franklin), Chaka Khan, George Benson and all those types of singers. My mum used to sing, but only when she was cooking! (Laughs) My Dad played a lot of Reggae, SOCA and Ska, but not professionally.

Michael J Edwards: Nick, is this one of the qualities that attracted you to working with Sulene?

Nick van Gelder: Yeah, well she’s lovely and such a beautiful talent.

Michael J Edwards: Sulene, what attracted you to working with Nick? Obviously, you were aware of his previous life as a drummer with Jamiroquai?

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Sulene Fleming: I’ve heard of Nick for a while, I knew he was a great drummer, and I’d seen him on a few gigs. And we just seemed to gel as soon as we’d met each other, even on a personal level; we just got on really well. It’s kind of one of those things when you say, “Shall we do something?” And he said, “Okay I’ll send you something over.” He then sent me a track to see if we can try and create something; and it actually happened. And that was about two years ago.

Nick van Gelder: The first track we did together, ‘Don’t Stop Believing” worked really well, so we did that a few more and a few more.

Michael J Edwards: Delving into the album, each tune seems to have its own thang going on, like self-contained mini masterpieces. Tracks that grabbed me on first listen were the etherealness of ‘A Little Piece’ and the studio 54/Chicago Garage vibe of ‘Hold On’. Can you explain more about how you created the music for these tunes and the album in general?

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Nick van Gelder: They were both tunes I had knocking around as instrumentals; the music was already virtually there. Sulene wrote on top of the music, and I told her to make ‘Hold On’ a bit more political and the other one sexier; and she did it the other way round. And it turned out to work brilliantly!

Sulene Fleming: It’s what you feel as a writer. If you listen to the instrumental, it might say something completely different to somebody else. To me ‘Hold On’ felt sexier and ‘A Little Piece’ was a bit more political.

Michael J Edwards: Why the title ‘Loveland’?

Nick van Gelder: It’s just a great message, simple and straight ahead. And actually It’s also a modern Soul cover.

Michael J Edwards: Whose voice is it at the start of whose crying now? The intro is very much Luther Vandross (voice) meets Marcus Miller (bass).

Sulene Fleming: That is Peter Huckerby, and he is a fantastic singer! He’s actually from Leeds; he’s based in Leeds and his fantastic! He definitely gets full credit in the liner notes. (Laughs) We gelled really well. It’s a couple of years old that vocal, and I just kind of brought it back to life within that tune, and his voice was just so good.

Michael J Edwards: Which tracks do you both have the most affinity with?

Nick van Gelder: I don’t have a particular affinity with any of them, they’re all my babies. However, I lean towards ‘It’s All Right Now’.

Sulene Fleming: I really like, ‘You Gotta Get On Up’.

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Michael J Edwards: Nick, can you explain how you created the beats for this album? Were any live instruments used, or was it all done on keyboards and drum machine?

Nick van Gelder: It’s all live instruments, all played by me. There’s Carl Hudson (keys) on one track, and there’s some programming on ‘Hold On’. I played all the bass, guitar, keys, and real drums. It’s obviously produced and edited to sound a bit more modern and new. The beats are provided by the drum kit.

Michael J Edwards: You both have a wealth of experience, Sulene, you with various bands such as The New Master Sounds, The Fantastics and Soul Funk Secret, not to mention your liaisons with Quincy Jones, The Godfathers of Groove and Larry Graham’s Grand Central Station. Nick, your links with Jamiroquai and more recently you exploit’s with Groovitas amongst others. No doubt, this heritage gives you the confidence in the studio and the live arena?

Nick van Gelder: Someone said that if you just put a certain amount of hours into anything, whatever you do; if you’ve done like 10,000 hours of one particular thing, for example singing or drumming, then you automatically become an expert, almost whether you like it or not… Sometimes when you do stuff and you’re not even trying too hard, it just seems to come out nice, and that’s the wealth of experience.

Sulene Fleming: You still have to remain a little bit sharp as well, because you’re always going to learn something new, you never stop learning.

Michael J Edwards: What is your game plan for promoting this album? Can we expect tour dates across UK and Europe?

Nick van Gelder: This (Caipirinha Jazz Bar) showcase is our first live gig.

Sulene Fleming: And we’re so happy with how it sounds, because obviously when you’re in the studio and you’re producing it, then you’ve got this album on CD; but once it is live, then it’s something completely different. It comes to life, it’s more organic! It’s great!

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Nick van Gelder: What’s really amazing is that yesterday was the first run through we had with the musicians. Somehow when you work in the studio and you put a CD out, it’s still a bit of a fantasy, it’s not real. When you play with real musicians, somehow the music becomes the real thing.

Michael J Edwards: It’s as if it’s an inanimate being, and then you sprinkle fairy dust onto it and it comes to life?

Nick van Gelder: It’s really like that; to me it’s like REAL now.

Sulene Fleming: Just hearing it earlier today with everybody present (band members), “It’s like wow!”

Michael J Edwards: Can you tell us about this great group of musicians who put together to play at this album Showcase – Francis Hylton (bass), Tomasz Bura (keys), Carl Hudson (keys), Julian Burdock (guitar), Kofi Percussion Discussion (percussion), Jessica Greenfield (backing vocals), Katie Leone (backing vocals), Jono McNeil (backing vocals)?

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Nick van Gelder: They’re the best in town, they’re top people and they’re here tonight. There’s Carl (Hudson) and Tomasz (Bura) on keys. We have a couple of Incognito (band) members – Kofi (percussion), I’ve been playing with Kofi since Jamiroquai, and he’s been with me since that, as well as Francis Hylton (bass).

Sulene Fleming: On background vocals we have Jessica Greenfield, who is amazing, and Katie Leone and Jono McNeil – So there’s a lot of pedigree and quality.

Michael J Edwards: Are you excited about performing this mini set here tonight in front of a select group of friends and invitees and what can we expect on the set?

Nick van Gelder: I’m a bit anxious that it’s going to go well. It’s a healthy anxiety, but I’m super excited! It’s a great high energy set. It’s only five songs, but it’s gonna be all high-energy and we’re gonna jam out a bit.

Sulene Fleming: Yeah, five songs, but it’s going to be fire!

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Michael J Edwards: We’re looking forward to the gig tonight and moreover the favourable feedback you’ll receive in due course from this infectious, bumping, feel good album that is a ‘Loveland’.

Nick van Gelder: Thanks a lot!

Sulene Fleming: Thank you babe, that was lovely!

Michael J Edwards

Essential Album: Loveland (CD, 2015)

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Essential Websites:
http://artistecard.com/TheVanGelderFlemingProject
https://www.facebook.com/vangelderfleming

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

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