The latest EP release from Rich Atkinson and The New Billionaires gives off a genuine and somewhat gritty jazz tonality that incorporates very honest lyrics and a hint of classic rock that peeks through but what really grabs at you is the absolutely addictive character that the record actually gives off.
The self-titled EP is packed to the brim with outstanding instrumentation from pianos guitar, guitars, saxophones, and bass lines that flow like water through the course of the record.
Within the first few minutes of the very first song, you get a real feel for the persona of how the record will play out and it has a wonderful way of wrapping itself around you and keeping you right where it wants to.
You get ballads and up-swing jazz bangers that all give their own story and energy which all becomes an atmosphere and a stable feel for how everything plays out.
Some of these tracks come out theatrical or cinematic and they all have this great roots undertone that keeps things almost rustic in a way and borders on genres like Americana at times.
Do you really can't help but pay full attention to every word on this release, and some of the songs feel almost nostalgic in a strange way like they were meant just for you, and this is because of how relatable the songs are and how Rich is able to articulate his inner thoughts out loud.
You definitely get the feeling that everything came from something real like a life experience or that emotional drive that began the project in the first place but all in all, you never lose that soul or that heart that exists within every one of these tracks.
You can certainly hear that Tom Waits influence in the vocals and even in the music, but this has its own spin and its own feel along with its own personality and vibrancy that actually captures such a wondrous atmosphere that you don't want to leave once you step into it.
I absolutely love the flow of this record and how the songs complement each other in a unique style.
With the release of such a wonderfully woven EP, we wanted to have a sit-down with Rich Atkinson to find out where this all came from and what might be coming up next.
Here's what happened.
Buzz Slayers: Okay, let's start with the self-titled Rich Atkinson & The New Billionaires EP! This record such a classic vibe to it and a live performance feel behind the whole thing! How did this release come about?
Rick Harlow (Sax) and I had been playing together for about 5 years and we'd been working as a duo in that time and had been asked on numerous occasions whether we had any CD's. It's great when your fans push the demand for your music.
For both sessions I spent pre-production time with Matt Ingram who oversaw both sessions. Matt and I had played together in bands in the mid '90's and he has since gone on to play with and produce people like Laura Marling, Jake Bugg and Florence and The Machine etc.
The 2 recording sessions were interrupted by covid, the first was in 2019 the second in 2022 and both were recorded at Urchin Studios in London under Matt's watchful guide, Matt also played drums on all the tracks. The tracks were all recorded live with guitar, vocals, bass and keys going in one go and the drums being added later in the sessions. There were a few other overdubs added later such as backing vocals, hand claps etc. We did a number of takes on each track and selected the best. Buzz Slayers: How did this all start for you as a band? And yourself as a songwriter? For most of my musical career I was really just a guitar player, though I always wrote songs for the projects that I was involved with. In 2010 I did a Masters in Songwriting at Bath Spa University in the southwest of England and I would say there was a noticeable improvement in the quality of my songs. You couldn't get away with anything that is substandard, it was a really good discipline. As a band we started off as a duo, guitar, vocals and bass. Eventually I found my Tenor Sax player Rick Harland and that really cemented the foundations of the sound. For the studio work we pulled in other musicians to help us, good players but also friends as well. For the last five years Rick and I have been playing live as a duo but feel it's time to step it up to a full band lineup. Buzz Slayers: What kind of things really inspire songs for you? Great stories! I kind of see myself as a narrator. I know when I've done my job when the audience laughs at a gag in the lyrics or wants to talk to me about a character or a line in a song. I generally work from titles, so I'm always on the lookout and listening for really interesting phrases. "Love is A Beautiful & Terrible Thing" is a perfect example of this. Buzz Slayers: This EP has some interesting approaches to it! Can you give us some of your biggest influences musically? I have a lot of musical history, having played everything from New Wave to Disco and in original and covers bands, it lays a great foundation of experience when you start to find your voice. Tom Waits has been a huge influence on me, not just vocally but also in his storytelling ability, Randy Newman also. But then I love writers like Sting, Ray Davies. Also songs that have been sung by great vocalists such as Sinatra and I love Julie London as a vocalist! I also love Jazz and the harmonic possibilities that it opens up. I love a great jazz groove, Miles Davis is a particular favourite. Buzz Slayers: What are you doing when you're NOT working on music? I'm a committed Christian so the spiritual side of life is really important to me. I also play cricket at the weekends throughout the summer when I'm not playing live. Buzz Slayers: Who's in your headphones right now? Scrapomatic at the moment! I've only just discovered them; a friend was playing them. I think they're great! I love their song arrangements and Mike Mattison's vocals are a treat. Also The Pretenders, I saw them recently in a small club near me and Chrissie Hynde's vocals sounded just as good as 40 years ago and the band were terrific too. Their first two albums are two of my absolute favs. Buzz Slayers: Are you guys doing any live performances right now? We have been gigging lately, we recently played The Wimborne Folk Festival and were playing in Scotland last week. That's a lot of travel right there for us. Buzz Slayers: Do you record these at a big studio, or do you have a home studio set-up? I have done quite a bit of home recording in the past but am much more interested in the songwriting process. These days I find it much easier to let someone else 'fly the desk' and sort mic placement etc. I have friends who are much better at all that stuff and I'm grateful that they are. Both sessions that make up this EP were recorded at Urchin Studios in London. Buzz Slayers: What can your fans expect from you in the near future? Well, we're looking to expand from a duo into a full lineup with keys, bass and drums. So, it's exciting and it opens up a wider musical palette, which I'm sure our fans will love. I know I'm looking forward to it. Buzz Slayers: Before we go, what would you like to say to fans of the music? Just a big thank you really and thanks for all the kind messages you send us after gigs or when you hear us for the first time etc. It really means a lot.