During a recent stop in Chicago, Shoniwa decided to wander around town on her own and wound up at the Green Mill, the city’s legendary jazz club. Even though she had no clue about the club’s history – she said she just loved the vibe – the singer soon charmed her way onto the stage and spent the evening jamming with the band.
Noisettes manager Susan Collins said the pure joy the band exudes while they’re performing is one of the things she’s loved about them since she first heard the group.
“I saw them play a show at the Notting Hill Arts club,” Collins told Pollstar. “It’s just a small club, and people were dancing on the tables!
“It was just the most insane mixture of rock and jazz and funk and rockabilly. A friend of mine said to me, ‘Why don’t you manage them?’”
At first Collins, who has a record company background, hesitated; she had never managed anyone before. Seeing Noisettes perform a couple more times helped her decide, and she spent about a year of “dogged pursuit” convincing the band to let her represent them.
Noisettes, which also includes guitarist Dan Smith and drummer Jamie Morrison, was formed by Smith and Shoniwa, who attended the same art school in Croyden, England.
Shortly after they met, Smith talked Shoniwa out of her dreams of an acting career and into his father’s blues band. The pair spent the early part of this decade writing theatre pieces, making short films, working with drama classes and playing avant-garde “jazz-noise” club gigs.
Smith and Shoniwa drafted Morrison, whom Smith had seen performing with the band Willis on Joolz Holland’s TV show, a few days before they hit the studio to record their debut EP, The Three Moods Of The Noisettes, in 2004. When they first started out, the band toured with a stand-up bassist, but Shoniwa decided she wanted to learn to play bass guitar, something Collins says she’s become quite accomplished at. The band set to work making a name for itself as a killer live act in the U.K., playing anywhere and everywhere – on rooftops, in squats, on boats, in schools and in lumber yards. Shoniwa said although the band’s philosophy has always been “a gig’s a gig,” there are a few that stick out as really odd. “I guess some of the more conservative old working men’s social clubs probably would have felt more comfortable with something that was just a bit more in the background – but we needed the experience and the money.” Noisettes’ persistence and work ethic soon paid off, and the trio was tapped to open for Babyshambles and Muse, not to mention being named “Britain’s best live band” by The Guardian in 2006.
This April, Noisettes released their first full-length album, What’s The Time Mr. Wolf?, and has spent most of the year touring the U.S. and abroad with TV On The Radio and Bloc Party. Matt Hickey, the band’s agent at High Road Touring, has been involved with the group since before they recorded Three Moods. He said the trio have the smarts and talent to make it in the States. “I think they know what they want,” Hickey told Pollstar. “And I think they understand the U.S. a little bit better than some other U.K. acts because they spent a long time here recording their record. “They know how much work you have to do to get a real fan base gathered.” Hickey said he’s seen a tremendous amount of growth in the band, especially in the past year, and they’re ready to move on to the next level. In the fall, the band will headline big clubs in major U.S. markets. Hickey said he’d also like to see them play a few dates that are “more of a party, DIY kind of show.”
“Those are kind of fun to do. The band has done them before, and I think it’s important to them to kind of do something special in places and not just be run-of-the-mill like every other band out there.”
Collins said although the band members have become “road warriors” over the past couple of years, there’s one thing that hasn’t changed – their devotion to their fans and playing live.
“They were offered Oxegen [Festival] in Ireland. I have to admit I said to them, ‘This is ridiculous. You’re going to get off a plane, do a video shoot that starts at 6 or 7 in the morning, we’re going to go until midnight, and then you want to go to Dublin the next day – a whole day’s drive there and a whole day’s travel back.’” Shoniwa’s response? “So what’s the problem?”