From the tiny garage crowded with battered musical equipment to the stage at McBride’s crowded with sheer presence, sexy magnetism and musical brilliance. Get into it, feel it, revel in it. It’s the pull of Le Groove.
Le Groove is an excellent and little-known band right in our midst here in Barbados. The lead singer/guitarist is divinely gorgeous Philip Scantlebury (known as Stephen) who is possessed of an incredible voice. The band has an emphasis on “music with heavy guitars, distorted guitars” and there are two other guitarists, the adorable Baron and the baby-faced Rian (Ssab), who also provide back-up vocals. The man behind the beats is sexy drummer Hanz who plays the drums like house afire. In fact the band on the whole keeps the place lit and Barbados is only now beginning to feel the passion of Le Groove. Their first single “Without You” was dropped recently, part of a soon to be released EP. The song, with its soaring vocals and heady rhythm has been receiving quite a bit of airplay, on Love 104.1 FM.
The group has been together since November 1999. Philip and Baron used to play in a hotel band together. Then, according to Baron who seemed to be the band ‘spokesman’ : “Rian came on board next and then Hanz.” Hanz and Baron have been friends from young however. Speaking of young… how old are the members of Le Groove? Your guess is as good as mine. All they would tell me teasingly is that “We’re between twenty and thirty.” How close to twenty and how close to thirty? “Well… early twenties”. The eternally strange Hanz, however claimed poker-faced, to be fifty.
Moving on to safer subjects, like the difficulty of maintaining a music career in Barbados. The aforementioned ‘tiny garage’ is their musical base, where they practise. When the overcast skies finally broke that day and the rain came pelting down, they sprinted, cussing, to tie a nearby tarpaulin over the garage’s gates to protect their precious equipment.
“You can write about this- the struggling band” someone commented wryly.
Their music is the main focus of the gentlemen of Le Groove- no day jobs. Music is their job. Fortunately, it’s also their love, so they have kept at it, noting that their aim isn’t to make a living in Barbados per se, but to take their alternative/pop/rock musical stylings to the world. However, a musical career, like charity, usually begins at home, and it is often an uphill task. They said it is not so much that the public wasn’t accepting of their music, but that the media wasn’t.
They observed that the format of most radio stations was not as friendly to local music as to foreign imports. Even the popular calypso has its season (Cropover and Congaline) in the sun of heavy radio play, the guys pointed out. So, would it have been easier and do they wish they lived elsewhere? No, they don’t wish it. All of them were agreed that it would have been easier access in another, more music-friendly clime, but that there would also be more competition. The local music industry still has a ways to go in their view though. They opined that because of Barbados’ size, it can be somewhat restrictive on an artiste, who might hesitate to innovate and do something out of the ordinary in their performances out of self consciousness.
Right now, the guys’ sights are set on their EP which is set to be released in June. They are hoping for a good response to it here at home, knowing that Bajans are very hard to please and impress. The mini-album of six tracks was done with reputable American producer Brad Baerwold at Holder’s Studios, hence the quality of the CD is of “international standard”, the guys informed me enthusiastically.
“We were very lucky to get that break,” Baron noted. The CD, which has all original songs, has an “ethnic touch”, with global influences evident in the tracks. The launch party is set to be held on June 28that McBride’s. They plan to market it regionally and internationally. They also plan to go to the States later on this year to do a full LP.
The band members have different musical backgrounds, but in their case, difference makes for harmony.
“We are all from a different musical background. So when we meld together, it brings out something a little… unique. You might have a hard-rock song with an R&B style vocal on top of it. That’s what we do. That’s what music right now in the world is actually doing…” Baron explained.
This diversity extends to their musical choices, which reflect their musical specialty. Philip’s musical icons are singers- Brian McKnight, Eric Benet, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Al Green. Rian favours the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Bryan Adams, while Baron frankly admitted he likes “anything with guitars”, naming Guns ‘n’ Roses as one band he particularly admires. Hanz said expansively that he likes “all music”. While practicing, they were carrying on a friendly disagreement over the song they were playing, Lenny Kravitz’s “Ever See You Again”, which Baron said was “musically incorrect”, but noted that “the crowds like it.” Rian agreed with his point of view, but Hanz defended the song, which has a heavy and unusual drum element in it, which pleased his drummer’s heart. It also pleases his drummer’s heart that the drum riff in the song is easy to play, he pointed out wryly.
Back to the topic of diversity, one of the first things one would notice about the band is their racial diversity. Rian and Philip are black, while Hanz and Baron are “… different?”, Baron said as he and Hanz laughed. It’s not something that they even think about, since they’ve known each other for years. Racial diversity and unity is the way the world is going… or should, they said.
“Generally speaking, that’s what it’s about…” Baron remarked.
Le Groove is hoping to go “to the top, the moon, think of the stars you know, … you have to,” said Philip earnestly.
The others shared his sentiments: Baron chipped in that he wanted to the group to reach “as far as it could go… think of the epitome, like…”
“…playing at Madison Square Garden… that’s a goal you know?” Rian filled in hopefully.
If anyone deserves to achieve their dreams, it’s this phenomenally talented foursome. Baron noted that it “took a few years to find thiscombination.” The combination known as Le Groove could just be the right one for stardom. Here’s definitely hoping, because music like this deserves to be seen and heard, and most of all felt by everyone.
Le Groove plays Thursdays at McBride’s and Tuesdays at the Ship Inn, St. Lawrence Gap.