Directed by Swap Gomez, the video for single See The Light is shot fly-on-the-wall style at a classic Auckland west coast beach home afternoon/evening party gathering. There’s family, food, music, conversations, laughter and warmth. Lots of warmth. It seems likely that the effortless, spacious, warm and inviting jazz of After Ours ’ debut album ‘Odyssey’ was created in just such an environment. Actually both the band and album titles are figurative and realistic, as Aabir Mazumdar discovers in conversation with drummer Nick Williams and pianist Michal Martyniuk.
After ’Ours, the duo of drummer Nick Williams and Poland-born classical/jazz pianist Michal Martyniuk, are building up to the September release of their first album. ‘Odyssey’ seems an appropriate titled given the Auckland-based good friends have spent five years making it.
“It’s After ’Ours because that’s exactly how our music was worked on,” explains Nick. “It wasn’t like we had an album worth of stuff and it took five years to record. It evolved along the way. It was created along the way, after hours.”
They have a comfortable and open dynamic, each bringing their own unique perspective from ‘either side of the glass’. Their creative process was shaped by bringing together Nick’s audio background and Michal’s multi-stylistic, music and performance background, incorporating both the musician and producer roles into the composition process. Michal describes the collaboration as being easy.
Nick has been a music teacher for a decade and has a rich history with music.
“I got my first drum kit when I was three, played my first gig when I was five – in my dad’s blues band at the Gluepot,” he remembers.
He continued to play gigs with his father in Australia as well as with a rock band in school, eventually beginning to get more interested in production and learning how to record. He has since been a core member Tangent with Alex Urlich (B2KDA) and The Mercs with his partner Ange Saunders, who also features on ‘Odyssey’.
Michal recently completed a Bachelor degree in Jazz Performance at the University of Auckland. He spends much of his time performing more traditional varieties of jazz with the likes of Jonathan Crayford and Nathan Haines. Haines has been a tutor, mentor and supporter to both, contributing a great deal to their After ’Ours project over the last six years. Aside from playing on the album, he provided many of the synths and recording equipment that was used, as well as introducing them to many of the musicians who came to be involved.
Despite describing a deep jazz influence, ‘Odyssey’ draws from a great deal of influences and styles, ranging from a Steely Dan jazz-infused rock to hip hop veins harking back to A Tribe Called Quest and J-Dilla. While listing a wide range of influences, Nick reflects on their often evident hip hop influences.
“Love that stuff,” Nick reflects. “Q-Tip is really quite a big influence of mine. I love his stuff.”
Their first single/video See The Light is a prime example of his blending of that classically mellow Rhodes sound with grooving hip hop. Their approach to writing the album tracks wasn’t genre-specific however.
“We weren’t thinking that we’d do a jazz record or a pop record, it was just what we liked,” Michal explains.
Their composition and production process resulted in an assemblage of influence, perspective and homage, while maintaining an evident appreciation for simplicity and groove.
“It’s very diverse and we don’t really know where to put it,” Michal admits. “We just want to give it to people and see if they can find something they like on it.”
“I think there’s something on there for everyone,” says Nick, taking a more optimistic tone. “I think it’s a very accessible album.”
Alongside the indifference to maintaining traditional stylistic boundaries, the primary objective was always to enjoy the process itself. They brought a positive and appreciative energy to the production process as well as their interactions with the star-studded line-up involved – including Nathan Haines on saxophone, The Streets’ Kevin Mark Trail and Sharlene Hector on vocals, and percussionist Miguel Fuentes.
“Having those guys involved was just awesome,” Nick laughs gratefully.
The album was recorded almost entirely in his home studio with some additional recording done at York Street Studios and The Lab and was mixed in the UK by Mike Patto (Reel People). Don’t be fooled by the ‘home studio’ aspect. There was a considerable arsenal of boutique audio and vintage musical equipment used in the sessions.
“Having this analogue synth that’s alive, you just hold a chord and it’s breathing. It’s amazing. You don’t have to play much, you don’t have to say much, it’s just a living thing,” articulates Michal on the character that the borrowed synths brought to the compositional process.
The result is an extremely warm sounding album, ‘warm’ being used pluralistically to describe both an inherent quality of the production as well as the listener’s experience on listening.
“It feels warm, the album, so that’s the goal achieved already. We just wanted to let people feel the love,” finishes Michal.