The past few years have been a bit hectic for Juno Award-winning reggae act Bedouin Soundclash. Rife with change, restructuring and progression, the band has undergone some dramatic developments, including the departure of the group’s original drummer Pat Pengelly, the solo debut from singer Jay Malinowski, and the founding of the groups own record label, Pirates Blend records, through which the band released their latest album, Light On The Horizon, in Canada last year to rave reviews. The album will be released in the United States on June 7 through Nat Geo Music.
Produced by King Britt (formerly of Digable Planets), the album dives headfirst into new directions for the band, with sharp staccato horns unearthing an urban soul vibe that for years bubbled beneath the surface of Bedouin Soundclash’s more reggae/ska-based material. But only now, thanks in part to Britt and a new recording location in Philadephia, do the R&B influences truly shine through with space to breathe and rhythm to spare.
Not to mention, the album features a new emphasis on diversified rhythms, evident in the opening track “Mountain Top,” which begins with twanging guitar giving way to flickering, African-influenced rhythms, which dance and leap on skittering rim shots and delicate flourishes. The group’s new drummer, Sekou Lumumba, makes his presence well-known, informing the audience that he didn’t just come in to fill out a few beats for Malinowski and Eon Sinclair, but instead came prepared to shine a new light on Bedouin Soundclash’s reggae-rock fusion.
Bassist Eon Sinclair recently sat down wth The Aquarian to discuss the new album and the myriad changes preceding it’s production and release.
Light On The Horizon was originally released in Canada back in September of 2010, and you’ve already toured the U.S. in support of the album. Does it feel strange at all to be coming back and promoting it as a new release here again?
Not really. Instead of using the same label internationally, we tend to try to look for homes that are more specifically fitting of our style, and sometimes that takes a bit more time and things don’t always line up perfectly. In an ideal world it would be nice to always come through when we have an album ready to go, but at the same time it’s always nice to come and play to fans who are willing to support you.
Could you please discuss how you ended up working with National Geographic Records to release the album in the U.S.?
They had some representatives down at SXSW when we performed there and expressed interest in working with us. Over the course of the year, we just learned more about what they were into and what they wanted to do in terms of our careers.
We’re looking forwad to this really cool opportunity to do something different in music. And the world connections seem to be pretty intriguing for artists like us. It’s been good so far. I’m looking forward to seeing how things develop.
In Canada you released the album on your label, Pirates Blend Records, through which you’ve also been releasing material from Jay Malinowski and various other artists. How has the experience of owning and operating your own label affected the band?
It’s been really great in a lot of ways, but it’s also been a great learning experience and a great growth experience in a lot of ways as well. It’s been great to know we have the ability to find talent that we believe in and help nurture it.
Between balancing ourselves as an act and the various projects we like to put through the label, and learning about the business side of what it takes to run the label and the opportunities that are presented to you when you do that, it’s been a really great process. We’re learning a lot and we’re looking forward to doing a lot more with it as time goes on.
On the topic of the label, just this morning I came across King Britt’s Pirates Blend mixtape, and I have to say it’s fantastic. Can you tell me a bit about how that idea developed?
It was an idea we had discussed amongst ourselves wanting to put together a mix tape to promote our last tour. We had a good experience working with King and learned that he wanted to get involved in our project. We asked if he’d be willing to mix it and he said sure. We co-opted some songs from our friends and people who we respected in music who were related to the tour. We took them all down to King in Philly and he just took a couple days and put it together and mixed it and did some overdubbing and other interesting things. He killed it. It’s awesome. Hopefully we’ll get to do more stuff with him.
The rhythms you guys employ on this album sound much different, almost more akin to funk or afrobeat than reggae/ska. Would you credit this mostly to your new drummer, Sekou Lumumba?
Definitely. Our past records leaned a lot more on reggae in a lot ways. With this record, especially with Jay just coming off of his singer-songwriter, folk-based solo project, we wanted to do something that was a little bit different again. We always had inflections of both those genres you mentioned, but on this record we wanted to do a little more with that.
Sekou was an influence in a big way. I definitely agree that there is a different direction. There’s less of the ska/reggae people came to know us for. It’s not gone though.
There were so many changes present in this album: the hiatus, a new drummer and the formation of your new label, just to name a few. Would you characterize this as a new stage of Bedouin Soundclash?
I’d say so. I think we’re always—hopefully—in a constant state of growth or change or motion, but I think we had a lot of big changes happening at once, which I think created an opportunity for something completely new. We’re still the same people. Jay and I are the same people we’ve always been. The things that helped us to create our first bodies of work, those ideas are still there and will probably still be there for years to come. Having a new situation and a new member is leading us in a completely different path as well. It’s definitely a new stage and a new set for us with a new line-up and all that come with it.
Light On The Horizon will be available everywhere in the U.S. on Tuesday, June 7. The band will perform on June 9 at Mercury Lounge in NYC. For more info, visit bedouinsoundclash.com.