London six-piece Cable Street Collective has expanded from the trio of Tristan Kennedy, Ashley Underwood and Fiona Jane to add DJ and producer Dan Cat, Sam McEvoy on percussion and bassist Aaron Gregory Brown, son of Afrobeat bassist Greg Kofi Brown. Their new EP Where Now From Here? fuses African-influenced guitar sounds and rhythms, pop and western-style indie rock melodies. We found out more.
Despite the upbeat music, the lyrics touch on things like anxiety, depression, the nasty side-effects of social media… but the last song is more cheery, so you know, all’s well that ends well.
First up, tell us bit about yourselves - what led you all to forming Cable Street Collective?
We all loved playing music and realised together we’d be more than the sum of our parts.
Who did your take inspiration from?
It’s such a mixed bag. Loads of African artists (two of the original members grew up in Swaziland & Malawi) like Loketo and Stimela and stuff, but also people like Radiohead, Tune Yards, that kind of thing.
Why the name ‘Cable Street Collective’?
It’s quite a lengthy explanation, but if you Google “The Battle of Cable Street,” that explains some of it - we started out practising in a warehouse space on the street where two of the band lived at the time, and we thought the history of the place was pretty cool. And then “collective” cos there’s always been a lot of us, haha.
How would you describe your musical style?
That’s always a tricky one. How about: “The bastard lovechild of Kate Nash and Kanda Bongo Man?”
What do fans get at your live shows?
An excuse to bounce around like idiots. At a given point in the set we always hand out rave horns and whistles, which always helps get the party started.
You’ve played Bestival, Secret Garden Party, The Isle of Wight Festival, Boomtown Fair and the Lake of Stars Festival in Malawi. What have been the highlights from these big shows?
Lake of Stars was amazing - it’s on this beach on the shores of Lake Malawi and a couple of local kids spontaneously jumped on stage and started dancing with Fi. They got a huge cheer, the crowd loved it. Secret Garden Party was always a favourite too.
Last year we were on at about midnight, and we had this guest sax player who turned up so late security wouldn’t let him in. He was ringing us as we were playing to apologise, but eventually he managed to convince them of his credentials and arrived totally flustered halfway through the set. He got a massive cheer as he got on stage though and then ripped into this big solo - the place went off.
Your latest EP is ‘Where Now From Here?’. What’s it about?
It’s about lots of things, a lot of them fairly dark. Despite the upbeat music, the lyrics touch on things like anxiety, depression, the nasty side-effects of social media… but the last song is more cheery, so you know, all’s well that ends well.
When did you write it and where did you record it?
Most of the tunes were written towards the tail end of 2016 but we didn’t start recording them til after last summer. We wanted to road test them a bit first. We tracked the instruments in Dan’s studio in Hackney with an engineer called Steve Ellis, and then went to Auburn Jam Studios in Wimbledon to record vocals and produce the record. Joe, who runs Auburn Jam, is quite literally a production genius. We’ve worked with him a few times now and he brings so much to the music.
Talk us through each of the tracks on the EP.
‘So We Go’ is probably the best example of the upbeat music/dark lyrics thing. It’s about panic attacks and anxiety, and feeling like you’re being pulled every which way by the modern world. The video we made for it kind of nails that I think!
‘Wonderland’ is about a relationship, and how getting swept up in it can leave you feeling not quite yourself - and then a bit all over the place when it ends.
‘Anyway’ has this catchy earworm of a vocal melody, but the lyrics are again about things coming to an end. This one was actually started a bit before the others, and was inspired (at least initially) by a time when the band felt like it was falling apart.
‘Nobody Smokes Any More’ is about growing up a bit. As Fi says, all of us are a bit older these days (especially Dan) and none of us are the last to leave a party any more (except for Dan).
‘The Very Best’ was inspired by a sunny day at Glastonbury watching the band of the same name (a Malawian-Swedish duo, they’re awesome) and generally having an amazing time. It was the end of this fairly dark period which inspired the lyrics on ‘So We Go’, so it kind of makes a nice closer. It’s like “phew, right, where now from here?”
Do you have a favourite?
It changes every few weeks, haha. You can easily listen to one track too much and get sick of it, specially when you’re working on them. I’d say to play, probably ‘Nobody Smokes Any More’ is most of the band’s favourite cos of that crazy 8/10 outro. At the moment though, I’m listening to ‘Anyway’ the most - the build up is really atmospheric.
How does ‘Where Now From Here?’ build on your style?
It’s definitely more electronic than our previous stuff - programmed beats plus live percussion (instead of totally live drums) and more synths than the last EP for sure. I think we’ve got better at making the music serve the song too, we’re not trying to go in all guitars blazing all the time.
What are your hopes for the EP?
That it will sell millions and make us rich beyond our wildest dreams? Nah, I think we’ve been pretty stoked on the response so far. I guess we’d like it to open up a few more doors - that’s the other meaning of the title actually. Like where now from here for the band?
Do you have more music to be released this year?
We’re working on a couple of things at the moment, so nothing set in stone but watch this space!
Where can we see you live in 2018?
We’re playing festivals all over the UK this summer - have a look at our website for the details.
Finally, if you could wish for one thing to happen to the band this year, what would it be?
Michael Eavis miraculously decides he is going to do Glastonbury after all, and we get the call to headline the Pyramid Stage. Short of that, if we got some new music out later this year that would be pretty cool. Oh, and if we could find a way to stop Ash playing Travis covers to wind us up during soundcheck…
Watch the video for ‘So We Go’ on YouTube below. For news and tour dates go to cablestreetcollective.co.uk.