Music interview: Rizzle Kicks

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Having sold more than 600,000 albums, and over a million singles in the UK, Rizzle Kicks are a big deal right now. With their sophomore album ‘Roaring 20s’ recently released, I got on the phone with Harley ‘Sylvester’ Alexander-Sule (vocalist), to talk about life as part of Rizzle Kicks in 2014.

Partially known for their intense live shows, there’s no plan for letting up this year. Alexander-Sule even reminisces about their “best festival/gig moment” last year when they were unlucky enough to have a slot at the same time as the Arctic Monkeys.

“There were, like, 40 people there, but we were on a big stage. Forty isn’t too little, but we were on a big stage.”

Like any underdog story, the lack of a crowd didn’t stop them from putting on their standard energetic live show, giving as much to the 40 there as they would to any other crowd. And it paid off.

“We started, and a thousand more people turned up. Three thousand turned up three minutes later. And it ended up a crowd of 10,000.”

It’s completely understandable as to why Alexander-Sule rates this as the best festival/gig moment.

“We went on the stage and just thought, let’s be as crazy as we possibly can”.

When it comes to their live shows, Rizzle Kicks is all about having “a bit of fun”. From being crazy to their dancing. In terms of dancing Harley views it as “something I always think is really impressive, especially synchronised dancing”. That’s something that I found myself unable to disagree with, sometimes there’s nothing more dull then watching a static band.Their live show is certainly more than enough to draw a festival crowd, but it’s also a great thing for their headline tours. This year’s tour is a perfect example, with most of it being sold out. It also creates opportunities for dance moves to be created, such as their most famous one for Mama Do The Hump.

“We made the song, called Mama Do The Hump without a dance move in mind, and then we played it live. And it just happened one time, genuinely created by mistake on stage.”

All being good with the live shows, the conversation took a turn to focusing more on Alexander-Sule himself. Now 22, he started as a rapper before deciding to focus solely on the singing that you’ve all become accustomed to hearing in Rizzle Kicks. The main singers that influence him vocally are Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra and Alex Turner. He nicknames them the “big three”.

What you might not know about is his interest in acting. On asking him if it’s something he wants to pursue, he casually says: “I was the lead in a film recently.” It is being released later this year. Entitled The Guv’ners, it’s a violent thriller written and directed by Gabe Turner (The Class of 92, In the Hands of the Gods).

“It’s good because I play the complete opposite of my actual self”, when he goes into the details, it’s easy to pick up on the genuine excitement he has for this first step into his acting career. Normally seen as the more introverted member of the duo, acting is Alexander-Sule’s chance to step into the lime light. We’re used to singers turning into actors, from Will Smith to Justin Timberlake, but it’s difficult to hold down two careers at once. However Alexander-Sule acknowledges the challenge.

“I hope to do it parallel. I mean, it’s gonna be difficult. I have to take breaks in both fields. But I shot the film last year at the same time as releasing a single”.

This is definitely not for someone who doesn’t put maximum effort into what they do. Yet Alexander-Sule is the kinda guy who will comfortably “shoot whenever” if there’s an opportunity to get the film done. “

This is all quite a feat for someone who started out just making songs, with the help of the charity group Audioactive. When our conversation turned towards the possibility of setting up a similar charity one day, he admitted he hadn’t really thought about it, although Rizzle Kicks are always active in helping to fund-raise and promote opportunities for the youth to venture into music.

Eventually the conversation came full circle, when I point blank asked him what it is that he’s looking forward to about playing the Leeds O2 Academy.

“Northern crowds are always pretty special, mainly because Southern crowds are spoilt. All the music happens down here, so when you get up North, they’re just so excited to see you that they go absolutely mental.

“I totally have Leeds in that bracket, where you look at the tour schedule and say that one’s going to be fun. Well they’re all fun, but Leeds is extra fun.”

* Rizzle Kicks play O2 Academy Leeds, on February 28,

Sparks last performed in Leeds in 1975. Picture: Philippe Mazzoni

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