Mention the name Lazy Habits and a wealth of words comes to mind. Not only have they made the rounds to every festival going, they have also graced the same stage as the legendary Mos Def himself. Citing influences from Roots Manuva, to Nina Simone and even Prince this eight strong band definitely knows how to shake up the boundaries of hip-hop. It was pleasure to have a chinwag with James (the front man) to find out what these crazy kids are all about.
Janine: Your latest song is called, ‘Starting Fires’ are you guys self confessed pyromaniacs? If not, where did you get the inspiration from?
James: The song is about best laid plans; it’s a reflection of the high street on a Friday night. Everyone has best intentions and everyone wants to be the best that they can, but sometimes those plans fall short.
Janine: So in your life, what plans has not quite worked out?
James: The track came out a week before the riots and we did a few phones in about it, but the song was not even about the riots. It does encompass that feeing, there should be more out there for people and trying to understand why people respond in that way.
Janine: Im starting to think you guys are a part of some secret government agenda, you release this song and weeks later the London riots, looks fishy too me James.
James: [laughs] Seriously, it had nothing to do with the riots. There are a million reasons why stuff like that happen and I don’t think no one could have predicted how people would have reacted. The stuff we write is really personal and we live in and around Hackney, there are less things for people to do and there no release for them.
Janine: Politics aside, your sound is pretty eclectic, so what was the first record you remember buying?
James: Oh wow. I think the first CD may have been Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ that may be the first album I had. Although the first CD I went out bought may have been ‘Diamonds and Pearls’.
Janine: I didnt have you down as a Prince kind of guy.
James: It’s a not bad first album. But when I hear it, I think some of it has aged really well. But I can definitely see how it set the journey to the hip-hop stuff that we do. I have always liked hip-hop, but as a kid I did not know of any British emcees and could not identify with it. It was not until I moved back to London and heard British emcees talking about beans on toast and the real stuff you can relate too.
Janine: So who were the British emcees you were listening too?
James: Roots Manuva, The London Posse, Rodney P and those guys.
Janine: So where does this place Lazy Habits from those pioneers to what we currently have now in the UK scene?
James: The classic stuff represented too me, lyrically where I wanted to be. Musically, we never really fitted into that scene but I wanted to get my stripes and play at the right places and get the right people to hear us. We have always done our own thing and came from the music side than hip-hop side to begin with. We do what the old hip-hop guys do, which is go back and take samples but we make our own breaks. If you were to try and compare it to someone it would be De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest but with a UK identity.
Janine: You guys came to my attention last year at a Mos Def gig, I was like whom are these crazy kids? So how do you all rehearse and create music?
James: In terms of the arrangements it is mainly done by me, but how we sound like a band it is very eclectic and we try to come from different angles. Everything from our stage show, to the way we perform songs, is different to the way they are recorded and we work really hard on that. Especially when you are supporting people like Mos Def, no one in that crowd would have heard of us. So we work hard on our performance and try to make it as immediate to people so they can get what we do in the 25 minutes that we have.
Janine: How important was that opportunity to you and did you get to me Mr Def himself?
James: For us to play at Sheppard’s Bush Empire was amazing. I’ve seen so many legends on that stage; I even went to see Mos Def there 10 years ago. People really stood up and took notice of us as a band. The response we have got from festivals and promoters have been fantastic, now our phone rings we dont have to chase anything. On the back of that, we have landed a management deal with the people who are associated with Mos Def and consequently got to meet him.
Janine: Thats amazing, so can I dig into the archives of Lazy Habits and ask how did you come out with that name?
James: I used to be in other bands and there was this constant procrastination making sure that everyone got their input regardless whether the song needed it or not. I ended up getting ink on my arm so every time I looked down, Im reminding myself to stop being lazy get up and do your thing.
Janine: Do you have any lazy habits that you just cant shake off?
James: A couple, but what yours?
Janine: Im not finger pointing! But I cant wake up past 9am, its a struggle.
James: Early mornings are hard ones. I do have some, but my mum might read this.
Janine: Oh she knows, they always know. But on Friday (21st October) you sold out the Jazz Café which is pretty phenomenal, so what was that like?
James: That was crazy. We did not know until we were on stage and someone whispered in my ear that we had sold out the Jazz Café. I must admit, it was a poignant moment and was so touching to see we had so much support and I can’t thank people enough.
Janine: Do you remember your first ever gig?
James: It was at The Bedford in Balham and we were supporting an artist called John Adeleye, its a really special place as this was our first ever show. It was the kind of audience that was quite and were not allowed to talk during the gig and were there to listen to good music.
Janine: If I said here is a time machine, rewind the clock six years and give your younger selves some advice what would it be?
James: It’s funny that you mention that, we have been mentoring a band called Mammoth Sound for the past four years, since they were like 14 or 15. I realised how far they have come since we have been working with them, they even support us at the Jazz Café. To be able to give young people that kind of opportunity at that age I would have loved that when I was that young. Although we give them advice, it is important for them to find out things for themselves to let them progress and grow.
Janine: Apart from being artists you also manage yourselves. So how do you strike the balance between being creative and business?
James: Its hard, like most people we started out doing stuff for ourselves and musicians are creative people and ideally we should just be concentrating on that. I never came into the game wanting to be a manager or an agent but at the same time I was not go to allow any to do it. We ended up pushing what we do ourselves. For us we wanted to be the complete package and show we can gig, tour, release records, make our websites, make videos all by ourselves.
Janine: There are currently eight members in Lazy Habits, so if you could create a super group with artists famous or not, alive or dead who would you add to your current line up? Just to throw it out there Im pretty dope on the old triangle!
James: I would have Minnie Riperton and Nina Simone as backing singers, although that sounds degrading as I consider them to be goddesses. My grandfather plays trombone so I would have him and my dad plays trumpet and he is an amazing jazz musician. Im a big fan of Tom Wayne he is a strange character and very theatrical. You on the triangle, The Heritage Orchestra, Questlove on drums and Mos Def thrown in there. People always ask me who would I like to work with and for me it is always about the richness of the sound.
Janine: I think with that line up you would need a small country to accommodate a gig. Lastly, how does Lazy Habit plan to run the world?
James: [Laughs] We are just sorting out our album and getting it ready to be released early next year. We also plan to do a lot of European Festivals as we did loads in England and start recording our next album.
By: Janine Francois