Bedouin Soundclash Interview

Canadian trio Bedouin Soundclash released one of the finest records of 2005 in ‘Sounding A Mosaic’ – a fresh, addictive hybrid of dub, reggae, rock and ska influences, which spawned something of a radio staple in the single ‘When The Night Feels My Song’.

The band recently toured the UK as part of the Eastpak Antidote Tour – also featuring Gogol Bordello, Danko Jones and Disco Ensemble where Alex Gosman caught up with Jay Malinowski (vocals/guitar) and Eon Sinclair (bass) shortly before a show at London’s Brixton Academy.

How are you guys, and how’s the tour going so far?

Jay: It’s been great so far…this is the fifth date, and I think most of the shows have been sold out – or at least very close. Manchester last night was one of our best shows yet, and tonight we’re hoping we can beat the curse of London being more subdued than everywhere else! [laughs]

Really? Did you get that impression from when you played the Mean Fiddler back in January?

Jay: No, that was a good show, because our fans aren’t generally the type that just stand there and watch…but when we did a show with the Ordinary Boys [in late 2005] in Shepherds Bush, it really wasn’t a good show for us, their fans just weren’t getting into it.

This tour boasts a pretty varied bill, though – have the crowds on this tour been enjoying your sets?

Jay: Yeah, I think especially in the UK, where we’ve played a lot, there seems to be a lot of people coming out to see us play – we do have an advantage here, in that respect. But in genereal, we tend to be the odd band out! We recently toured with Flogging Molly in the States; playing shows in middle America to a bunch of kids that came to see Irish folk-punk music…and because we play reggae, we were up against some stiff odds. But we’ve become used to that, so it doesn’t bother us much.

It should help that I’ve only ever seen this tour advertised as ‘The Eastpak Antidote Tour’ – never as ‘Gogol Bordello plus support’!

Eon: Exactly – no one band is taking the other bands out on tour, each band has had to prove themselves every night. And that was how Eastpak wanted it.

You came over in January for your first proper UK headline tour, and then returned in August to headline the Carling stages at the Reading and Leeds festivals – what else have you been up to this year?

Jay: We toured Canada for a couple of weeks after Reading, then went to the States for about a month…we’ll be on this tour until the end of November, and then we’re gonna take s short break. We spent a lot of time in the States earlier this year too. We’re going to a lot of places for the first time, though – this tour will be our first trip to mainland Europe.

And what was the highlight of 2006 for you?

Jay: Probably winning a Juno award, which is the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy, for ‘Best New Group’ – that was a real benchmark for what we’ve achieved so far. Plus it’s something nice to give to our parents!

I’ve often heard people comparing your music to artists like The Clash, Bob Marley, and Sublime – but are there any others that you think helped make Bedouin Soundclash who you are today?

Eon: Well, Sublime weren’t really much of an influence…although The Clash and the Wailers definitely were. But the fact is that we’re into so much different music, that if I started listing bands, then I couldn’t stop – we draw influence from a lot of different areas.

Jay: I think those bands you mentioned are really just a starting point – it’s not like, with every record we do, we just go back and listen to Bob Marley and try to replicate his sound! We just try to take the best parts of the music we like and put them together in an original way.

So how did you guys originally discover dub, ska and reggae? I ask because people don’t generally think of Canada as a hotbed for that kind of music!

Eon: [laughs] Believe me, Canada isn’t a hotbed, period! But what a lot of people don’t know is that there’s actually a large West Indian population in Canada, so a lot of people do get exposed to that kind of music.

Jay: I got into reggae through listening to electronic and punk music – bands like The Clash, Massive Attack, Asian Dub Foundation – they all used elements of dub and reggae. It’s just where we fit in as people – we take that as our musical base, and add other influences to it. A lot of classic Jamaican reggae artists live around Montreal, or elsewhere in Canada – like Vernon Maytone, who collaborated with us on ‘Money Worries’ [track from ‘Sounding A Mosaic’]

Your next record, ‘Street Gospels’ is released next year – is there anything in particular that you’re doing differently to when you were recording ‘Sounding A Mosaic’?

Jay: I think the new record is far more focused, and more up-to-date than ‘Sounding A Mosaic’ – because we were playing those songs for about two years before we recorded them. So the newer songs are a lot fresher for us, because we’ve hardly played any of them live yet. But yeah, in general, it’s just gonna be a more focused record.

How did you guys and Side One Dummy Records discover each other?

Eon: We played the Toronto date of the Vans Warped Tour back in 2004, and our manager at the time had been involved with the Warped Tour and knew Kevin Lyman, the guy who runs it, and who is also involved with Side One Dummy. He saw our show and really enjoyed it, and from that moment on has been really supportive of us, and it’s all worked out really well.

What are your plans for the near future, after this tour ends?

Jay: Well, after we’re done in Europe, we’ll go home and start writing, to prepare for the last session of the new record. Then we’re gonna go to Japan in January, just for a few shows though, we won’t be doing any major tours early next year.

‘Sounding A Mosaic’ and new single ’12:59 Lullaby’ are out now on Side One Dummy; ‘Street Gospels’ is expected to be released around springtime next year.

Check for more info.

Alex Gosman
[Bottom two photos by Dustin Rabin]