Five Fruit - EP
Formed in South London in 2017, the artist collective and weekly improvised club night Steam Down became a crucible for the English capital’s jazz scene, attracting guest spots from the likes of saxophonists Kamasi Washington and Soweto Kinch. “We’re guided by the African proverb that says, ‘It takes a village,’” founder Wayne Francis tells Apple Music. “Collaboration is key and everyone in the project comes together to make something that is greater than the sum of its parts.” Continuing this collaborative ethos, Francis and Steam Down released their first recorded music in the form of the Five Fruit EP. Encompassing everything from fan favorites such as the grime-influenced “Can’t Hold Me Back” to the Black Lives Matter protest music of “Empower,” the record distills the kinetic energy of the group’s performances while highlighting their compositional depth. Read on for Francis’ thoughts on the EP, track by track.
“Five Fruit” “Every song on this project is like a sonic fruit that will stimulate an emotional energy in the listener. I believe that music has the power to transform our emotional state and can really help with our mental health and well-being. The emotional theme to this track is openness—having the ability to feel comfortable in trying something new and the ability to look within.”
“Untie” “This is about being gentle and compassionate with yourself when going through a period of growth or self-contemplation. When looking into yourself, you might see something that is quite challenging, so you need compassion to untie that and to ultimately let it go. It features a great vocal from Lady Shaynah, who we met in Rotterdam in 2019 on a show. There was an instant connection onstage, and when we were writing this song it just felt like she would be the perfect voice for it.”
“Empower” “It’s a song that I wrote in 2016, before Steam Down started, around the time that the Grenfell Tower was burned down and there were the first Black Lives Matter protests. Through the last year of the pandemic and the BLM protests around the world, it felt like this track was needed. In times of difficulty, you need to have the confidence to push through. I want people to take away a sense of upliftment, to stay optimistic, even though things are dark around us.”
“Free My Skin II” “This is one of our oldest Steam Down songs, which initially started in the live show with just a hornline and bassline. When I played it at the end of every night, it was like this release that happened. People were dancing and letting go, and there was a feeling of ecstasy that was moving through the air. The lyrics that we wrote are about the ability to free yourself through movement from whatever you walked into the room with on that day.”
“Can’t Hold Me Back” “‘Can’t Hold Me Back’ has also been with us from the beginning. It’s a purge—a song about having the resistance to not let obstacles or challenges stop you from achieving your goals. It has a martial, intense energy to encourage people to get up and go. Coming from London, we’re surrounded by grime music, which people can see as being quite aggressive, but that musical aggression can be channeled in a positive way if it’s used as defense and resilience.”