Family Ranks are a seven-piece collective fusing Soul, Hip-Hop, Electronica and Reggae. Whether in the studio or on stage they consistently take listeners on a journey through lush expansive compositions, dark hard-hitting grooves and euphoric festival-anthems. Earlier in the year we commissioned them to compose original music to be performed and toured with the Robot Orchestra, creating music that is unlike anything they have written before. Listen to the performance.
Here Family Ranks share their top tips on approaching a commission and writing to a brief:
1) Be prepared to try something different. When we were asked to take part in the Robot Orchestra project it was nothing like any other project we’d ever been part of before. It would have been easy to dismiss it as a lot of extra work to take on but by doing it we were able to meet and work with a whole group of fascinating people that we would never have met otherwise and be part of something unique. We even got to be on the ITV News!
2) Don’t leave it to the last minute. When writing music it’s always best to be able to let it happen organically. Sometimes songs come together really quickly, sometimes they don’t and they need time to be carefully arranged. If you’re stressing because a deadline is looming then you might end up writing something just to get it done that you’re not 100% happy with. If you start early enough then you’ll have time to make sure the piece you write is the best it can be.
3) Make sure you have clear communication. In a project where there’s several teams working together, such as ours where we had musicians, sound engineers, robot programmers/designers, administrators etc. all working together, there needs to be a lot of communication so everyone’s on the same page or things can quickly become confusing!
4) Still sound like yourself. When writing music to a particular brief there can sometimes be pressure to try and make the music sound a certain way to fit the brief. This can be true of lyrics too. Just trust in the fact that the music you’ve already written must have been good for you to be asked to do the brief in the first place. Trust your instincts and make sure you write something you would be proud of even if it wasn’t written for any specific commission.
5) Get into the spirit of it, even if you’re out of your comfort zone. As a band we’ve never had to play along to programmed parts or score out our music before. But rather than being phased by changing the way we work, we embraced the challenge of trying to find a way to communicate musically with the engineers and it made the project so much more rewarding when it all came together at the end.