Today we have a very special Spotlight – AKEEL. This amazing group of musicians thought it would be great to chat with us about their music and the newest release I’m Solid. Check out the conversation we had right now!
What got you started in music? you have all been performing and part of the scene for some time now
- Jacob came from a very musically gifted family and started lessons as a child. He continued his musical journey through high school and in University, gained his associates degree in Classical music performance as well as a certificate in conducting.
- Nikko began his musical journey when he was 10 but it became more serious for him when he started playing in a band in grade 9.
- V!CE grew up listening to anything she could get her hands on and has been singing since she was a little girl. Her dad started her music obsession. He had music on 24/7 while she was growing up and he used to tell her that was the only thing that would calm her down and make her happy.
- Tom’s musical journey began at home. There was a piano in the house, and he started getting lessons at 6. Then in high school started gigging, which he has been doing off and on since then.
- Ryan started playing guitar from an early age in Halifax after being exposed to multiple different genres by his dad growing up. It was a natural progression in his love and pursuit of the art. He is quite new to the scene as unsuccessful attempts to form a project in Halifax led him here with the hope of finding something more.
You all come from such different backgrounds, I’m curious who some of the main influences that you all draw on, and who are some contemporary artists that you vibe with currently?
- V!CE’s influences: Gwen Stefani, P!NK, Madonna, Fleetwood Mac, Andra Day, Jessie J, H.E.R, Sevdailza, Jessie Rayes, Tiwa Savage, Teyana Taylor, The Pretty Reckless and beyond!
- Jacob’s influences: Stevie wonder, PJ Morton, Run The Jewels & Jojo
- Nikko’s influences: Raveena, 80s ballads, nu-disco and funk. I still listen to prog because it has a mathematical take on music and rhythm that deviates from the ordinary.
- Tom’s influences: Alien Ant Farm, The Beatles, Jim Hendrix, H.E.R., SZA, and Genesis Owusu
I know that Nikko/Tom/Jacob have been playing together for over a decade, but how did you all get together? What is your origin story?
AKEEL was formed in 2019 when Nikko, Tom & Jacob decided it was time to get a performance project together. Nikko & Tom went to high school together and have been collaborating on different musical endeavours since then. Jake and Tom met from a previous musical collaboration. Nikko’s old band opened for V!CE and when her band broke up, Nikko asked her to join him working with Jake and Tom. Ryan was brought on after our last bassist left and was vetted by V!CE.
Speaking of your origin, what does AKEEL mean? How was it selected as your communal name?
We all made suggestions for band names and we went with V!CE’s suggestion, AKEEL. AKEEL derives from the Arabic word “Aqil”, meaning wise, knowledgeable, intelligent, educated, and intellectual, quiet, well-trained, wisdom and decisiveness. It was selected as our communal name as we each bring something to the group that covers a piece of that definition. Everything has a meaning and AKEEL fit the group.
You are based out of Vancouver, are you all from there? What is it about the city that just adds that extra icing to the cake that other cities do not have?
We are based in Vancouver but have come from different cities. V!CE is from a little town on the island just outside of Parksville, Jacob is from North Vancouver, Tom is from Burnaby, Nikko was born in England and moved to Canada when he was a kid and Ryan is from Halifax. Vancouver is one of the most beautiful places on earth with a tight community and we are so thankful that this place has brought us together.
For those unfamiliar with your sound, I have been describing it to my friends as The Souljazz Orchestra meets Tank and the Bangas. How do you describe what you do?
That is a great description! Our music is based around pop structured songs with dense colourful harmonies and that take up a lot of space.
I’ve heard a few of your releases, I have really been vibing with “Key” and “Greed”, tell us a bit about them both conceptually and what it was like writing and composing them?
“Key” was the first song we wrote together in the same room from scratch. With each of us layering parts on as we went. For “Greed” Jacob wrote the progressions a while ago and put them together and Nikko wrote the lyrics to tie them together and put the song in motion.
Your new album comes out very soon, what was it like recording it during the pandemic?
We are in the process of releasing our debut single. We are hoping to release an album but it likely will not be until next year. Recording during the pandemic has been difficult as we have had to record either remotely or in shifts at our home studio. Scheduling has been complicated but we have been making it work and are excited to keep up this momentum for the next singles!
Is it difficult to make sure you stay true to not only your own artistic integrity, but also being able to draw in new listeners?
The musical climate right now is very digital based, which has been a bit of a change for a group like ours that thrives with live performance. But, we have fun and write what we want. If we didn’t we wouldn’t be getting the listeners we want anyways.
Speaking of artistic vision, can we expect any music videos soon? You’ve done a lyric video which is amazing, but will you go fully fledged into that creative space? What are some ideas on the short list?
Thank you! We are in fact working on a music video for this year. Hopefully releasing this summer. It will be released on our YouTube channel, so make sure to subscribe to that to keep up with us!
Jazz/soul/funk is having a moment and resurgence through artists like Serafin Lariviere, Parov Stellar, even Mark Ronson. What is it about the genre that endures in its truest form as opposed to country or pop that’s constantly in flux?
Great harmony and great structure. Tonality has been defined since Beethoven and liturgical music has been a large part of that definition for humanity. Gospel and jazz are extensions and furthering a liturgical and art music which is so set in its definition of how to create colour and emotion that these genres have the foundation to be unwavering even during such a capitalistic time for the art form.
Usually at Hidden Beats we get in touch with artists via their PR team, however you reached out to us! As artists you constantly put yourself out there, what keeps the drive going? How do you deal with rejections?
Dealing with rejection is never fun, but it is apart of this business. You can always learn from rejection and criticism is important for improvement. Thankfully, we have a great support team in the five of us and our manager really keeps us focused and on track to seeing the bigger picture.
What advice would you give to folks who struggle with putting themselves out there?
“They who deliberates fully before taking a step will spend, their entire life on one leg.” Embrace the vulnerability. When you are feeling vulnerable or fearful, it means you care. Success breeds success, it is a snowball effect. Once you allow yourself to push past your vulnerability and fear, it will be that much easier with your next challenge.
Live shows were DOA in 2020. What was your experience with live shows? I know you spent most of your time on the album. With it being such a new experience I am curious your opinions on it?
We had just got the ball rolling on our live performance career as a group when the Covid lockdowns hit. We were able to play our last show right before the first lockdown and have been looking for live stream performance opportunities since. With live shows not being a possibility, it gave us the push that we needed to get going on releasing music available to stream. Our debut single “I’m Solid” will be out April 23rd and we are already working on our next one.
With 2021 still in uncertainty, what are some small goals, and big goals for the year?
Consistently releasing content and music is our overall goal for this year, small goals would be getting through this first release and not losing momentum or letting the fatigue of this pandemic get the best of us. We are doing all we can to practice and produce while still maintaining our bubble and keeping each other safe. Larger goals include growing our social media platforms and working on the release of our music video!
We covered the past the present and the future. What is one thing you wish that people knew about you that did not come up?
What we love about music! Music’s ability to convey emotion and culture simultaneously. How connection is our purpose here and music allows us to do that.
Lastly many independent/smaller businesses are hit hard from Covid. What are some of your favorite local places to hype up and give a shout out to? Can be restaurants, stores, bars, etc.
These places are all incredible and should be visited!!!
- Storm Brewing
- The Ramen Butcher
- Pepino’s Spaghetti House
- Down Low Chicken
- Treasure Green Tea Company
Spotlight – AKEEL is a wrap. We loved getting to know this group of great musicians
Check out I’M SOLD out now!
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