What is your name and role within Fat-Suit?
I’m Dorian Cloudsley – guitarist, bandleader and one of the writers for Fat-Suit.
Where are you currently based?
Most of us are in Glasgow. Some of our former members live in Malaysia, India, the United States amongst others. They still gig with us when they happen to be back here but have so far failed to reciprocate by organising an American/Indian/East Asia tour.
Your third album ‘Atlas’ was released at the end of last year, Oct ’16. You have been touring the Atlas around the UK – and a stretch of dates in Poland and Czech Rep as well. Where and when did you record Atlas?
It was recorded live in July 2015 in a three day stretch in a converted church in the west end of Glasgow. We always seem to record in summer and because we film the recording process we end up with a lot of Scottish people, who aren’t equipped to deal with heat, looking sweaty and uncomfortable on camera.
What was the influence behind the tracks?
Different influences for different people! We have several writers in the band who each contributed tracks to the album. I think a common theme is trying to come up with something fun for everyone to play, which sounds a simple concept but is hard to pull off without the music sounding cluttered since there are so many musicians involved. Once a tune is written and brought to rehearsal everyone can set about tweaking their own parts – hopefully if everyone on stage is having fun then that becomes infectious and the audience picks up on that.
How has Atlas been received by fans and how have the live shows been since the release?
As much as I’m proud of our first two albums, Kambr and Jugaad, I think we really smoothed the edges on Atlas, had a lot of great improvisors contribute and stepped up the quality of the writing and arranging. To me the response to the album has been in accordance with that. In terms of the live show, we just try to get tighter as time goes on, which happens naturally if you play together a lot. We’ve been experimenting with different line-ups over the past year or so – we used to be a 13 piece all the time, but these days sometimes we’re down to an 8/9 piece, sometimes up to as much as 20. It means you either have to cover parts you wouldn’t normally play, or find something else to do because all the written parts are covered by the other musicians. It forces you not to be complacent about what you play on any given song.
You’ve been playing festivals across the country. For example Kendal Calling, Celtic Connections, Green Man Festival and Shambala. You have cultivated a good following in Scotland over the past few years but have only recently ventured consistently across the border, playing in Bristol, London, Kent etc. How do you prepare for each show?
Insufficiently, probably! Rehearsal time is always limited so we put a lot of faith in our members to put in their own time and learn the material of their own accord. Because improvisation is an important part of the music, everyone has to know the music well enough to change it spontaneously live.
Do the crowds reaction differ from city to city, gig to gig? If so, how?
They can do. There are certain cities where we just always seem to go down well, Aberdeen for example, and Glasgow of course being our hometown. Having played more gigs south of the border in the past year, and particularly at festivals we sometimes have to palpably win over the crowd during the set. I quite enjoy that feeling when you reach the tipping point a few songs in and people decide they’re on your side (or not!). In Scotland where we’re lucky enough to have a slightly bigger profile, people tend to have an idea of what we are before they see us. Having said that, last year we played an amazing gig in Camden Assembly in London where the audience seemed totally onboard from the get-go, so there are always exceptions. Maybe there are just a lot of Scots in London.
You have won two awards at the 2017 Scottish Jazz Awards – Best Band, and Best Album (for Atlas)! What do you attribute to the success of Fat-Suit and also to the acclaim that Atlas has received?
Something that people tend to say they enjoy about the band is the level of onstage interaction – we’re very open and obvious about what we’re doing or when we’re moving on to the next section following an improvisation, and resist the temptation to get overly clever-clever. We never read sheet music onstage – which is a given in the rock/pop world but not in jazz for some reason. When it comes to live performance we try to be more visceral than cerebral, at least explicitly. We unashamedly love melody, energy and groove and those are things that any audience member, whether they’re a muso or not can connect with.
You were recently featured on BBC Jazz Nights at the Quay, sharing a bill with Jacob Collier. The interview segment, ‘get to know Fat-Suit’ is available now http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09hc9c1 followed by a brand new track. It starts about 1:29:30. The full concert including Jacob’s set will be broadcast on the 17th December.
I hear that you are putting together new music for your 4th album which is as yet untitled and will be recorded next year. Can you tell us a little about your songwriting process and the steps you take to get a song idea turned into a completed track?
We don’t ever have time to jam as a band with so many conflicting schedules, unfortunately. The result of this is that the composer has to comprehensively plan their tune from start to finish and from top to bottom ahead of its first rehearsal. Once it’s at that stage, the other band members embellish their parts and suggest tweaks, but it is essentially one person’s creation at a time. One thing I really enjoy about this band is how the music changes over time, and we have songs that we’ve been playing for years that sound completely different now from when they were written. It helps to keep things fresh.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
We just compiled some of our favourite albums of 2017 here – https://twitter.com/fat_suit/status/941634673788190720
What do you have planned for the future?
A new album, more gigs, hopefully another set of European dates. We are approaching the quiet time of January and we’ll do our best to use the time to plan ahead.
What influences your sound?
I think this is impossible to pinpoint. It’s wherever the Venn diagram of the tastes and influences of the 20-something musicians in Fat-Suit lines up at any given moment, and whatever comes out of that is improvised over anyway.
When and where are you playing next?
Our next gig is New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh where we’ll be resurrecting our collaboration with the incredible singer/songwriter Angus Munro. We released an EP called Rubix – https://fat-suit.bandcamp.com/album/rubix-ep-with-angus-munro – which we toured a couple of years ago, and every once in a while we’re given an excuse to get the gang back together.
Favourite food and place to hangout?
We mostly hang out in splitter vans, where the main things consumed are Huel and supermarket meal deals. We are all big fans of the Polish delicacy pierogi when we get the chance.