Interview Adult Jazz: ‘We Just Need To Be A Little More Presentable’

Introducing a Leeds-hailing four-piece who make music so complex they should teach it in schools. In fact, they already do.

Adult Jazz

lead singer Harry Burgess is a primary school teacher, just like his Dad. But it turns out he’s cooler than most. He fronts Leeds’ finest mathematical pop band. They’re so good, in fact, that Burgess Sr. named his son’s single ‘Springful’ the ‘song of the week’ at his little school in Farnham just recently. The video was played in every assembly, and a year four class were asked to analyse it from start to finish. “A great honour”, says Harry. “It’s always fun to see what kids make of stuff like that. They can be really reductive, but also, like, really insightful, and it’s funny to see how they respond to things you’ve overstuffed with concepts.”



Based on an extract from Herman Hesse’s Siddartha, the video depicts a man on a journey. Driven by the hardcore ‘puritanical edge of morality’, confusing this with true virtue, he lives out in the wilderness, not eating and not wearing clothes. Then one day he goes to the city and falls in love. “He gets really bored because it’s really tedious, and no one gets to see him do it,” explains Harry. “And so he decides to go into the town, show everyone he wasn’t doing it, refuse the fruit and give up that wordly thing.” But what about the kids’ interpretations? One was: ‘follow what is right and you’ll get glory in return’. Another: ‘getting good memories from good places’. The best: ‘life, it’s about life’.

Similarly spiritual subject-matter forms the basis for ‘Am Gone’, the other tune on their recent AA-side release. There, the protagonist longingly waits for his dinner “with the proviso that by doing that throughout his whole life, there’ll be some eternal feast in return.” But yet again, restraint is just shorthand for virtue, not virtue itself. Musically complex, the song offers more of the same technical brilliance, crossing offhand jerky Dirty Projectors rhythms with deeply soulful brooding. “All the singers I admire are usually female,” says Harry. Attempting to contort his voice into “those really pleasing bits of female singing”, and inspired by his childhood passion for musicals, the result is a mind-bending strain of art-pop that promises to slot them somewhere alongside Wild Beasts and These New Puritans in terms of fantastically British seriousness. All three bands just so happen to be playing a show together at Brighton’s Great Escape festival next month.



Having lived in Guildford all their lives, the band first came together when Harry went up to study at the University of Leeds with his friend Steven in 2009. Soon joined by their mutual friend Tim, and picking up Tom along the way, Adult Jazz became a prospect proper thanks to this non-coincidental convergence of companions. Such a change in setting was beneficial to their creativity. “It makes such a difference because in Guildford there’s a contemporary music college and stuff, but they all write rubbish music”, the lead singer states emphatically. “Leeds has a lot of venues, which are willing to put on new acts, and people take risks.” For instance, Adult Jazz’s first show was an opening slot for Glasser at the legendary Brudenell Social Club.

Gigging and song-writing for nearly four years now, the Adult Jazz album has been written for approaching two. Currently in mixing, the band are pleased with what’s down, but unsure of how to get it out there. “Nothing is going to change other than frequencies”’ confirms Harry. “We’re going to see if anyone wants to put it out. We’re just going to see what happens to it, I think. Basically, we just need to be a little more presentable now.”

Taken from the April 2014 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.

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