HEAR from Blueberry’s resident trombonist Max about the buzz of live jazz and why his band’s debut album is a love letter to Leeds.
HOT on the heels of his energetic live sets at Glastonbury 2022, we talk to Blueberry’s accomplished trombonist Max Purcell-Burrows about his hectic schedule and musical aspirations. As well as his marketing post, the 26-year-old is also a music manager and part of 11-piece collective, TC & The Groove Family. The jazz group, who released their debut album last month, explore grooves from across the globe, including afrobeat, breakbeat, jungle, and highlife.
“Glastonbury was absolutely incredible,” said Max, who hails from Birmingham. “It was my first time there, so it was pretty intense.” The band headlined the Croissant Neuf stage and got the chance to perform an exclusive set for fellow artists in The West Holts backstage area. “The atmosphere was electric, and the crowd were amazing. It was a good blend of friends, big fans of our music and people that hadn’t seen us perform before. “Some people said we were the best thing they saw all weekend, that’s crazy. The highlight of the weekend for me was a band called Khruangbin. They’re one of my favourite groups. “I happened to see Róisín Murphy too. As an entertainer, she was next level. Outfit changes for each song, crazy dance moves, just lots of disco and acid house bangers.”
With five years at Blueberry under his belt, Max also works for Bridge the Gap music management and manages neo-soul singer B-ahwe. “Blueberry has been really supportive, especially my boss Faresh,” he said. “He’s always been accommodating if I need to take a bit of time off or reshuffle things last minute.”
And while the collective was forced to cancel several gigs and performances during the COVID-19 pandemic, Max said it did force the group out of their comfort zone. “Everyone was in different places, but we adjusted quite well. We did a lot of zoom calls, recorded music remotely, sent material across to one another and layered things up. “That’s one of the beautiful things about having so many people in the group, the collaborative aspects of it are really enriching. “Weirdly as a group I think the lockdown kind of helped us. It gave us a chance to focus on our music. And we’ve come out of it like a real band. “I don’t think we’d have had the time as a group to do that had the pandemic not happened.”
Apart from turntablist NikNak and new vocalist Franz Von, the group all studied at Leeds College of Music where the band was born under the leadership of drummer Tim Cook. Funnily enough, the group has shrunk in size, having started with more than 16 members as part of Tim’s final musical recital at university. “We’re a diverse group of people. I think everyone just brings their own cultural and musical influences to the table,” said Max. “Nothing is ever planned out - we’re jamming ideas and then everyone’s voice shines through and things stick. “My favourite song to perform with the collective is probably Boss Fight or Weh Dem A Do? - two of the afro-grime tracks that we have. “They have big horn parts, and the crowd just goes mental every time we play them. We also do a cover of Clint Eastwood by the Gorillaz, which is wicked. That’s always pretty crazy. “We’re just buzzing on stage and giving a lot of energy to each other and then the audience always gives us energy back. “Some of the softer moments are quite nice on the set as well. There’s a track called Sleeping Lions, that’s really mellow. We’ve had people in the crowd crying to that.”
Affectionately described by Max as a “love letter to Leeds”, their first LP First Home was recorded in Sheffield last summer, at Yellow Arch Studios, under Worm Discs. “We spent a week sleeping, eating, and creating music in the studio. We also went for some long walks and wild swims because it was one of the hottest weeks of the year. “It’s been amazing, and we’ve had such a good reception to it. Seeing people come into the live shows that know our music is really nice. “They sing things back to us or they hear a certain intro to a track, then there’s a buzz of excitement in the air over it. “We’ve definitely got a strong bond. I’d say the collective’s name is reflective of that. It is like a big family. And the music on our album is like a love letter to Leeds. “Some of us have moved away, so the album title also reflects that home isn’t always just the place you’re in, it’s the people that are around you that make it that place.”
One of Max’s biggest musical influences is Leeds-born band Nubiyan Twist, an afrobeat, jazz, trip-hop collective. He also admires Fela Kuti, who he describes as the “father of afrobeat” and Ghanaian artist Ebo Taylor. “I would really like to collaborate with a Zambian artist called Sampa the Great,” he said. “She’s an incredible hip hop MC so it’d be wicked to do something with her.”
Now studying for an MA in Music Business Management, Max said if he could change anything about the industry, it would be to advocate for fairer pay for musicians. “Fairer pay from royalties and streaming revenues to make it more sustainable. And more of an equal playing field for people of colour and women in the music industry. “Festivals that aren’t as dominated by men. Having more Government support for musicians, that values the profession. “So many skilled people left the music industry during the pandemic because of loss of income. There’s still a real shortage of production staff and sound engineers.”
And while he said it would be “amazing” to be a full-time musician, he said he is under no illusions. The goal is to develop as a collective and expand its international fan base. The group also aspires to play on the famed West Holts stage at Glastonbury and produce another album. “We want to keep growing the live side of our music as well. I think it’s something that people need to experience live to get everything out of it that they can,” he added. “My message to our fans is to stay positive, keep the people that you love around you and find empowerment from them. “There’s power in unity and power in people rallying together. That’s what we do as a group and that’s kind of our motto.”
Visit www.facebook.com/TCandtheGrooveFamily/ for more band info.