"People couldn't afford to just have 'nice' ideas": Vula Viel continues to break boundaries with transformative jazz fusion born out of Leeds and London

Front woman of jazz group Vula Viel Bex Burch spoke with us ahead of their tour and new release later this month.

Friday, 8th October 2021, 2:52 pm
Updated Friday, 8th October 2021, 2:54 pm
Vula Viel continues to break boundaries with transformative jazz fusion born out of Leeds and London. Photo: Vula Viel

Born in Yorkshire before relocating to London, musician Bex Burch has seen Leeds grow into a jazz giant from a distance, with the likes of 6 Music favourites Nubiyan Twist, TC and The Groove Family and Mansion of Snakes all emerging from the city in the last few years.

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As a founding member of London jazz group Vula Viel, Burch has spent her career experimenting with the fast-paced sounds of a capital city in combination with her earliest memories of music, leading to the blend of modern electronica sounds and jazz heard in the band's current work.

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"My dad played The Beatles and Bach at home" Bex remembered.

"We sang in church and at [Ebor Gardens Primary School] and I always felt music was something to be enjoyed.

I remember hitting claves in the church choir, and I reckon I always preferred hitting things for my music."

It was this early experimentation that she took with her to London, and with the cut throat attitude and the vast amounts of culture in London she was inspired to create the first sounds of Vula Viel.

"I remember this expansive feeling being in a bigger city and around musicians from different places and musical worlds and backgrounds, that I was always discovering more music and more about music that really resonated with me.

This is to do with my age of course, but what I loved about London was the feisty energy there.

People couldn't afford to just have "nice" ideas.

Everyone and myself included had to work and make stuff happen, and that's in the music that's made there."

Coming up as an improvising musician in London, Burch found herself working with an abundance of creatives, some born within the fast changing music scene of London, and some from the outside world.

"Every person I've played with, including Ruth Goller and Jim Hart in Vula Viel, have taught me something and helped me grow.

There was about 18 months before the pandemic that I played every month with different people I hadn't met before, each at a different venue so no one else knew I did this, and every single event taught me something.

There's a richness in the scene, that is the people.

My wish-list of collaborators could happily see me continuing this monthly practice for many many years."

And this wish list has not restricted itself to the capital.

When asked about the emerging talent of Leeds, Bex had a lot to say.

"Yes!

[I look up to] Dave Kane, Lauren Kinsella from Leeds Conservatoire, Matthew Bourne and The Leaf Label and their incredible roster of creative artists."

Vula Viel's latest project sees them stretch beyond Leeds and London to another realm of Yorkshire- Sheffield.

"I have a new record coming out 29 October with Sheffieldian Leafcutter John.

I saw John play as a teenager in Polar Bear, which was definitely one of the moments in London where my understanding was blown open of what a musician could be and who I could be.

Working with John this year, his creativity and instrument making and friendship have been a big positive influence on me.

And working again with two of my best friends, Jim Hart and Ruth Goller in Vula Viel - this is the best musically I've felt to date.

I'm so proud of all we've built over the years and where we are heading."

Vula Viel are set to go on tour this month, starting with Generations Jazz Festival in Switzerland.

Full UK tour dates are as follows:

9/10 - BEX BURCH SOLO DATE, MARSDEN

13/10 - BEX BURCH AT MOMENT'S NOTICE

14/10 - THE ROSE HILL, BRIGHTON

15/10 - THE LIGHTHOUSE, POOLE

16/10 - BEX BURCH AND KIM MACARI AT DAYLIGHT MUSIC

16/10 - CAFE OTO, LONDON

17/10 - THE GLOBE, NEWCASTLE

20/10 - BIRMINGHAM

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