Taking a step back, Tristan Kennedy and Aaron Brown from the Cable Street Collective stop grooving to chat with our writer, Nicole Mendes. Here is what these African-influenced indie pop artists have to say:
OSR: Hi, guys and thanks for chatting with us today. Shall we begin?
TK: Are we sitting comfortably? Yep? Good, fire away.
OSR: The first and a rather cliché question, how did the band come together?
TK: Ash and I played in bands at school. We met Fi at uni when Ash and she got drunk together in freshers week. I remember him being well impressed that she ordered a large kebab on the way home like an absolute lad. Dan, we met through mutual friends, and he actually produced our earliest demos, although he, Sam and Aaron only joined properly more recently. I met Sam and Aaron through the Mozambiquan band I also play with, Nelson & Friends.
OSR: How did you develop the name ‘Cable Street Collective’, and what is the meaning behind it, if any?
TK: When we were starting out we used to practise at a studio down on Cable Street in East London and play at the open mic nights they used to hold there. Then we found out about the street’s past, as the site of the 1936 Battle of Cable Street, where local people stopped Oswald Mosley’s fascists from marching through what was a very Jewish area at the time. We thought that was a pretty cool history to have. ‘Collective’ because there are a lot of us, and we liked the idea of it being a collective endeavour.
OSR: If you had to describe your music in one sentence, what would that sentence be?
TK: Tom Robinson from BBC 6 Music said that our music “grooves like a bastard” which I kind of like.
OSR: Your bassist, Aaron Brown, is the son of Osibisa’s bassist Greg Kofi Brown. The question for Aaron is whether he feels there are certain expectations of him to be like his father?
AB: My father has achieved many great things both in music and outside of music, and continues to do so. So yeah, of course, I feel pressure to make my mark on the world of music and the world at large, but good pressure. I remember being young and he said, “if everyone stuck their head in the toilet, are you gonna do it?” I’ve never been afraid to be myself and do my own thing, but I guess I’ve inherited the insatiable love of music from him.
OSR: For the band, do you feel like you can exploit Aaron’s connections and knowledge of Afrobeat? Lol.
TK: Haha, yes we totally would! We actually haven’t done it that much in all honesty, at least not so far. We should definitely do it more.
OSR: The band has played many different festivals including The Isle of Wight and the Lake of Stars Festival in Malawi. What was your most memorable festival gig to date and why that date?
TK: There was a classic at Secret Garden Party a few years back where it was muddy as hell, and half the festival had left by the Sunday – including our bassist at the time who’d broken his leg. We strong-armed our former percussionist (who was sick on the bass) into playing it so the show could go on, but we still thought it was going to be a washout. When we started playing though, the tent got totally packed out, and it ended up being one of our best festival shows. I think the weather made it better in the end; everyone just thought, “fuck it, let’s get on it”.
OSR: How do you prepare for performances? Also, if you make a mistake during a performance how do you deal with it?
TK: Fi likes to have a wee dram of whiskey to warm up her voice. Otherwise, we usually prepare by cursing as we lug our gear on and off stage. Haha. If we mess up? We try and crack on as best we can – you’d be amazed by how few times the audience notices anything.
OSR: If you had to choose a single African band to perform with, who would it be and why?
TK: Ah, so many to choose from. For me, personally, I’d love to travel back in time and play with Diblo Dibala’s group, Loketo, who made basically the best soukous of the 80s. I’d love to learn some guitar chops from that guy!
OSR: Is it difficult to write music as a six-piece band? The idea that too many cooks spoil the broth or is your songwriting process quite harmonious?
TK: It’s getting more harmonious the longer we play together, either that or we’re just getting older and mellowing out. There have been some serious back-and-forths in the past, but, in general, we find it’s an asset. Crap ideas get weeded out early on, and good ones get improved by having everyone’s input.
OSR: What does your typical day look like?
TK: Well, we all still work day jobs, so it’s pretty varied. When we’re on the road it’s usually driving somewhere, play a show, send it to the moon. We worry about how we’re getting home the following morning.
OSR: How important do you believe your image is?
TK: Hmm, tough question. It’s hard to know. We don’t put pictures of ourselves on the albums or anything, but that’s quite a deliberate choice. I guess we definitely take the artwork and stuff quite seriously – the art on our latest EP, done by Simona Silvestri, is amazing. It’s sort of surrealist, sort of constructivist and apparently inspired by a mixture of African patterns and Pink Floyd.
OSR: How do you get people to take you seriously as a musician?
TK: Haha, you’re best off asking Sam or Aaron that. They’re both serious musicians, but I’m not sure anyone takes me seriously.
OSR: If you could go back in time and speak to yourself as a teenager, what advice would you give yourself?
TK: Practise the guitar more so people will take you seriously as a musician? Haha.
OSR: Lastly, do you have any final words for your fans?
TK: Thanks for being into it! Also, please come and say hi when you see us at shows or festivals. We’re always up for a chat.
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