The first time I heard the electro-soul outfit, Zero 7 was on the original Six Feet Under soundtrack. The sultry song, “Distractions” got into my psyche and has remained there – coming out in whispers and hums that soothe and seduce. It’s that kind of song; they’re that kind of band. At the heart of Zero 7 are Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns. This techno-duo combines vintage funk with cutting edge instrumentation to create sexy, soulful grooves.
Both men began their careers in the 1990s as sound engineers in London - remixing music for big-time Brits such as Pet Shop Boys and Robert Plant. Their former college-mate, Nigel Godrich who was the producer for the band, Radiohead gave them a shot at re-vamping their sound. The results were stellar: A completely different remix of “Climbing Up the Walls” that appeared as a B-side of Radiohead’s single “Karma Police”.
Word was out and Zero went to hero in no time at all. One good remix deserved another, beginning with Terry Callier’s “Love Theme from Spartacus” followed by ones for Sneaker Pimps, Lambchop and Lenny Kravitz. This was what one might consider the turning point in their career - going from behind the scenes and into the spotlight.
The duo’s 2001 debut album, Simple Things was both a blast from the past and a look into the future. Techie-synth sounds echoed over lush, sexy voices to recreate the romance of sixties French pop with post-millennium styling. Guest singers Sia Furler, Mozez and Sophie Barker along with dreamy instrumentals made this album the essential ‘chill pill’. Plus, the song “Distractions” put Zero 7 on the map when it became part of the HBO series Six Feet Under soundtrack.
Their second album, When It Falls was released in 2004. Among the returning artists were Sia Furler, Sophie Barker and Mozez - their breathy harmonies created cinematic soundscapes reminiscent of big screen music from eras past. With so many guest performers one can only wonder what a live performance would entail. Apparently, anywhere from 11 to 20 people can appear on the stage. A daunting task, indeed.