Graffiti6, the hook-savvy UK duo of Jamie Scott and Tommy D, broke through in a way that a lot of bands do these days - via commercials and television shows (yes, they're "Grey's Anatomy" alums). The soulful, dance-leaning pair have a Stateside EP out now, Annie You Save Me, and a 2010 UK debut album, Colours, which will be released in the U.S. later this year.
Their pop and R&B pedigree is fairly impressive. As part of his jazzier former band, Jamie Scott & The Town, Scott toured with Alicia Keys while Tommy D's diverse background includes a variety of production, writing and arranging credits with Kanye West, Jay-Z, KT Tunstall and Corinne Bailey Rae as well as the campy honor of producing Right Said Fred mega-hit, "I'm Too Sexy."
Thanks to what they initially thought might be a one-off collaboration with the song "Stare Into The Sun," Scott and Tommy D landed a batch of commercial, TV and film syncs and Graffitti6 was born.
Scott and Tommy D have been touring the States since early July and make their way to Asbury Park, New Jersey on August 4 and Southampton, Long Island on August 6 to play the Escape To New York festival, with a three-day lineup that includes Of Montreal, Best Coast, Chairlift, The Vaccines and The Psychedelic Furs.
When Graffitti6 visited The Alternate Side's studios, accompanied by touring musician Pete Cherry, they played several songs from their EP and soon-to-be-released album, including their first American single "Annie You Save Me" ... and they were even persuaded to do a wistful cover of Queen's "You're My Best Friend."
Alisa Ali: I understand that this project began a few years ago. Tell me how you guys first met.
Jamie Scott: I was signed to a label before, doing a solo record and it was on the suggestion of mutual friend who thought [me and Tommy] would get on well together. I went to Tommy’s house and studio one day, sat down, and we agreed that we wanted to do something a bit different from my solo record. Different from what we’d both done. I had a small riff with me for a track that’s become “Staring Into The Sun.”
Alisa: So when you first met, you had the intention of working together?
Jamie: No, not to make an album. We first met with the intention of writing a song together and seeing what happened. We had this magical chemistry the minute we started playing in the studio and the first track we wrote together was “Staring Into The Sun” which has become one of our lead tracks and what brought us to America in the first place, with “Grey’s Anatomy,” last year. So we were really blessed. Lucky that we’d got on well. He’s all right.
Tommy D: (faux tearfully) That’s beautiful!
Alisa: This union that you two have.
Jamie: We have got a union.
Tommy D: We have a union. We met in the middle.
Jamie: And it went from there. We never had the intention of doing a whole album. We didn’t even have a band name or a collaboration name. Whatever you want to call it. We had a song and then another song. Then three songs and by the time we had three or four songs together we kind of thought, well, let’s do a whole album. Tommy spent four years before we even met making all his guitars, literally from scratch. He even made the strings.
Alisa: Are you a luthier?
Tommy: I make bookcases. Any kind of furniture.
Jamie: Tommy’s strings are made out of his children’s hair. (laughs). The long and short of it, we all had loads of fun.
Alisa: Tommy, you have a pretty impressive resume.
Tommy: I don’t think so. Not really. I made most of it up. (laughs).
Alisa: I saw a mock résumé of yours and it had names like Kanye and Jay-Z on there. Did you make that up?
Tommy: No. I have worked with those people. I didn’t make that bit up. I’ve worked with lots of different people, wearing different hats. So if someone is a songwriter or arranger or producer or remixer or sometimes, in the case of Jay, I do orchestrations with my wife so we did a whole bunch of orchestrations for Jay’s 10th anniversary Reasonable Doubt show at Madison Square Garden. From that, we got to work with Jay on a few other projects. They’re all different people. The songwriting things are the things I’m most proud of. But this is my favorite, favorite thing! I don’t have to say that. I could easily not say that.
Jamie: I don’t like this bit at all.
Tommy: I’m doing it for the money. No, this is the most natural. Me and Jamie is all about the music and we love making music and playing it.
Alisa: Congratulations! You’ve found something that you’re really enjoying.
Jamie: We do feel quite lucky.
Alisa: And with some luck you’ll pull off this next song without a hitch.
Tommy: Are you saying there was a hitch in the first one? (laughs)
Jamie: Did you notice that Pete put an “ed” on it? Annie you “saved me.” It’s fine. I like it.
Tommy: It’s this band thing.
Jamie: This is what we do. We write songs and then we change them on the road (all laugh). That’s what we do! You have a unique version of that song now. No one else has the past tense.
Pete: Okay, make me a member of the band and I’ll take the “ed” off the end, then. (all laugh)
Tommy: Remix! Past tense.
Alisa: Tommy, are you going to remix these songs?
Tommy: No, I like hearing other people do stuff with them. It’s great. I’ve always enjoyed that and hearing people doing their own takes. There’s this amazing website where you can put your own tracks up, stems up from the tracks you’ve done, and people can remix them. I love that concept. I always think music doesn’t have an endpoint. When you record something, it’s never the definitive version to me. It’s just “a version.”
Jamie: I think when the album is finished it’s refreshing to step back and let people do their thing. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to use it. But it’s nice to say that we’ve done what we know is Graffiti6. There’s no way that we’ve come up with the same thing. We didn’t spend two years making the album. The actually days in the studio probably equated two or three months, if that, but over a course of a year and a half when you’ve spent that much time on something and put it to bed, you finish and then go play it live, it’s wicked to hear other people’s influences come in.
