From University band to global stars, the Canadian trio that is Bedouin Soundclash has been lucky enough to see their brand of rock-tinged reggae filter out to fans worldwide. Mike Barnard caught up with lead singer Jay, drummer Pat and bassist Eon just before their appearance at Brixton Academy to talk touring, Myspace and the late, great Desmond Dekker.
Entering backstage at Brixton Academy is like wandering into a dodgy hotel. There are plenty of door and stairs, but no one seems too keen to give you exact directions as to where to go. After a mistaken wander past a sound check I found the boys relaxing in their dressing room, and Jay complaining that he’d just eaten the worst thing in the world. I never found out what it was, but he seemed a lot more comfortable tucking into a chocolate chip cookie. They think that this is their sixth time in the UK since first coming over for Leeds and Reading last year. They had a headline tour in the New Year before hitting the festivals. Eon is proud to say that the UK is becoming alive to their music: “Every time we come back the crowd is a little bit bigger. We’ve had increasing exposure over the past year so more people are getting access to the music and it’s been reflected in the shows.”
This growth in popularity has been helped along by the use of their track “When The Night Feels My Song” in a certain mobile commercial which led to it being reissued here and entering the top 40. Jay added: “That is foreign to people in America — over there it goes in once, but never comes back.” Their exposure has also been heightened by stations like Radio 1 playing their material. Jay said: “Radio 1 are open to playing a lot of different things. In the States stations don’t play requests.” But press coverage is harder to come by. Jay claims that Bedouin “don’t fit in. We’re not metal so Kerrang! won’t feature us. We’re not indie so NME won’t feature us.” However, they see this as being a good reflection on their fans. Jay added: “People are coming because they’re here for the music, not the hype machine.”
I don’t think there is a band that exemplifies what we’re about because it’s the three of us coming together and wanting to be a team.
So where did Bedouin start? Pat explains, “We all met around five years ago, went to same University in Canada. Jay and Eon were neighbours and started trading records, and started jamming. I met them through a friend and we started playing together. We started doing small tours in the summertime in Canada, and just grew and then we did it full time when we were out of school.” Jay is confident their sound is unique — although they are perhaps generally considered reggae, that is only one way to describe them. Jay added: “I can’t think of any band that sounds like us, I don’t know where it fits. I’ve seen us in the reggae section, seen it in electronic, seen it in rock and pop. I don’t think there is a band that exemplifies what we’re about because it’s the three of us coming together and wanting to be a team.”
Throughout their five years together their music has been adapting, at one point incorporating a little-known temporary fourth member. Jay claims: “We had someone else play a hand drum for about a year. Some people get mad that we don’t ever reference them! We’re proud to be a three piece — you don’t see many three pieces out there.” Eon talked about the changes they’ve been through and are planning: “After the first record Jay brought in a delay pedal to use on the vocals which really opened our sound up a lot. We just got some electronic drums and are looking at expanding what we do musically as well. We’ve already experimented with using keyboard parts so the sound will change a bit but the essence will always be the same because we’re very focused on what we do.”
I can find out who’s dissing me right now and say ‘OK, I’ll find you on Myspace!’
In the new year their latest album, Street Gospels, will be released. It marks the first time a recent recording will be made available to the public as in the past there has been a delay between completion and release. Sounding a Mosaic (Side One Dummy, 2005) is actually four years old while this year’s release of Root Fire (One Side Dummy) in the UK is actually their first recording. Jay stated: “It’s going to be the only up-to-date record we’ve put out as a group. We’re really excited.”
An important part of promoting that album, and any release these days, is through the use of Myspace. Jay explains: “It’s almost received as currency now, how many friends you have. People are like ‘Wow, look how popular you are, you have so many Internet friends.’ When does that ever become a indicator as to how well a band are doing? It’s true, though, because kids are using it.” While Myspace gives them the chance to talk directly with fans and share how they are feeling, Jay jokes: “It’s funny how many people check it, I read Lily Allen checks it everyday. I can find out who’s dissing me right now and say ‘OK, I’ll find you on Myspace!’”
Citing heroes such as Tony Allen and Joe Strummer, Bedouin Soundclash were saddened by the recent death of reggae legend, Desmond Dekker. Jay adds: “He left behind such a legacy — without him there wouldn’t be so many bands. I don’t think The Clash would have been the same, but even bands you wouldn’t expect. It’s a huge loss.” On that reflective moment I had to leave Bedouin Soundclash to prepare for their performance, of which you can read a review here. They certainly made me feel welcome and will no doubt continue their own path that has won them so many fans already. To find out more about the band visit their official website www.bedouinsoundclash.com or their Myspace at www.myspace.com/bedouin.