Ezra Collective have spoken to NME about 2023 Mercury Prize and their impact on the jazz scene. Watch the full video interview above.
Before they picked up the coveted prize for their second album ‘Where I’m Meant to Be’, the band caught up with NME and revealed the inspiration behind the record, and their unconventional plans to celebrate.
The five-piece spoke with NME on the Mercury Prize red carpet yesterday (September 7), just before they took to the stage to perform their track ‘Victory Dance’ at London’s Eventim Apollo and be named as the winners of album of the year – beating off competition from the likes of Loyle Carner, Raye, Young Fathers, Arctic Monkeys, Lankum, Shygirl, Jockstrap and Jessie Ware.
Here, drummer Femi Koleoso explained what it means for Ezra Collective to be representing the jazz community at the prestigious award ceremony, and how the members were caught off-guard by the widespread support they have received in light of their latest record.
“I feel like it’s just wonderful to be a part of something so big and so special. We’re just a small part of such a big picture,” he began, exploring how it feels strange to be receiving mainstream airplay. “It’s been really exciting just to be hearing it played in so many different avenues and places, you know? To see people enjoying it and dancing to it — that’s all you can ask for really.”
He also revealed to NME how the band planned to celebrate their upcoming victory, admitting that the members have their sights on their local 24-hour doughnut joint if they were to take home the award.
Check out the full interview below, or watch it in full above.
Members of Ezra Collective, (L-R) James Mollison, Joe Armon-Jones, Femi Koleoso, Ife Ogunjobi and TJ Koleoso after winning the Mercury Prize during the awards show at Eventim Apollo on September 7, 2023 in London CREDIT: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images
NME: Ezra Collective, welcome! How are you?
Femi Koleoso: “I’m good thank you. Feeling happy. Very grateful to be here. Yeah, grateful to be with all my friends.”
How are you feeling about tonight? Any nerves settling in?
“We’re just excited, just grateful to be here. There’s no there’s no nerves really if I’m being totally honest. It is what it is. We go there, we have fun, we play, enjoy being with everyone and keep it moving you know?”
What’s it like to be representing the jazz scene for 2023? A lot of people have really found a new love in the genre from your music.
“I feel like it’s wonderful to be a part of something so big and so special. We’re just a small part of such a big picture.
“What is most special about it is [that] a lot of us grew up together, so it feels good. It feels nice just to even receive text messages from some of my friends being like ‘Good luck tonight’. They’re moments that are special.”
Has the response to the album been different in any way from what you expected?
“That’s a good question to be fair! It’s been really exciting just to be hearing it played in so many different Avenues and places, you know? Radio Six is typically kind of like the Jazz pocket of the radio if you like, but it’s been nice to hear it played on different ones — [BBC Radio] One Extra, [Radio] One, etc. etc.
“Man, it’s just been nice to see people enjoying it and dancing to it — that’s all you can ask for really.”
You are one of the fan favourites tonight. There is a lot of chatter here from people who loved the album. What’s it like to resonate with such a wide audience?
“That’s really nice of you to mention because I looked at the betting odds [and] we were like rock rock bottom when we looked it! So hearing that people are into our thing means a lot.
“But, honestly, from one person to one million people, if one person likes the vibes that were putting out, that’s job done. Victory there. That’s the vibe we approach these things with.”
If there was one thing you’d want listeners to take from ‘Where I’m Meant To Be’, what would it be?
“We just wanted to be honest in every type of way. We were in a lockdown — let’s not lie and say everything is perfect. Let’s be real about it, you know? But at the same time the core message of the band being there is joy in your heart somewhere you just have to find it. All of those things we were trying to convey in those songs.”
What is the first thing you’d do if you won tonight?
“I’ll probably give the boys a good hug and then we’ll take it from there. We’ll probably end up booking Ubers to someone’s house. I don’t know man, I mean it might even just be 24-hour McDonald’s and see it out, you know?
“I mean McFlurry’s everywhere and then call it a day. I don’t know if you can really plan too tough.”
Members of Ezra Collective, James Mollison, Joe Armon-Jones, Femi Koleoso, Ife Ogunjobi and TJ Koleoso attend The Mercury Prize 2023 awards show at Eventim Apollo on September 7, 2023 in London CREDIT: JMEnternational/Getty Images
There’s nothing like a celebratory McFlurry, right?
“Yo, McDonald’s in Enfield Road Retail Park, it’s like it’s a club! It’s a whole vibe, you could go there at 3am, you could get there at 4am — let’s go there. That’s what we’re doing!
“We’re gonna go there because there’s a Krispy Kreme opposite that’s 24 hours. Legendary. The first one in the country… So, yeah, probably just head there and see what happens!”
I feel like you’ve got some memories in that Krispy Kreme. It seems like you know it pretty well…
“That Krispy Kreme is the Bedrock of North London! It’s the Bedrock… It’s on the A10, right, and it’s at the Retail Park and it’s opposite McDonald’s.
“Some of the best link-ups of my life have been in there. I’ve met footballers there, people from school [and] it’s like ‘Oh wow, you’ve got kids now’. So it all happens at that Krispy Kremes… and they do this thing where they put the red neon light on and that means one free doughnut.
“Honestly, I don’t know why it’s not on the Heritage list, it’s a world attraction. Honestly, I’ve been to the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty… It’s got nothing on this Krispy Kremes I’m telling you, man. I’m telling you. Make sure you go.”
Ezra Collective’s latest album ‘Where I’m Meant To Be’ is out now.