With their gritty and soulful brand of old school rhythm and blues, the Alabama seven-piece, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, are a band that sound like they've been teleported through time from the 1960s or 1970s to the present day. Seemingly channeling the music of Stax Records, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, they've been dubbed the doyens of retro-soul by some commentators but the group's charismatic front man, Paul Janeway (dubbed 'St. Paul' by the rest of the band due to his saintly nature and lack of personal vices) is eager to prevent the group from being typecast as one-dimensional, stuck-in-the-past soul revivalists. Their forthcoming second album - which is also their debut for Columbia Records and due to be released in September - is called 'Sea Of Noise' and sees The Broken Bones evolving musically from their debut LP, 2014's acclaimed indie release, 'Half The City.'
"I think for us, the whole kind of thing was to expand our musical palette on this new album a little bit so that you are not so trapped in the retro-soul thing," explains Janeway, who proves to be a personable young man who's blessed with a wry sense of humour and whose high-pitched, slightly maniacal laughter, which frequently punctuates our conversation, sounds almost Hyena-like. "If that's what you do, that's what you do," he says, acknowledging his group's soulful core sound. "There's nothing wrong with that but that's not fully us. I love that music and it's very influential but that's not fully us."
Indeed, a cursory listen to 'Sea Of Noise' would indicate the truth of Janeway's words. Certainly, there's enough of a faux vintage soulfulness in it to satisfy their existing followers but they are developing their sound with funk, country, folk and gospel elements and the presence of orchestral strings on some tracks takes their music to another dimension. And then there are Janeway's lyrics and his song's themes. The music might sound retro-steeped but the super-talented, gospel-reared Janeway brings a 21st century sensibility to bear on his material, proving that the band live in the present day rather than the past. One song in particular, the striking 'I'll Be Your Woman,' is a gender-reversal soul ballad that singers like Otis and Wilson Pickett would have probably objected to performing because it goes against the macho stereotype that they and others like them projected.
"It's just challenging the standard gender role thing, the 'I'm your man' and 'you're my man' kind of thing," says Janeway explaining the thinking behind 'I'm You Woman.' "In my experience, the woman's always been the strong person and is always the one who is the foundation. So it's a love song twisting it on its head and trying to challenge that a little bit."
The band, who've opened for the Rolling Stones in the States, were recently in the UK on tour and when SJF's Charles Waring spoke to Paul Janeway, they were preparing to get their wellies on and brave the mud of the legendary Glastonbury festival...
Last Updated on Friday, 15 July 2016 07:09