Turn off your mind, relax and float down to 24 Kitchen Street. Submotion Orchestra are in town next week – the ‘project’ that has grown from a jam night or three in Leeds, to a group whose fourth album has drawn comparisons with Jamie xx and London Grammar. Intrigued? You should be… they sound nothing like either. By Alan O’Hare.

Playing predominately electronic music live can be a tricky proposition. Will  the audience behave like they’re at a gig? Will they dance like they would in a club when the bass drops? Or will the room be full of bedroom producers nodding their heads like geeks with headphones in an Apple shop?

The fourteen-legged groove machine that is Submotion Orchestra has no such worries. Fourth album ‘Colour Theory’ arrived this February and comparisons with Jamie xx and London Grammar were bandied around like bad smells at a record fair. The Leeds group are in town next week, to play live at 24 Kitchen Street, and it is a gig that comes recommended. Submotion Orchestra plays the sounds of right now: breakbeat percussion, acid jazz nods and synths that swoop like a seagull spotting an unattended ice cream down at the Pier Head. In short, it’s alive and full of atmospheric melancholia. There’s a left turn or two, too. And there are some slick r&B production choices that are new to the party.

What will it sound like in the Baltic Triangle, though? We asked them what the word was and drummer Tommy Evans was first to open messenger…

What can we expect live in Liverpool?
The live show is intense and has more balls than the records. It’s also bass heavy, that often surprises people, but it’s just a reminder of our dub beginnings.

The way we like it! The band are flying right now – all those London Grammar and Jamie xx comparisons…
If people like want to compare us to other acts, then that’s great… and if people hate it and want to write about it, then that’s cool, too! We’re just happy to make music that we enjoy writing, recording and most importantly playing live.

Playing live is vital for you guys isn’t it?
We started out jamming at a bar in Leeds, which was a crucial process in getting the sound of the band together into a cohesive thing with direction and focus.

Yet the new record sounds very, erm, orchestrated. An organic progression?
We did approach the writing in a completely different way this time and decided we wanted a more ‘produced’ album, so much of the writing took place remotely in our own home studios. We also decided to give our producer (and live engineer) Dom Howard more of the creative control with the album – he acted as the creative filter that all the ideas went through and that’s given the album a really clear direction.

You can hear it in the more melancholic cuts… they surprised us.
We all felt that the last album, ‘Alium’, may have been too diverse – so we wanted to make a record with much tighter stylistic parameters this time. I’m not sure we wanted to focus on the melancholic side, necessarily, but I think that probably plays to our strengths best.

Reactions and reviews seem to agree.
We were really surprised by how positive people were, four albums in. They still seem to like the sound and we are very grateful – when the band started we called it a project because it really did have an experimental ‘project’ feel to it.

And now here we are… back in Liverpool next week.
We still try to keep things fresh with a lot of improvisation – so the gig will be full of surprises!

Submotion Orchestra
Friday 29th April 2016, 24 Kitchen Street, Liverpool
Get Tickets

Pic courtesy Ceremony Concerts