We recently watched Josephine and the Artizans blow the roof off the Marquee tent at Chagstock Festival in Chagstock, Devon. We were so impressed, we just had to catch up with them and find out a little more about what makes them what they are. We caught up with Josephine and had a good chat about how she formed the band, influences and what they all play when on long road trips, read on to find out more....
Hi Josephine, please would you take a few moments to tell us about yourself and more importantly, your music....
Josephine and The Artizans style consists of classical strings, operatic vocals, heavy beats and energetic rap, which we like to call HIP-HOPERA.
Hip Hop/classical music/opera singing, an odd fusion that really works, where did the idea of merging all three come from? How did people react to your sound initially?
I founded the group in order to bring classical music with an interesting twist for young people to enjoy. Interestingly we have found we have brought rap and hip-hop to an older audience too, who were initially only enticed by the classical fusion.
I can imagine the adverts that you put out initially to form a band, do you remember what it said and did you receive many people wanting to know more?
I would say the advert for my string players had the most detailed list of requirements out of all the roles in the band. As the band fuse classical music & hip-hop, we sample and adapt classical works, therefore they needed to be classically trained however they also need the stage presence of a contemporary artist. Our string section is incredibly vital to our music and it took a while to find the right string players. I am ever so lucky to work with them now as they need to thrive off our style. Finding classically trained violinists and cellists who enjoy hip-hop and cutting up famous classical works without feeling like it’s breaking the rules they’ve been taught are hard to come by! I received a lot of applications for the roles of our rappers in the band, but I can’t imagine sharing the stage with anyone other than Jay and Mike now. They work incredibly well with me and they always listen to my suggestions and lyrical theme choices.
You're classically trained, at what stage did you think that it would be interesting to go 'off piste' and do what you do?
The original idea came to me whilst I was studying at the University of Westminster. I have been classically trained in voice since I was 11 years old but I decided to study a commercial/contemporary music course so I could learn how to compose and become a more versatile vocalist. However, whilst I was there I found I didn't ﬁt into any particular pop genre. So, that's when I realised, I could use my classical training and collaborate with the pop/contemporary musicians I was currently studying with. The concept only grew stronger in my mind as I noticed how DJ's and Hip-hop artists were using famous classical works as samples or synth strings in their tracks, but never the classical voice!
You've supported some heavyweights in the entertainment business such as The Fratellis, Paloma Faith and the Happy Mondays, what would you say you learned from sharing the stage with them?
I am constantly learning from their stage presence and how they interact with the crowd. It is so important that the artist thanks the audience for their applause because even though we are a service of entertainment they have come to see you and without a loyal following we wouldn’t be able to do what we love doing.
Looking back, which singers/bands/artists would you say made you want to become a singer in the first place?
This is a tough one because I would say I am inspired by a variation of artists. Beyonce for her sheer stage presence and stamina, Sumi Jo, she’s my ultimate favourite Soprano, Adele for her loveable British charisma and Imogen Heap for her innovative business head and the fact she is a classical trained pianist too.
Do you all share a similar taste in music or do you all bring something different to the table? Does this make life easier or harder for the band?
Each member of the band comes from a very different musical background in regards to their training or what age they started playing and even what influences them as musicians with the music we listen to. We constantly adapt and learn from one another too, each by merging our skills. We are probably more systematic when it comes to our writing process but that works for us and is less chaotic. As the band leader I try to allow space for each instrument to have their sound heard in every track and for every string heavy piece we try and allow Thom, our pianist to have a voice more in others.
If Michael Eavis called you asking for 3 acts to act as headliners for next years Glasto Fest, who would you choose and why?
I can’t answer this one solely, so I have asked a couple of the Artizans and here are our choices:
Josephine - Muse (even though they headlined this year and have in previous years they are my fav band so will always choose them)
Mike - Slamboree (They’re the ultimate festival band)
Debs - Michael Jackson (if he were alive!)
You're booked for lots of UK festivals this year including Boomtown, Beautiful Days and BBC Carfest, are you looking forward to any particular ones or is each one a thrill in its own right?
