Kelis’ band talk gear with Roland

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Last year, Kelis’s triumphant Food Tour ate the planet. All eyes might have been on the New York warrior-princess as she performed lip-smacking hits from 2003’s breakout Milkshake to 2014’s Jerk Ribs, but the setlist each night was driven by her crack seven-piece live band. “Kelis is really cool to work with,” explains musical director and keys man Jay Wilcox. “She’s got a lot of charisma – which compensates for the fact that sometimes she can throw curveballs into the mix and keep us all on our toes!”

There’s more to life on the road than stadiums, spotlights and screaming fans – and Jay knows exactly what it takes to make a tour with a top artist fly. First off, there was the pre-tour prep, which required the lineup to study Kelis’s six-album catalogue. “I was sent the new album early,” Jay tells us, “and I just listened to it over and over again, trying to identify with her intentions. I just lived with it for ages, before I even tried to learn it.”

Next up came the rehearsals, which found the band shifting gears between hip-hop, soul, jazz, dance, R&B and rock. “Kelis is always saying that she’s consistently inconsistent,” laughs Jay. “She’s got quite an extensive and varied back catalogue, so we go through a lot of different genres.”

Finally, there’s the vital importance of choosing the right gear. For any touring musician, keeping the show on the road is the priority, and with Jay’s three-synth setup of Roland Jupiter-80, Fantom G6 and FA-08, drummer Daishun Johnson’s Roland TM-2 trigger module, plus the Roland SPD-SX sample pad used to energise the crowd, the Food backline was good enough to eat. As the band tell us in this exclusive vlog: “It works perfectly for the gig…”