neon gru: a six-piece gem

Neon Gru are an emerging six-piece band with a diverse array of influences and experience. From jazz and afrobeat to latin fusion and indie-pop – they fuse eclectic offbeat rhythms with smooth melodies and rich, progressive electronic productions – resulting in a sound that defies genre boundaries.

Let's start with who you are and how you came about. There are 6 members in the band: Ny Oh (vocals), Leon Itzler (bass), George Risk (guitar), Ru Lemer (keyboards/production), Nuno Brito (drums/percussion), and David Dyson (drums/percussion). How did you all come together to create Neon Gru?

We came together in festival Jam tents. It'd be the same faces at each festival, and you'd always gravitate towards each other, so it felt very right to take it into the studio. Nuno and Dyson came after we toyed with the idea of having rotating drummers as we went along. But the way they each took the same song and played to it was perfect together. We are all pretty busy working producers, engineers and session musicians, forming Neon Gru has been a process in really committing to experimenting and allowing the spectrum of our individual creativities to be seen.

Your music doesn't have a particularly obvious genre. There's a large mix and even sometimes what feels like a juxtaposition in the most perfect and harmonious manner. What influences your sound and which approach you want to take for a track?

We're all pretty jazzy folk, but within that genre, our tastes are vast. Our influences for the tracks quite often begin as brain tests, ie "Ok, let's jam about broccoli" and roll on from there (not that we've explicitly done that yet). People interpret the same thing so differently, and we really rely on that in our writing sessions. Everyone's got different musical backgrounds as well – from afro/latin fusion to flamenco and folk, back through indie-pop and reggae; it's really quite a melting pot. But we don't think by genre – if a groove is working and we like it then the only real option is to make is as beautiful, real and moving as we can – discussions about definitions don't really come into it. We've actually really struggled describing our sound, we started with alt-prog soul and now we've moved to jazz-infused alt-pop... If you have any ideas, let us know!

You have a new track, 'Hot Wine' coming out on the 18th of this month. Anything you want to tease us with before then?

We do indeed! We're so excited about it. We've also recorded a 'lockdown session' version of the song from our homes, and have a beautiful lyric video made with acrylic ink pours at the Arthouse Oasis.

Ny, we first discovered you as a backup vocalist during Harry Styles Tiny Desk Concert - caught our attention the second you started singing (and the attention of many others as per the top YouTube comments). What has that experience been like? Is there anything you've learned from working with his band that you would like to take on to Neon Gru? 

Well, it's an incredible experience to witness the power of music on a level like that. The guys and I have been working on this project for a few years now and they've seen me go through some big personal changes. They always make sure I've got the environment I need to fully express and create and I truly appreciate them for that. I can definitely say that playing that much really helps!!

Ru, there are 5 members in the band and we can imagine everyone has different opinions, tastes, and inspirations when it comes to music. As the producer, how do you go about the approach you want to take and not feel like you're letting any member down?

Most of our tracks were written as a group on the fly, while we're jamming. We always record our jams – me, Leon and George all have home studios so it works out quite nicely. A lot of my role is in organising all the ideas. Everyone improvises and tunes in to a vibe, then we assemble the track if we like it. I then fuck around with it for ages, and take directions and ideas from everyone as it develops over time, until it grows into something we're all happy with. It's a democratic approach, because we all have somewhat similar ideas of what good music sounds like to us, so it's easy to agree if something's cool and we can move on. There are plenty of debates though, and I think that's important to getting results. When you try and justify a musical decision, conversations can get pretty abstract and meaningless.. But at the end of the day the sounds speak for themselves, and if they're good, then everyone in the band is happy, even if it's not what someone initially wanted.

With the time quarantine has given everyone, should we be expecting an EP/album anytime soon? 

Oh yes, very soon. We can't wait to share this music with you.. it's WEIRD

Finally, what are your favourite cakes?!

Rice cakes...NO!.. lentil cakes

keep an ear out for Neon Gru's new track 'Hot Wine' coming on 18.09.2020 - you can pre-save the single here

also, stay up-to-date with band on @neongru