Q&A: Backbeat Soundsystem
The next act to join us at the Sunday Joint is Backbeat Soundsystem, one of the country’s most beloved dub outfit coming straight out of the unlikely homeland of Cornwall. We caught up with Dean from the band, following the release of their new Into The Light EP on Easy Star Records, which you can listen to here.
Where did the Backbeat Soundsystem meet? How did you all come together in your current form?
We originally started the band, back in 2008, in Cornwall. We had all been in different projects previously, and came together pretty organically. I just asked a bunch of my mates if they wanted to jam some reggae tunes, and everyone was up for it. Since then we’ve had quite a few guys come and go, but such is the nature of the beast!
In your bio, you explain that the scene preferred sound systems to bands. What does a band bring that another medium can’t?
I think first off, watching a band, is exactly that. You are watching a bunch of musicians on stage, creating sounds in that exact moment. It is creation before your very eyes. You get to see the personalities behind the music. You get to see the musicians interact with each other, and have fun on stage, and it sucks you in. It creates a much more vivid, personal connection than just listening to music alone can ever do.
Your music is ‘made with movement in mind’. Can you pinpoint the moment when you realised that this was what music should be about?
I think it must have been my early 20’s actually. Before then, i was definitely into my heavy music, and generally feeling pretty teenage angsty! I started going out to raves, and dance nights with my friends, and instantly saw how much fun it was to just let go and dance. It’s primal and it’s ingrained in us all, so this was definitely a bit of a turning point i think. After that i actually kinda stumbled onto reggae. I’m not even really sure why i decided to have a go at writing reggae in the first place, but as soon as i did, it resonated with me on a deep level, and everything just seemed to make sense. It combined my love of melody & songwriting, with music that is instantly danceable, and with such heavy groove and bass. Perfect!
How did you spend the summer? Did you go to any festivals or carnivals?
We actually had a bit of a quiet one on the festy front this year, as we were concentrating on getting our new recording finished, but we did do a few, with Boomtown definitely being the highlight! There really is no where else like Boomtown Fair! The amount of work that goes into the set design at the festival is beyond belief. Combine that with the biggest Reggae & Dub lineup anywhere in the UK, and your set for a pretty awesome weekend! Big vibes!
Anyone who went to a carnival in summer will be aware of the ubiquity of sound systems. Do you think sound system culture will ever lose its relevance? Why do you think it is so important?
I don’t think it will. People will always need community, and something to bring them together. People will always need to dance there troubles away, or celebrate their lives, and Soundsystems deliver on all fronts! Also, there really is nothing like standing in front of a massive dub rig, and getting kicked in the chest by bass!
You say you draw musical influences from all over the world. Other than Jamaican sounds, where else are you interested in?
I’m kinda interested in a lot of stuff really. I’d say mainly a lot of funk, chilled electronic stuff & 90’s hiphop!
How did you come to be interested in this music coming from Cornwall? What is the live music and club scene like there?
I think i became interested in Reggae, kind of through the dance scene as i mentioned earlier, but also just pretty much by accident. There was never any plan, really. I had written a few songs on my computer, and wanted to play them with some friends, and now here we are!! There actually isn’t really any kind of live music scene in Cornwall, unfortunately. When i was growing up as a kid, there used to be a lot of bands playing in pubs and bars all over. I used to play in metal bands, and there was a good scene, but slowly, all the pubs stopped putting music on. The promoters disappeared, and bars got turned into generic chains! This sadly seems to be a pandemic that is spreading right the way across the UK. People need to recognise, that these smaller, independent places, like yourselves, are the places that nurture talent and creativity. They give people a platform, and once you take away the smaller places, it’s a lot harder for people to get started on this journey.
Tell us a bit about your new release that came out this week. How did you come to be signed to US label Easy Star?
From the inception of the record, we wanted it to be a deeper and more experimental project. We wanted it to feel more mature and refined; more musical. I think it really pushes the boundaries of what you can do within the reggae genre. We never want to just recreate what has come before us; we want to do something new and exciting, and i think this collection of tunes is definitely going to give people something to think about. We came to join the Easy Star family, initially through touring with the Easy Star All Stars, back in, i think 2010. After that, we stayed in touch with the band, and started up conversations with Easy Star once we began writing for our album Together Not Apart. Eric & Lem over at Easy Star were really into our stuff, and i guess we were just in the right place, at the right time! It really is a blessing to be part of the Easy Star family. They’re all such passionate music lovers, and really treat us like family, so we couldn’t be happier!
You’ve been releasing music since 2009. Has your approach changed in any way?
Initially, i would pretty much write all the instrumentation and structure on my computer, and then take the songs to the band, as basically finished tunes. Whilst this worked at the time, on ‘Into The Light’, we wrote a lot more organically. I had basic ideas for tunes demoed, but had left a lot more room for us to experiment in the room. I think we’ve ended up with something that is our most natural and musical work to date.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Right now Little Dragon. Also on heavy rotation have been: Resonators – Imaginary People, Submotion Orchestra – Alium, Tame Impala – Currents. John Browns Body – Fireflies.
In three words, what can we expect from your show at HiFi this Sunday 16th October?
Energy, Bass, Dancing!