Life lessons and musical bonhomie with Dave Okumu...

Sometimes it's good to keep things local. The Invisible have long been based in South East London, three friends whose careers in music have run together in unceasing parallel. Apart, they've worked with everyone from Jessie Ware to Adele, Rosie Lowe to Lana Del Ray – but in spite of all this, there's some special spark that is only created when they're together.

Dave Okumu is strolling through a churchyard in Lewisham when he takes our call, a place of gentle peace and sanctuary in London's SE postcode. “We're pretty ensconced with one another,” he admits. “It's brilliant now because we're all in a sort of righteous triangle in South East London. In fact Leo (Taylor, drums) just moved in directly opposite me, so I can see him everyday... even if he doesn't want me to! We're very much involved in each other's lives, even if we're busy doing other projects.”

“They're sort of like my best friends, so it starts to feel a bit wrong if we haven't spoken for a little while. No matter how busy things get.”

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The past few years have undoubtedly been busy. Blessed with success, Dave Okumu has also been cursed with tragedy: first his mother died, and then he almost died onstage in Nigeria. Those incidents surrounded second album 'Rispah', a record that was quite stunning in its emotional impact. Follow up 'Patience' is out now on Ninja Tune, and it's a playful return, one that seems to delight in music, in the pleasures that life can offer. “It's about the big picture, and that's there in the title of the album,” he explains. “In a way, if I had to distil what this record represents to me, it's showing the next stage in our process. Which is what a record does. But for me, having been through two hugely traumatic events, which could have literally finished me off for good... it was a completely defining moment in my life, as I'm sure anyone can appreciate.”

“It's not about trying to suppress those things, or escape them either,” he says, pausing to collect his thoughts. “I really believe that we're here because we passed through those things together, as a band, we are in the landscape that we are now and we're still connected to those things. And we chose to confront those things head on, and explore them and express them as honestly as we could with the tools that we have, and it's brought us to a new place and that's taken quite a lot of time.”

“It's taken four years to release another record, and to have a body of work together. And those four years have been really rich, and there have been a number of wonderful experiences in that time. We've had some amazing experiences. But it's made me think about process, and about the big picture.”

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It's made me think about process, and about the big picture.

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Feeling the need to try something new before focussing on the group's third album, Dave Okumu flew out to Los Angeles. The city had never held much attraction before, as he readily admits, but this time – for whatever reason – it seemed to flower, to open up to him. “We were on tour with Jessie Ware, basically, where we opened for her and then played on her set,” he recalls. “We ended up in California, and it suddenly dawned on me that's what I needed to do.”

“It seemed like a very obvious thing but basically, when I go to America my Inbox of emails is halved. I feel like I have a lot more space. So I had a chat with my manager, and we thought: let's see what happens, let's go out there.”

“And I guess, when I went away to California I wrote a lot of music, and made lots of demos, and I really enjoyed that process,” he continues. “It was like being in a playground and having lots of toys, just getting to know myself again as a writer, making my own music.”

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Returning to England with a series of ideas, sketches, and in some cases entire songs, Dave Okumu then re-convened with his band mates, Tom Herbert and Leo Taylor. “That's a really complicated process, in some ways, because it could potentially be alienating if someone just goes off on their own, and tries to shoehorn that back into something else,” he insists. “But luckily, because we're really connected as human beings, that's not the case, we talk a lot, we communicate a lot. We've shared a lot of very significant experiences, so the language slots into place, and the references slot into place. And we find that kind of joint understanding. That happens in the studio and it happens outside the studio as well.”

The close bond between these musicians means that, even when separated by the Atlantic ocean, they seem to be travelling similar paths. “It's a much more multi-dimensional conversation that's going on all the time,” the singer muses. “Actually, it's just the real litmus test for me, just the fabric of our friendship. There is that sense that things do make sense. If you open a certain door, and you're actually being as truthful as you can, and you're really trying to explore something... I find with those two that it tends to kind of resonate. And vice versa.”

The result is a real treasure. 'Patience' is a warm, inviting, continually playful record, one that delights both in the process of making music and of the art, the inspiration itself. It's driven by Dave Okumu – who also claims a production credit on 'Patience' – but it feels very much like a group endeavour. “I think really what makes a band is a sense of joint ownership. And that's why there's such complex, and fascinating things, really.”

“I know is that as soon as I bring an idea to Tom and Leo it becomes something different with their input. I value that very deeply and I guess that's what a band represents, really. There's a real sense that the music belongs to the three of us, and that doesn't mean that we all have to do exactly the same thing on it. Sometimes it's just about someone being present, really, as much as anything else.”

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There's a real sense that the music belongs to the three of us...

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There's a sense during our conversation that Dave Okumu is something who cherishes the little moments in life, but is also unafraid to go a little deeper. The press release announcing 'Patience' contained a quote from the Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, about watching the Earth revolve and revealing its scars. “I find it like a really comforting and warm challenge,” he explains, “to warp my perception of time and space, and the passing of time, and going through traumatic things and what that can yield. So that's why I chose that quote. It really resonated with me.”

“It's the relationship between transience and permanence,” he continues. “So it's like, emotions are transient, but emotions can be so intense and feel so all-consuming. There are events that are significant... like, I know the sense of absence and loss that I feel from my mother's death won't ever leave me. And it shouldn't, it's an atmosphere that will stay in my core until the day I die. So there's this sense of this eternal bigness of everything, and also the transient. Being able to reconcile those two things requires a degree of patience, and trust, and faith in a bigger picture. So that's why those words – as old school as they may be – will always be really significant, and helpful to me.”

Statements like this – hell, even emotions like this – often fall flat in the hands of artists, with jaded audiences perhaps used to saccharine motifs, less heartfelt stirrings. But everything with Dave Okumu comes from the heart. And everything from The Invisible comes from the heart – three hearts, intertwined, and the beats are worth exploring.

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'Patience' is out now.

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