Influenced by the work of late-period Roxy Music, a slick brand of jazz-inflected adult pop emerged in the UK during the mid-80s, retrospectively dubbed ‘sophisto-pop’.
Amongst the top acts on any list of quintessentially 80s sophisto-pop acts, you will always find British boy band, Curiosity Killed the Cat. A large part of the band’s success was due to the soulful voice of baby-faced frontman, Ben Volpeliere-Pierrot.
Now, fans and festival-goers alike attending this year’s 20th celebration of ‘Africa’s Grandest Gathering’ will get to witness the genius of Ben Volpeliere-Pierrot, when he performs at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF), taking place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on 29 and 30 March.
Formed in 1984 by a charismatic, then 19-year-old Volpeliere-Pierrot and three friends, the band was first offered studio time by Eric Clapton, who was a family friend. Following their debut gig at London’s Embassy Club, the group began playing the lively club circuit around London. With their bluesy, jazzy and funky pop sound, they quickly built a strong following and grew in popularity.
In 1985 they signed with Mercury, and began recording their first album. The following year, the band found fame with the video for their single Misfit, filmed in New York City and directed by and co-starring the genius of Andy Warhol, who sadly passed away two years later.
At its peak, the band was huge, wooing audiences with hit singles such as Down To Earth, Misfit, and Ordinary Day, from their No. 1 debut album, “Keep Your Distance”.
This was followed by “Getahead”, with the accompanying hit Name and Number.
The band only released these two albums as Curiosity Killed the Cat before being dropped by Mercury. After shortening their name to Curiosity, and their bass player leaving the band, the remaining three members went on to sign with BMG to record their only album with this label, “Back to Front”, in 1992. Their cover of Johnny
Bristol's Hang On in There, Baby peaked at number three on the charts, before the band then split up.
In 2001, they regrouped for an appearance on a National Lottery midweek show on BBC One. Since then, Volpeliere-Pierrot has performed solo on the nostalgic 80s circuit,again under the name Curiosity Killed the Cat.
In September 2018, a four-CD Curiosity Killed the Cat box set called “Misfits: The Mercury Years 1986-1990” was released. It features newly mastered versions of both the original band’s albums, together with a curated collection of remixes, demos and B-sides.
These days, Volpeliere-Pierrot keeps a relatively low profile. “Being famous is something I didn’t really agree with,” he says. “It’s not that I didn’t like the recognition – it was necessary exposure. It confused me that I was a pin-up. I never saw myself as one – and I never will.”
Of the song-writing process with the band back in the day, he says: “Everyone wrote their own bits. Then we’d all shape the songs, as a proper democracy.”
If he hadn’t followed a career in music, he says he would’ve gone into another creative field. “[But] I’m glad I chose music. It helps you to keep your feet on the ground and keep focussed. It’s work and fun.”
When he’s not performing, Volpeliere-Pierrot indulges in one of his many artistic pursuits, or scuba diving, for which he says: “You have to remain very calm. That’s a skill, remaining calm in this world with all the panic and drama.”
It seems this cool cat has a few lives left in him yet. "I’m a blue-eyed soul with a funky twist,” he says. "I like having a little boogie on stage. It’ll be great to reconnect with old fans in Cape Town, and hopefully, gain some new ones."
CTIJF 2019 will celebrate 20 years of international and local jazz, and is set to take place on 29 and 30 March 2019 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. Tickets for CTIJF 2019 are available exclusively at Computicket.
CTIJF 2019 Weekend Passes will remain the same price as last year: - Weekend Pass: R 1290 - Day Pass: R 850