Alisa: Do you guys plan on putting up the stems at some point?
Jamie: Not for the whole album. Maybe one track.
Tommy: Here’s our parts everybody! Here’s our work!
Jamie: A lot of a cappellas back in the old days, there were a capella 12-inches. A lot of the old disco records. People would take those and sample them, like “Ride On Time” by Loleatta Holloway.
Alisa: A lot of what is on Colours is very dancey, but there's a different mood.
Jamie: We basically came to America late last year and, just for the ease of it, started playing the songs as a three-piece and we got such a great reaction from having an acoustic side to what we do, that the live show with the whole band actually has acoustic through it. We really enjoy it because the songs break down and you hear them.
Tommy: You play them differently as well. You lay back a little more and when the band comes in - like drums and keyboards - it goes to another place. I think when there’s just me and Jamie we can sort of surround ourselves with whoever we want. We can take an orchestra with us if we want. You know what I mean? It gives you that freedom to be quite experimental with it and at the basis of it is the song. “Annie You Save Me” is still the same song whether it gets done just by us on acoustics, a full band, a studio version or someone remixing it in a club. It’s still the same thing.
Jamie: That’s the idea and why we enjoyed making the album so much. You couldn’t really pinpoint what we were going for. There’s a lot of influences in there. Like Tommy was heavily into dance and hip hop and personally, I grew up on folk music and there was a mutual love for bands like Free and more rock things. Colours is an eclectic mix of all of those influences together. That’s hopefully why it’s going to work.
Alisa: There’s something in there for everyone, whether you’re in soul or dance or folk.
Jamie: One of the best things that people say is that they can’t quite put a finger on what it is we do.
Alisa: You guys mix up everything so tightly. Jamie: Yeah, when all the stems are up on the website, you can see them (laughs).
Tommy: The Led Zeppelin part ….
Jamie: That’s why we enjoyed it so much. We had no boundaries. We could do whatever we wanted and we were lucky that it worked with the sound of the album.
Alisa: Do you think after you perform these songs live that the live performances will inform your next album? Will there be a next album? Jamie: If anyone buys this one, hopefully there will be a next album.
Tommy: Otherwise we’ll be buying it.
Jamie: We made a clear decision that Colours was a studio album. Just me and Tom in the studio, we wrote and produced everything between us, played on everything and it had that sound because of that. With the live band, we were surrounded by amazing musicians and it sounds completely different. I think you’d lose the Graffiti6 sound of the record if we went and recorded a live album. But playing songs live definitely helps us work out structures and what is best. There will definitely be influences of what we’re doing live. The great thing about touring and having the ability to tour America is that we can now start to work on new songs for a new album and actually play them live and see how they go down.
Alisa: That’s not scary, to try out a new song on an audience?
Jamie: No! We’ve been doing a lot of touring in Holland. We wrote a song in Holland the day of a gig, had no lyrics, and we played it in the encore. I wasn’t singing any lyrics; I was making it up. Pete: And everybody left (laughs).
Tommy: Cleared the place out.
Alisa: ["Stare Into The Sun"] is a song that really put things into motion for you guys.
Jamie: It was the first song we ever wrote together. It was the song that got us in synch with a newspaper in the UK [The Sun] that gave us the ability and the funds not to have to sign this to a label before the album was finished. We went off with that and that started the whole thing. We also got a beer commercial in Holland which gave us the chance to go Holland quite a bit and get the live band up and running and then got us to America. So it’s kind of been the catalyst for everything.
Alisa: Is it weird hearing your songs in all these different formats? Like a beer commercial or a newspaper advertisement?
Jamie: For us it’s an amazing thing because it’s the reason we’re here. The use of the internet to get our music out there. We didn’t have a label in the beginning so the internet spread that and something like a sync is invaluable because how many ever people watching that program will hear something we were recording five months ago in a studio. That’s kind of insane. Syncs are the only reason we’re here and what brought us here. They’ve been amazing for us.
Tommy: If the music can fit all of those different things, to me that’s a great thing. It’s got the depth to do that. The great thing about syncs is that they’re not targeted at any audience. You can have little kids or grannies watching the telly and it comes on via an advert. So you get a broader concept of getting your music to people. As a consequence, through the syncs, because we’ve had "CSI: New York," Victoria’s Secret, loads of people using our music; we have quite an eclectic fan base. It’s quite wide. I think the syncs have had a lot to do with that.
Alisa: I think commercials are regarded a lot more favorably now. In the past it would have labeled you as a sellout.
Jamie: I think you’ll find that’s when labels are selling albums. When they find out they’re selling albums, they realize how much they like syncs. That’s basically what happened.
Tommy: In the UK there’s very little music on telly. There’s only two music shows on national telly.
Alisa: You have Jools Holland.
Tommy: The chat shows and those kind of things, most of them aren’t using music anymore. So it’s harder and harder. Obviously there are things like "Pop Idol" or "America’s Got Talent," but I don’t count those. Getting your music across, through the medium of telly, is incredibly difficult these days.
Alisa: Your music was used in a Victoria’s Secret Fashion show as well.
Jamie: It was indeed. We were all modeling.
Tommy: We actually were on the catwalk.
Jamie: We’re wearing what we wore right now. I’m wearing Pete’s right now.
Alisa: That must have been exciting.
Jamie: Anything that’s happened to us over the last six months has been exciting. It was only a year ago that we were finishing songs off underneath Tommy’s house in London.