Introducing: Space Dolphin
The Sunday Joint has rekindled its links with one of the UK’s biggest and best conservatoires, Leeds College of Music, showcasing its most promising artists and bands every Sunday alongside our headliners.
Space Dolphin are next up. We spoke to Jake Mehew from the band to see what they’re all about before their set supporting Subculture Sage on 3rd March.
How did the band come together?
Space Dolphin came together from a mutual love of all things hip hop and improvisation. We met whilst playing at open jam nights around Leeds. Between the four of us, we all independently wrote lots of music and figured Space Dolphin would be a great way to mobilise some of our production work. Jamie is from Edinburgh, Kieran and Kareem are from Yorkshire and I’m from Nottingham. We all happened to be in Leeds at the right time, love the same music and operate within the same social circles so it makes sense to me that we would inevitably find each other and start to write together. We all lived in close proximity to each other and would hang out at my home studio, making beats and jamming, taking time to experiment with how we perform and what we sound like together. We’ve been together now since 2016 and have grown a lot since our first impromptu jams.
How would you describe your sound?
That’s such a hard question to answer. We try and change our set as much as possible each time we perform, it’s what makes a Space Dolphin show unique. All of us have our favourite musicians and styles that inform our playing and I feel you hear that when we play. Think 90’s boombap beats, jive ass bass, Tom Waits-esque guitar noodling with a sprinkling of Bill Evans for good measure.
Did you have a clear vision of what you wanted to achieve when starting out? How have things developed over time?
At the start of the band, we were just playing for the love of playing with each other and like-minded musicians, having fun driving up and down the U.K. We have always predominantly been an instrumental project, initially because none of us wanted to sing or rap, fronting the band. Ultimately this worked in our favour as we started collaborating with other MC’s and singers in England and Scotland. We’ve worked with Motormouf a lot from Nottingham and you should definitely check his work, he’s my brother from a funky mother and we go way back. We’ve also worked with Phenicia Williams in 2018, hosting our hip hop jam and cypher night More Than Soul. The night saw us play as the house band and work with some of Leeds finest local MC talent. That’s how we met James Barker from Peculiar Dialect, Mairaj from Mairaj and the Family, IC, and many other talented musicians on the Leeds scene. I would name all of the MC’s that come and perform at More Than Soul but there are so many of you. Working in this fashion makes the band line-up modular and gigs are always exciting for us and hopefully for the audience too. We’ve played gigs where we just throw the microphone out into the audience and get everyone involved and engaged in our work. I would say our group visions for our project are longevity in our friendship, social and community engagement and musical liberation, as cliché as the last one sounds.
How has being in Leeds benefitted you as a band? What do you like to do in the city, other than play in your band?
Living in Leeds has been a great experience. There is an abundance of culture in this city, and enough people to do real interesting work and collaborate. The live music scene is great and I try to engage with it as much as I can do whilst not performing. Go and see Ancient Infinity Orchestra’s Sonic Plunge events at Wharf Chambers for some transcendental jazz or SubDub for some heavy riddim. You’ll find me in Jumbo Records on the rare occasion I have a spare £20 for a new record, or in the Oxfam store in Headingley on the rare occasion I have a spare £3 for an old record.
You’re a student at LCoM. What course are you on? Have you enjoyed studying there? What are the most significant things you have learned?
I’m a newbie to LCoM and have just started my MMus course in September. I love studying here and particularly enjoy my lessons with Matthew Bourne. He’s a phenomenal musician and his knowledge of improvisation is profound. I guess studying at Leeds College of Music has opened my eyes to the breadth of musicianship in Leeds and taught me to believe in and persevere with my musical endeavours. We’re always students in life and there are always things to be learnt.
From where does your band take inspiration, both musically or otherwise?
Inspiration comes from anywhere you can find it. At the minute, we’re in the process of swapping out our drum kit entirely and replacing it with my MPC1000. So in this moment, technology is the nexus between our art and inspiration. I try to do other activities that keep me inspired, whether that’s taking photos on my SLR while out on tour or writing songs for close friends and family. I know Kieran enjoys making collage from magazine snippets and I’ve always thought that is a great visual manifestation of the hip hop aesthetic; hip hop is after all about taking source material from its original context and making something unique from it’s reformation.
What’s the best live music performance you have ever seen?
I work for The Music Consortium in the summer, setting up festival stages around England. I help install speaker systems, lighting, music and stage equipment as well as work show calls. I had the privilege of working Wilderness Festival last year and catching Kamasi Washington’s set. Absolutely phenomenal. At the end of Sunday night, we were floating around the arena, looking for things to do as all of the stages were closing for the weekend. I heard some funky tritone substitutions and shredding saxophone from across the field, we walked to check it out and there was Kasami and his band again in a small tent, playing a secret set that we would never have found if I had not followed my ear’s intuition. Kamasi was obviously in the midst of a session with some of the other musicians from the festival and the energy and vibe of the whole performance was electric. Such inspiring stuff.
Since you are playing at Sunday Joint…what would your perfect Sunday consist of?
The clue’s in your question. Jokes aside, coffee and my turntable are definitely involved.