Adrian Roye & the Exiles

Adrian Roye & the Exiles

 London, England, GBR

After recording in Vermont with producer Michael Chorney (Anais Mitchell) in 2011, Adrian Roye & the Exiles will release their debut album this year. They have already played their unique brand of afro-folk to audiences on both sides of the Atlantic, and 2012 looks set to be their breakthrough year.


Adrian Roye has a longstanding fascination with the hidden and neglected corners of London. Despite a busy schedule writing, rehearsing, recording and touring with the Exiles, on those rare days he has to himself, he is as likely to be found exploring an abandoned railway station as much as relaxing at home in Stoke Newington. There is a connection between the two, as if by exploring these hidden histories he is feeding his imagination for the creative process. For the photo shoot for the band’s debut EP, Telephones and Trafficlights, Adrian chose to be photographed in Parkland Walk, one of his favourite spots in London, a stretch of land that used to form the now defunct railway line between Finsbury Park and Edgware. As he explains, it’s not just the solitude that he craves; it’s a connection with the forgotten history of people and places.

There is a parallel with Roye’s songs, which can veer dramatically in mood between melancholy, soaring and infectiously upbeat, but always seek to explore those emotions, states of being and characters that other songwriters might overlook. The haunting ‘Josephine’ is one such tale, a murder ballad in which the central anti-hero is driven to despair through an unspeakable jealousy. Even at their most uplifting, Roye’s songs are strewn with people and feelings more accustomed to living in the shadows. ‘The Only Poster Child’, with its calypso drum-beat and highlife guitar hook, is as catchy a pop song as any he’s written, but takes as it subject a youth who has fallen between the cracks of the adult world, trying to forge his own way but at risk of being swallowed up by the urban underworld.

This preoccupation with outsider figures seems appropriate for a band named the Exiles. Culturally they’re a diverse bunch, as you’d expect from a band of North Londoners: Adrian’s parents are both Jamaican; bassist Beth Dariti was born to a Greek father and English mother; cellist Simon Lewis, an Anglo-Welsh father and Jewish mother, whereas drummer Dan Paton has Scottish and Jewish heritage. It turns out that their name isn’t just a coincidence: it came about because for a long time the band felt as if they were ploughing a musical furrow which left them unclassifiable musically. They were seen as too soulful for folk nights, but too rootsy to for the soul crowd, so they chose until recently to host their own events at venues such as the Luminaire and the atmospheric St Leonard’s Church in Shoreditch, building up a sizeable following. Having this time apart enabled them to forge their own musical identity, so when the wind changed and audiences seemed more open to musical cross-pollination, they were able to come back into the fold with a clear sense of purpose and self-belief.

It’s true that it’s difficult to put your finger on the sound the Exiles have. Roye’s richly emotive vocals and guitar lie at the heart of the music in the vein of soulful singer-songwriters like Tracy Chapman and Amos Lee and, closer to home, Joan Armatrading and Corinne Bailey Rae. There’s a strong folk and afrobeat influence, with cello, mandolin and high-life guitar being a regular feature of the music, but other roots genres make their way into individual tracks: here and there you can hear hints of reggae, calypso and funk. But this isn’t to say that the music is wilfully obscure, far from it: in fact, like their frontman, it’s deceptively simple; warm and accessible on the surface, yet multi-faceted and layered with complexity. As a band they lie on the city limits, at a crossroads where different musical roads intersect, without belonging to any completely.

This past Summer the band were invited over to the US to record their debut album with acclaimed producer/ arranger Michael Chorney. His work includes production on Anais Mitchell's first two albums ('Hymns For the Exiled' and 'The Brightness'), as well as arranging Anais' highly praised folk-opera 'Hadestown' , which included Ani Difranco, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), and Greg Brown. The album is nearing completion, and previews of four songs are included in this EPK.


'Telephones & Traffic Lights' EP 2009
'The Only Poster Child' Single 2010