Combining nostalgic funky melodies with insightful lyricism, Scottish six-piece The Passing Sages have a vibrant and engaging sound. We speak to drummer Sean Priestley about their EP Burnin’ Up, future plans and much more!
How did the Passing Sages come together?
The Passing Sages original began in 2017 where the band started with Nic, Mr Clyne and myself. The three of us had been working together in the Fife-based alt-rock band State of Truth which had started to fizzle out with members pursuing different projects, so starting something new was appealing to us. When this was combined with the fact that Nic had started to work with Dunfermline-based songwriter Glen Gates, who continues to write with The Passing Sages to this day, the four of us all decided that we could work on the same project.
In the very early stages of The Passing Sages, we were creating music that was a blend of funk and rock – very Red Hot Chili Peppers inspired. When we began to collaborate with Glen Gates, the music was much more soulful with elements of jazz and disco being prominent.
After a year of crafting our musical style, Holly and Carrie joined the band with Holly bringing a lot more modern and electronic ideas to the band. Our first gig took place shortly after at a packed PJ Molloys supporting Moonlight Zoo.
After continuing to develop our musical repertoire, the line-up was finally established with the addition of keys player Daniel Keay in 2020.
What is the backstory to the EP Burnin’ Up?
There isn’t really a backstory to the Burnin’ Up EP, but the EP is important to us as we feel like it’s our first opportunity to showcase and present the vast musical style we have developed over the past few years since the band formed. Some of the key themes of the EP are positivity, energy and love.
If you could change one thing about the EP what would it be?
That’s very difficult! I think it’s safe to say that we are all very proud of this EP as a piece of music showcasing so much of what we are about as a band. I guess one thing we wish we could have changed would have been the release date which was originally pencilled in for April/May, but, due to Covid, this had to be pushed back.
We have since realised that this may have been a blessing in disguise because the tracks now sound infinitely better than the did pre-Covid lockdown due to the fact we added so much more in terms of production quality and extras, including backing vocal ideas and percussion rhythms we never had six months ago.
Which is your favourite track?
‘Wonderful Person’ without a doubt! I like every track on the EP, which is such a predictable answer, but ‘Wonderful Person’ has been one of my favourite Sages songs since we began working on this material three years ago. I love the shuffle rhythms that I get to play on the drums and how the walking bass grooves really well throughout the track.
How do you come up with ideas for your tracks?
It changes on every song! Sometimes it starts with Mr Clyne creating a funky bassline, other times it can be Nic’s groovy guitar lick and sometimes it will organically grow from us practising together and just jamming around with different genres.
Glen Gates and Holly both write songs with varying levels of completion before they bring them to the rest of the band. Regardless of how the song or idea comes to fruition, it’s always a collaborative process between every member in the band and it’s always exciting to see new ideas take shape and see how they develop.
Is track placement an important aspect of making albums?
I believe it is, absolutely! When artists are creating music, they are trying to convey a message or meaning through to the listener, so when they are creating an EP or album this is essentially an extension of that. Running orders can be used to tell a story, for example, Tremonti’s latest album A Dying Machine, where the tracklist runs in an order that accompanies a book. Each track has been written with a specific theme or meaning in mind and then they have been put in a certain order on the album to reaffirm that message.
How would you describe your music to a new listener?
The Passing Sages create music that blends numerous musical genres together including, but not limited to, soul, funk, disco, blues and electronica. Our aim is to create contemporary, vibrant music that takes retro and nostalgic sounds and modernises them.
What makes you unique as a band?
As well as trying to create modern and contemporary music with retro vides, we are fronted by two talented female vocalists which allows our music to contain melodious vocal harmonies. Each member has very diverse listening habits which, in turn, allows our music to be very unique with influences from a wide range of different musical styles.
Where do you hope to be in five years?
Well, hopefully, we’ll be touring the world with fans all across the globe enjoying our music! Realistically, we would love to be releasing new music and performing gigs to as many people as possible, for as long as possible, because we are all passionate musicians who would love to make sustainable careers in the music industry.
Do you have any advice for emerging artists?
Be patient and don’t lose hope! We have all been musicians for a number of years, some of us going on 10 or 15 years! It takes a lot of hard work and determination to have a career as a musician, especially with the current situation and the lack of gigs for artists to try and make a living. Most of us are still working full-time jobs alongside trying to forge a successful career in the music industry, but, hopefully, one day that will change!