The award-winning quintet first emerged out of the Tomorrow’s Warriors initiative in 2012, quickly gaining traction for their tireless experimentation and live performance wizardry.
The band’s energy and innovation is now spearheading a new type of jazz bubbling over in the UK. Alongside the likes of Moses Boyd, Shabaka Hutchings and Zara McFarlane, they are among a new wave drawing on grime, jungle and electronica to create a sound that works on dancefloors and festivals, as well as in the jazz clubs.
Helped by PRS Foundation’s Momentum Fund, and now its International Music Fund, Ezra Collective are ready to take their sound further afield.
Next week they’ll be performing at the Jazz Re:freshed Outernational showcase at SXSW in Austin, Texas, alongside Moses Boyd, Nubya Garcia, Zara McFarlane, Blue Lab Beats and Ashley Henry.
We grabbed a few minutes with Femi before they set off to learn what they’ve got in store…
How are you feeling now there’s less than a week to go until SXSW?
Feel great, fights booked, hotels booked, visas in passports, I’m super excited, spent a lot of time in the US last year with Jorja Smith, excited to go for the first time with Ezra Collective!
What are you most excited about?
The show!!! I’m excited to play, I’m excited for the different vibrations being in the US brings, I’m excited to show the audience what we’ve got.
What’s on your SXSW shopping list?
Rah, good question? What’s the weather going to be like? Guess it’ll be warm right, Texas, March? Maybe another football top is in order? Oh snap, lost my sunglasses last tour, what’s a jazz musician without sunglasses? Hahaha!
Why do you think now is a good time for you to go?
Cause things are kicking off, but there’s still so much to offer. It’s all about reaching new territories. We’ve travelled the UK last year, did our thing around Europe, America is a new challenge for us right now.
What are you hoping to get out of it?
An unforgettable musical experience with my brothers. Same thing I hope for every gig we ever do, aside from that I hope it sparks a long and fruitful gigging experience across the pond. Get our name out to people who don’t know, and the music making people dance across the country.
Do you approach showcase gigs like SXSW differently to regular live shows?
Nah, I’m there to express myself and enjoy playing with some of the most incredible musicians in the world. That’s how we got here, so no need to change the formula.
Which acts are you most excited to share the bill with?
Nubya Garcia is a queen, Zara McFarlane is incredible, Moses Boyd is one of my favourite musicians. To be honest, shout out Jazz Re:Freshed, the line-up they’ve curated is incredible. God bless man like Adam Rockers, particularly looking forward to catching jokes with him over in Austin.
Is UK jazz a big thing in the States, do you think?
No, not yet. As far as I know, not many of us have toured there yet. When it’s a ‘big thing’ it’ll be obvious. Kamasi Washington and Robert Glasper I would say are a big thing, we’re not there. Yet.
What will be soundtracking your long flight over there?
Ezra Collective Spotify playlist has everything I need!
What are you planning for the rest of 2018?
Stay together, grow in our friendship as band mates and stay happy. If we can do those things, the music, opportunities and new challenges will sort themselves out. That’s the plan.
Ezra Collective play Main II, Austin, Texas, on 14 March.
Ezra Collective were supported to attend SXSW by PRS Foundation's International Showcase Fund. Learn more about it here.