Express & Star

Walsall and Great Barr unsigned band Hybrid Spirits releasing other-worldly album

It is a miracle of the modern world that a band can sit geographically apart yet so easily put together their debut record.

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Hybrid Spirits are, from top, Nigel Rooke, Paul Kirk and Voodoo Jade, with the album cover, right

When discussing technology and the music industry, people are always quick to mention downloads and Spotify and the flooding of the senses with countless artists and genres.

But one lesser mentioned aspect is the creation of the record - and how phone call software like Skype can help a group write, work on and complete a record while barely setting foot in the same room.

Therefore, Hybrid Spirits could not be a more apt name, as lyricist and vocalist Voodoo Jade explains.

"It was mostly done on Skype, we only actually met a couple of times," the 47-year-old of Sutton Coldfield tells us. "We could see who was doing what and what needed to be done. And all the files could be sent electronically for the others to work on."

It's a method that might make musicians who love the camaraderie of late night jams in a music studio curl their toes. But not Hybrid Spirits. They were originally united through working remotely via technology anyway with a rock band in Australia, and their forthcoming debut album - called Astral Whispers - was mixed by a Scottish producer who decided towards the end he wanted to up sticks to be a DJ in Ibiza. "And who could blame him?" Voodoo quips.

"It's a geographically large album brought together by local roots," she adds. "The cover art, which is absolutely beautiful, was done by an artist commissioned in Brazil as well. So it's all over the place."

And those local roots are strong. Voodoo Jade - real name Rachael Jade Lucas - left Walsall this summer for Sutton Coldfield after living there since 1995. She also studied for a degree in languages at Wolverhampton University.

Nigel Rooke, 50, who provides vocals, lyrics, keyboards and drum programming, has long-held ties with Great Barr. And 48-year old Paul Kirk - vocals, lyrics, keyboards, guitars and drum programming - was born in Tamworth but grew up in Great Barr where he and Nigel met.

One way it does hinder them though is performing live. They never have, but it's something they're looking into after the album launched online.

"If there's demand we'll play" adds Voodoo. "The others have gigged with their other bands before and I have too. I've been in bands since I was about 15, mostly around the Birmingham area.

"Personally, I'd love to get back to it. But it's a niche type of music we do, we might get some slightly different types of venues asking for us."

And getting back on stage will be a big achievement for Voodoo, who in 2012 contracted meningitis which led to both her legs being amputated below the knee. She has recently joined a local choir which has helped get her confidence in performing back, and hopefully Hybrid Spirits will be her real chance to get back on the music scene.

"I was 41 when overnight I pretty much became disabled," she says. "I worked a lot around Walsall and even taught at the college and suddenly I couldn't work. I haven't really performed since then.

"I'm very lucky just to be here if I am honest."

And it is her experiences, coupled with the band's approach to slightly softer forms of electronic music, that have enabled her to explore compositions of a completely different nature.

"There can be many barriers for disabled people, but the band feels that music can overcome many obstacles," she adds. "The Astral Whispers album invites listeners to explore the planetary system via music and imagination, with relaxing and sometimes suspenseful songs.

"We also plan to release a series of guided meditations suitable for listeners who have experienced both limb loss and disability. These are planned for 2019. It helps with sending signals to the right places in the body.

"These will probably be released individually via Bandcamp, and I know Amazon do this kind of thing too."

While they are keen not to be pigeon-holed, Voodoo does point to musicians like Enigma, Sisters Of Mercy, The Cult and Gary Numan as a sounding board.

"The lads usually start with something and then we all add to it. We can either say 'that works and we'll keep it that way', or 'I hate it, can we change that?' There's no clashes though, we're all pretty laid back."

What they wanted has manifested as Astral Whispers, sort of by chance. The experimental album is an exploration of space and sound using real planetary sound waves from NASA. The boffins recorded radio emissions during various space missions and subsequently released them as audible sound waves on their website. Hybrid Spirits just took that and developed them into musical tracks.

"We started working on a few different things and this is just what happened to be ready first," Voodoo adds. "It was meant to be another album first, but our producer had finished with this set of tracks and then decided he was off to Ibiza.

"It's quite daunting to know how to get it out there. Where do you start? We know we've got a lot of hard work ahead.

"It's something we love doing. Paul's already started on volume two with even more planets' sound waves. But we've got other things too. We do a lot of covers work and the boys have already sent me a couple of new ones they want me to look at."

So the universe of Hybrid Spirits continues to grow. And who knows what other-worldly sounds they might create next.

Hybrid Spirits' Astral Whispers is available via Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play, Tidal, Deezer, and Pandora, amongst other streaming sites. They can also be found on Twitter @SpiritsHybrid and Facebook @hybridspirits and you can hear all their work so far on their website.