You’re new album is called Collaborations Volume One – sort of gives it away you’ve got special guests along for the ride. Tell us more about it?
Yes, we have some really incredible collaborators on this record. Everyone from Grammy-winners like Angélique Kidjo to powerful voices on the UK scene like Tom Rogerson, via legends like Bugge Wesseltoft. A real diversity of incredible talent.
So how did the collaborations actually come about? How did you get hold of them? Did you have a hit list of people you wanted to work with? Were some easier to convince/get onboard than others?
Every track has its own story, really. Some, like Angélique and Bugge, I know from working with them, whilst others we reached out to via other musicians who work with them. Once people heard about the concept of the project and checked out our previous work (if they didn’t know it already), most of them were keen to come on board. Then it was just a case of pinning down their diaries, which is no small task! We’re so glad that this album is finally here, as it’s been a long time in the making.
We love the track Netsanet – can you tell us a little bit about that track and the collaboration with Mulatu in particular?
Netsanet has this incredible groove; when I first met Mulatu to discuss the project with him, we talked about various options for tracks, and in the end this was one (of two on the album) that we went for. It’s a tune that’s been in his repertoire for a while, so we wanted to give it our own spin, while respecting the amazing tradition that it comes from. Mulatu was a joy to work with in the studio, and very generous with his time. He’s a legend – he’s worked with everyone from Duke Ellington to Kanye West!
And what was it like having some of these people with you in the studio? Were you just wanting to ask questions all the time? Did any of them work in a way you weren’t used to?
Each track was done quite differently, so we had quite different processes for each, but certainly working with such diverse talent threw up some pretty different ways of working. When we were in the studio with Mulatu, we saved our questions til the end of the session and interviewed him afterwards, which was a real treat.
Who or what gave you the biggest thrill during the recording process?
This album was a long time in the making, so there were various highlights, but hearing the guest contributions for the first time was definitely up there.
When I approached Bugge Wesseltoft about guesting on Snowfire, I had envisaged him adding all sorts of chewy synth madness, but when he decided to do it on piano and I heard the result, I was blown away. Now I can’t hear it any other way! The contrast of the reflective, haunting piano with the driving horns, polyrhythms and electronic wonkiness is just so nicely balanced, and I admire him hugely for having the vision to do it that way rather than what I originally suggested.
As for the tracks, was part of the collaboration the writing of the track? Did you have to work in different ways than you had before?
Again, each track worked differently. Some were written by us then taken to the artist, whereas others were more collaborative from the beginning; in fact, we just asked Tom Rogerson to write us a track, as he knows the band well and we love his writing style. And Crushing Lactic was the result – what a tune! This album is also the first time that the three writers in the band – myself (Steve Pretty), Olly Blackman and Luke Christie – have written a tune together. There’s a lot more of that to come, as we found it a very creative way of working.
The whole inclusion of volume one tends to suggest there might be a volume two? Any sneak peeks on collaborators?
Yes, absolutely! The collaborative project is certainly ongoing, and we have a Volume Two and even Volume Three already in the works. No sneak peaks yet, except to say that it’s looking like Volume Two will have more of a soul and electronic angle, and Volume Three will be a bit rockier. We’ve always loved a really broad range of music, and with this ongoing collaborative project we felt like we should celebrate that range.
What’s next for the band? Busy Summer?
We are touring a bit, including getting back to Glastonbury, which should be a blast, and then in the autumn we’re doing hoping to do our most ambitious show ever!
5th May – Birmingham – Swingamajig Festival
31st May – London – Ronnie Scott’s
17th-19th May – Brighton – Funk Soul weekender
13th June – Bristol – Fleece
14th June – Birmingham – Hare & Hounds
15th June – Nottingham – Rescue Rooms
22nd June – Manchester – Gorilla
23rd June – Nocturne Blenheim – supporting Kylie
6th July – Swansea – Love Trails Festival
23rd August – Alcester – Camper Calling Festival