It’s been a while since we first fell in love with ‘Nuff’, the confident debut track from alt-pop producer Royce Wood Junior. Since its release in early 2014, he’s been making a name for himself working with everyone from NAO and Kwabs to Jessie Ware and Jono McCleery. No stranger to the stage, he has often played live with long time collaborator Jamie Woon over the last year – but following a string of stellar EPs and the release of his debut album ‘The Ashen Tang’ this summer, RWJ is finally stepping out alone. He’s been taking care of the vocals himself and showing us what he’s all about, with grooving left-field synth soul that has its roots in decades gone by. With all that in mind, we were keen to see what would happen when we caught him in the flesh.
First though, Jodie Abacus and his band warmed us up with kooky breaks and bars thrown into otherwise straightforward, heartfelt pop. The stand out moment was ‘Halfway to Mexico’, produced by Royce, which benefitted from the unmistakable RWJ touch live too and brings to mind the headliner’s own description of the track as “tequila flavoured wonk tech”.
Up next was Royce, who wasted no time in winning us over. He’s a natural front man with the kind of easy charm that thrives in an intimate setting – and as one of the best venues of its size to cater for the electro soul scene, Islington’s Electrowerkz was the perfect place for it. He jumped right in with ‘Midnight’ and ‘Further;more’, followed by Nirvana covers, odes to old friends and sci-fi theme solos. The set peaked with the big-hearted ‘Clanky Love’ and wound down with ‘Silver’. Throughout, Royce’s cut glass voice was underpinned by driving off-beat synth and his guitarist’s surprisingly delicate back up vocals, although occasionally the mix was loosened up by playful out-of-tune Talking Heads-like guitar solos. Whether behind his keyboard or with guitar in hand like a teenage boy in front of his bedroom mirror, Royce was a treat to watch.
The final verdict? Royce Wood Junior does not disappoint. This is a skilled songwriter producing his own special brand of wonky electronic soul that somehow manages to stir up the kind of good vibes you’d get from listening to The Doobie Brothers and Stevie Wonder classics of your childhood. What’s not to love? If you can catch him live, we suggest that you do.