25th November, 2011
'Liberated': LF Meets The Liberators
Written by Imran Mirza
Contemporary funk, soul and afrobeat bands seem to grow by the week. Seriously, it's a long list. But that's genuinely no bad thing at all - it's always great to see new bands and record labels making a mark for themselves and gaining notoriety while bringing something that little bit new to the table, or presenting a fresh spin on the classic funk and soul aesthetic.
But beyond the genre in itself becoming increasingly popular with bands jostling for a position, ‘Australian’ bands in general seem to potentially be at the forefront of countries bursting at the seams with horn-heavy, drum pounding and funky wailing glory. Deep Street Soul, Randa & The Soul Kingdom, Dojo Cuts, The Bamboos, etc all making fantastic names for themselves and representing the Land Down Under, but fresh-faced for 2011, it’s certainly time to add a further name to the list… Enter, The Liberators! Something of a super-group, consisting of musicians from bands including the aforementioned, Dojo Cuts, The Bakery, The Strides and Dr Wasabi, The Liberators’ self-titled debut album is here and surely marks phase one of their plan to storm straight to the head of the pack.
This 10-track release features the band presenting us with their take on 70’s afrobeat and instrumental funk stylings, with a little help from their friends: Joseph ‘JoJo’ Kuo, formerly of Fela Kuti, Papa Wemba and Mory Kante (mentioning just a few from the list of accomplishments), shows up on 'Denga', while - practically our favourite female vocalist who we may have fallen in love with a little bit this year - Roxie Ray (normally found lending her awesomeness as the lead vocalist with Dojo Cuts) shows up on the album's highlight, 'Let It Go'.
Long an advocate for album hardcopies, a real treat to this purchase comes courtesy of the liner notes which feature a great written introduction to the band, as prepared by the lead-vocalist and percussionist for legendary Brooklyn-based musical collective, Antibalas - which is about as big a stamp-of-approval as any emerging band could hope to achieve, especially when he hurls praise like this at you: "The struggle for activists, musicians and people, wherever there is unjust and repression, is now been joined by the voice of The Liberators".
Liberation Frequency meets Nathan Aust – the guitarist and percussionist of this hotly-tipped new band, and it’s our great pleasure to introduce you to The Liberators…
LIBERATION FREQUENCY: The list of afrobeat and funk bands emanating from Australia seems to grow by the year - what's it like coming up in the middle of such a thriving environment?
NATHAN AUST: It's great. The energy and movement is motivating. The sound seems to be getting across to a lot more folk with more and more younger kids appreciating the music and showing up at gigs.
LF: How does The Liberators' sound hold up against other contemporary acts?
NA: I'm not sure to be honest. However, I do think our sound is solid and holds it's ground across the board.
LF: Who have been some strong afrobeat influences for The Liberators?
NA: The Daktaris and Antibalas, Fela, a lot of the Nigerian and Ghanaian High Life and funks sounds from the 60s and 70s, Budos Band, James Brown are some of the main influences that come to mind.
LF: How did you come to the attention of the Record Kicks label?
NA: Through a soul-funk band called Dojo Cuts, featuring Roxie Ray. I was one of the originators of that band. We had a break while Roxie was overseas and I decided to start the Liberators. I sent some demos to Nick, label main man, and it was all go from there. It all happened in under a year. For a little bit of trivia, Ed, the other guitarist in The Liberators, was the original drummer on the first Dojo Cuts recording.
LF: Can you tell us a little about what went into the making of the album?
NA: Originally some of the songs came together from jams between the drummer, Andy, and I. We recruited a bunch of like-minded folk and developed the ideas, usually in a live setting. The recording of the album took place over a weekend. It was done with all band members in the same room, with no overdubs bar two vocal tracks a little bit of extra percussion. We recorded to tape, then bounced it to the digital realm, where I mixed at my makeshift studio at home.
LF: Can you tell us a little about the vocal contributions on the album?
NA: The first vocal track ‘Let It Go’ was done by my close friend and music partner Roxie Ray. The song was just a jam of the guitar part, but we liked the groove, so we kept it. I sent a copy to Roxie, the next day she came over to my house and she recorded her part in one take. ‘Let It Go’ is the second single off the album and can be found at www.recordkicks.com bundled with a non-album track called ‘Crisis Point’.
The second vocal track was done by Jojo Kuo in New York. Jojo had once drummed with Fela and sang on The Daktaris album. Amayo of Antibalas suggested Jojo to me and Ray Lugo of Kokolo Afrobeat Orchestra got Jojo in the studio for us.
The third vocals were recorded live at the same time with the band, in the same room, by Afro Moses. It's was half ad-libbed!
LF: How does the band's music transfer to the stage show?
NA: What you hear on the album is pretty much our live stage sound. We recorded with everyone in one big room. So, the music transfers wonderfully, but we extend songs and push and pull with the audience's reactions. It gets sweaty.
LF: Any plans for a follow-up album and what direction it might go in?
NA: Most definitely. We are just about to get writing now. My thoughts and initial ideas are to just keep developing the sound, do what we do and see what happens. You'll have to wait and see.