Although these days jazz fusion band Bassment Syndicate is known as a quartet, the band actually began its conception as a smattering of musicians where the ensemble regularly changed as bassist Fook — the constant of the band — kept receiving offers to play gigs. Despite the loose formation, the core of Bassment Syndicate consisted of himself, Omar (drums), Hiran (keyboards), and former member Yehuda (guitarist), and after trombonist and vocalist Marques saw them play at Laundry—he wanted a piece of the action too.
“That’s how the name came about; each gig would be a different bunch of people, Bassment Syndicate was a way to address that group of musicians,” revealed Omar. When Marques completed the quintet, there was a synergy that burgeoned among the men; therefore they decided to expand on it. “It was an organic process, we were playing for a while, and original ideas were being thrown around,” said Hiran. They continued to play shows around town, not rushing to release singles, but the band had always maintained an objective to release an album.
Those ideas eventually came to form their solid debut album Morning where it showcased their skills at fusing r’n’b, soul, hip hop, and jazz into a cohesive record that they are still proud of today. However, before the album was finished, Yehuda left the group, causing a seven-month breakdown in the band as they likened Yehuda and his capabilities as a guitarist to be an essential binding force for the band. Each member became preoccupied with their own projects too, but eventually they forged ahead — now as the quartet fans have come to know — to continue performing at shows and finishing off the album that came to be known as Morning.
As it turns out, the diversity of their sound has proved to be tremendously beneficial for the booking of shows. For instance, while Bassment Syndicate can cater to an older crowd playing at jazz festivals and cafes, they can also easily fit into a young hip hop audience. When drawing from multiple influences and styles, coherence in sound is something that the band views as a welcoming challenge, as Hiran elaborated, “I think it comes with the territory. It’s a challenge, and what determines the success of an album is how the challenge is overcome — I think it’s part and parcel of producing the art.”
In addition to that, one of the major changes that the quartet has undergone is that they’ve transitioned from being an instrumental band to a vocal band, where songs such as ‘Confusion’ — which features soul singer Najwa Mahiaddin — represented “the cusp of [that] transition.” Though their bandmates would say Marques has become more comfortable on the mic, he would laugh at the thought of it, appearing very much uneasy despite his deft skill at both singing and rapping. Marques further added on the band’s evolution, “There just came a point where we wanted to expand. When Yehuda left, [his leaving] completely opened a sound space for us; we wanted to accommodate that sound and space.”
We will soon hear a follow-up to Morning in their forthcoming sophomore effort entitled 25 Hours, which will signal a darker and more ambient approach for the band. The album is a journey into the psyche of a car crash victim as he experiences the final hours of his life floating into limbo. The story is one that is told in reverse — from dark to light — and each song tries to capture his varying moods. First single ‘Where Did You Go’ has provided that downbeat context with ephemeral vocals on a cosmic soundscape. The music video — envisioned by Fook — demonstrates the goings-on in the mind of a broken-hearted man who’s in search of an escape from his misery, yet finds comfort in wallowing. The protagonist in the video, however, is not the same subject of the concept album. The band members further explained that each video will be a standalone project from one another, and has no relation with the album concept.
Beyond just venturing into the idea of a concept album, Bassment Syndicate informed us that their new album is also a musical progression from Morning — after all, they’ve expanded their skills and experimented with different techniques — and we for one are excited for their continuing evolution.
Bassment Syndicate is slated to perform at Raising The Bar Festival ’16 on Saturday 9 January ’16.
Find out what’s overrated and underrated according to the band here.