Definitely looking forward to every festival, they are all so different. Even though we have performed previously at Boomtown and BBC Carfest, they are just as exciting because there are always new listeners!
Staying with festivals, what are your top three tips to surviving one?
Jay would say wellies and wellie socks as he has had his brand new trainers ruined multiple times due to mud and wrapping bin liners around his feet did not work
A carefree and happy attitude
If you had to nominate just one album/record for the 'Best album Ever' award, which would it be and why?
I’m quite a diverse listener as are my Artizans, but if I had to choose I will stand by my previous answer for Glastonbury headliner, and say Muse with their album ’The Resistance’.
I see that you were recently in the studio recording a video for 'One Night One Life', where did you record it and who did you use to produce it? When is this due for release?
We, JATA do everything ourselves. So Debs, our bassist and Mike, one of our rappers are the producers of the band - they are incredibly patient with me. I’m a bit of a perfectionist to say the least! Our release date for ‘One Night One Life’, which is our featured track on our brand new EP ‘Hip-Hopera/ Act One’ will be released on Wednesday 24th August and available on iTunes, Spotify and Deezer.
Have you ever been a classical singer in your own right (as in, without a band?) If so, how did you find it and which do you prefer?
Yes, before I went to university I only sung classical or theatre repertoire, but I decided I didn’t want to become what would essentially be function band singer in the classical world. I wanted to be creative! I found university incredibly difficult as I was surrounded by vocalists who could improvise and warble all over the place and I was always afraid to let go, break the rules and ignore what I had been trained to do. But over time I relaxed and developed more and more. Still to this day when I write I have to ask the Artizans quite a few times what they think for reassurance. Despite being in a band than a solo Soprano, I am still very strict with what I eat and drink and how I treat my voice like many other classical singers. I can’t imagine not having JATA and yes in the future I may want to also be a classical singer in my own right, but I thrive on what we do way too much. It’s cliché to say but fellow musicians out there would agree, you live and breathe your band.
I saw a recent 'tweet' saying that you're back in the studio, can you tell us what this is for?
We are currently working on our brand new EP ‘Hip-Hopera/ Act One’. We are so excited to release our new material and show fellow Hip-Hopera fans what we have been working so hard on.
You have done sessions before for BBC Introducing, what advice would you offer for any artist or band thinking about uploading their music to them?
BBC Introducing is an incredible platform for unsigned acts especially those who are trying to be innovative with their sound and style. The one piece of advice I could not emphasize more, is to be persistent.
We reached a stage in the interview where we thought we needed to turn up the heat, normally the Quickfire question round is exactly what it says on the tin but in Josephine's case, we had to allow her to bend a few rules, read on and see if you can spot where!
Whiskey or Wine?
Burger or Kebab?
This is quite amusing because we are probably the most difficult band to feed on our rider when we tour. We have three vegetarians, one of which is also gluten free, I’m a pescatarian and the three guys are easy and are all meat eaters. Every year we have a JATA Christmas social and this year we joked to do our own Come Dine with me, however I’m not sure how successful this will be.... Am I allowed to go with a halloumi burger? If not Jay loves his Burger King so will go with Burger!
Opera or Hip Hopera?
Do you need to ask? HIP-HOPERA of course!
Road trip or Boat trip?
Road trip with my Artizans (believe it or not we play a very competitive game of eye spy, and there are only so many things you can see on a motorway for hours at a time)
Summer or Winter?
Summer by far, everyone is so much happier spirited and it’s always our busiest touring season
Ghostbusters with men or women?
Hmm, as we are now a female dominated band, women
Pub or Trendy wine bar?
Trendy wine bar
Roller Blading or Ice Skating?
De Niro or Pacino?
Leave or Remain?
God or Google?
We'd like to thank Josephine for taking the time to sit and answer our relentless questions, we wish her and her Artizans every success in the future and look forward to catching them at a festival later on in the year. If you'd like to keep up to date with their whereabouts and happenings, please check out their social media sites below....
Interview by Steve Muscutt