It’s hard for a town to suppress their excitement when a local band that’s risen to fame revisits their old stomping grounds.
Bedouin Soundclash haven’t played Canada often in the last year except for their recent performances in Richmond and Whistler Village during the Olympics. But bassist Eon Sinclair said the crowd is always fun because they know the band’s history.
“Being a band that started [here] and kind of came up within the Queen’s student body community, it feels like there’s extra support for us when we go back, which is really welcoming,” he said.
But after three stellar records and a fourth on its way, Kingston certainly has cause for enthusiasm as Bedouin Soundclash stops in on their world tour to serenade concertgoers with their sweet reggae groove.
Bedouin Soundclash was founded by lead singer Jay Malinowski and bassist Eon Sinclair, along with drummer Pat Pengelly and djembe player Brett Dunlop in 2001 while they were fine arts students at Queen’s. Malinowski and Sinclair lived across from each other on the eighth floor of Waldron Tower.
Almost 10 years later the band’s line-up has changed, with Sekou Lumumba replacing Pengelly on drums. Malinowski has also begun a solo acoustic self-titled side project.
Sinclair said in addition to the makeup of the band, Bedouin’s sound has evolved significantly from their pronounced reggae tone of their first two albums, Root Fire and Sounding a Mosaic.
“In the beginning we started off with drums, bass, guitar and then we had a bongo player. And then coming out of school there was just drums, bass, guitar,” he said. “I think musically we’ve grown a lot more because when I listen back to our earlier recordings, songs that we used to play when we were at school—songs on Root Fire and Sounding a Mosaic—there’s a lot of good songs, but it’s funny now that I’ve been through it a little bit more and I’ve listened to a little bit more music, I can pick out our influences really easily.”
Their latest album Street Gospels, released in 2007, is the closest thing to where the band is right now, Sinclair said. The first two albums strongly reflected the music they were listening to at the time and the band struggled to adapt their musical influences to be unique. But songs like “12:59”—which was featured on the TV show Grey’s Anatomy—and “Heat of the Night” off Street Gospels show the band experimenting with new genres and finding a unique sound.
“We’ve definitely created our own sound I think,” Sinclair said. “And now with this upcoming record that we’re about to record I think it’s the first time that we’re actually going to work within our own sound rather than try to find one.”
Sinclair said the band has also become more sophisticated. Their first album was recorded in 13 hours, as they only had enough money to cover that amount of time. After its success, they had a lot more capital to work with, but still only spent six days in the studio on their next album. Now that they’ve had some practice, their mixing has improved, allowing them to experiment more.
“We knew the elements that we wanted to put into the stew but we weren’t really sure how to cook it. Now we’re getting closer to figuring out how to cook it and make a dish out of it. And I think that’s just gotten better over time and hopefully fans can see a growth between Root Fire, Sounding a Mosaic and Street Gospels,” Sinclair said.
Bedouin is part of an array of bands to spring from the Toronto music scene in the early 2000s, namely indie favourites Metric, Stars and Broken Social Scene.
Sinclair said Toronto is a favourable place for new bands because of its international exposure.
“There’s many different kinds of people living [there]. It’s very ethnocultural in terms of the diversity of the city,” he said. “So you have an opportunity to learn about a lot of different kinds of music and cultures and bring those into your own work as an artist.”
Bedouin’s reggae sound certainly reflects a degree of worldliness. The son of Guyanese parents, Sinclair said he was exposed to reggae a lot growing up, but what drew him and the rest of the band to the genre was its combination of storytelling lyricism and mellow beats.
“The thing about reggae music that I like a lot is that good artists tend to marry a really great story, or a great way of telling a story in a real folk storytellers’ way with a really nice, danceable beat that isn’t really aggressive or isn’t really polarizing to most people,” he said. “And that’s traditionally—in really foundational reggae music—what it’s supposed to do.”
Some of the song lyrics—which are mostly written by Malinowski—are about stories of friends or family, Sinclair said. But others are about things happening in the world or social issues that have inspired them.
“Hush” on Street Gospels, for example, is a spiritual message dedicated to the underground railroad days and the plight of getting out of enslavement.
The band collaborated with several prominent artists on Street Gospels, including Darryl Jenifer of Bad Brains, Money Mark of Beastie Boys and Wade MacNeil of Alexisonfire. In the next year, Sinclair said the band plans to work with Philadelphia-based electronic musician King Britt.
Bedouin have received a great deal of international attention and Sinclair said they enjoy playing in other parts of the world. Japan has been a favourite—Bedouin made Tokyo the backdrop of their video for “12:59.” England is another beloved spot for the band with its well-established two-tone, ska, punk and electronic scenes, Sinclair said. When they played their smash hit “When the Night Feels My Song” at the Leeds Festival in 2006, the audience sang along to the entire song.
“That was definitely a career highlight for sure—a real life highlight,” Sinclair said.
Next weeks show is a benefit concert for Canadian Tire’s JumpStart program, which raises money for community sports organizations. Sinclair said the band is thrilled to be back in town promoting this cause.
“Any charitable organization that works with local community organizations to promote healthy and active living in organized sport and children in communities is really great and it’s great to be supporting that.”
Bedouin Soundclash play Ale House tonight, doors open at 9 p.m. Tickets are $22 and are available at The Brass Pub, Destinations, Sunrise Records and ticketweb.ca
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