Sunday, 24 June 2012

Busy, busy (lazy, lazy)

It has been a busy few weeks for me - big changes at work (boring); my splendid girlfriend, who in these pages will be known as Tinkerbell, finished her degree and moved to London (I dragged a suitcase bigger than me across most of West London); I organised and captained a cricket match (we lost), and at the same weekend introduced Tinkerbell to my parents for the first time (We are all off to Italy together next month, so was a big deal); and I have been to the races at Royal Ascot, taking advantage of a Royal Enclosure pass to have a lovely 'posh' [hate that word] day out.

So it may surprise you to know that in amongst all of this I have also managed to find time to get a couple of lovely bits together for the blog.

I had intended to post a review of the Parov Stelar gig, and the subsequent after-party. I am not going to for these reasons: 1 - words would not do it justice, 2. I danced so hard and sweated so much that by the end of the gig my shirt was as damp as if I had been swimming. Suffice to say that Koko is a great venue, and that if Caravan Palace are anything like as good when they play there on November 21st 2012 (5 days before my birthday, in case you are interested) then we have a lot to look forward to. In case you didn't make it to the gig (where were you?!) here is a clip:

There is plenty more between now and then - soonest, the birth of another new electro-swing night in London. This one in my manor - Shepherds Bush. The event is called Swingkick @ Ginglik and takes place this coming Saturday 30th June. Last Friday I went to meet the promoter Tanya at the venue as she was setting up for her monthly Balkan Beats night Balkankan. We had a really interesting chat about the scene, and how she ended up setting up Swingkick.

As one might expect, her love for the music came out of this night - there is plenty of cross-over between the two genres, but you don't need me to tell you that. Having been born in Dalmatia in Croatia, she has moved backwards and forwards between London and the continent for 20 years, and from the way she speaks I get the impression that Balkan music forms a very important part of her identity. She arrived at electro-swing in a very similar manner to me - surfing Soundcloud (I love that phrase) and YouTube.

She is certainly passionate about the music - like so many promoters her nights are labours of love rather than money-spinners: Tanya works a day job too. She told me that she runs the nights all by herself, and with the sole aim to bring the music she and her guest DJs play to as many people as possible.

With this in mind, Swingkick will be a more relaxed night than many of the others around town - there is no dress code in order to make the night a little more accessible to new-comers. The performers will be Tanya herself, under her alias DJ Shefitza; a swingstep/dubstep/breaks duo called MustDash from the West Country, who's back2back style is quite unlike any other in the scene that I have come across; DJ Jackiweb, a purveyor of funky, breaky swing; and, perhaps most excitingly, the Swingrowers performing with a new live band.

The Swingrowers are a growing presence on the scene - recently signed to Freshly Squeezed and fresh from warming the crowd up at Koko for Parov Stelar, so for this reason, I though you lot would like the chance to find out a bit more about them. By the miracles of modern communications technology (email), I was able to conduct a wee interview with the gorgeous and talented singer Loredana Grimaudo. Rather weirdly, my questions were in English, her answers in Italian, and I have subsequently translated them (I knew my Italian degree would be useful one day), so apologies if it is a little clunky in places - here is the interview:

The Swingrowers supported Parov Stelar a couple of weeks ago - what was it like to share a stage with the man many consider the godfather of electroswing?

It was great occasion and a real honour!!! We were really excited and nervous before going out on stage. Koko in London is a great venue. Just going in is enough to feel catapulted into a different era. It was packed with people enjoying our music. Parov Stelar and his band were exceptional! Massive stage presence from all of the band. The singer was extraordinary, a real animal on stage and a really gritty voice. Seeing them play and thinking that we had shared a stage with them made us really proud of ourselves.

That performance was a live show with a band and singer, whereas in the past the Swingrowers have mostly done DJ sets - does this represent a change of direction, or is it a case of adding another string to the bow?

It certainly is a change of direction! The project was born with the idea of two people (Roberto Costa and Loredana Grimaudo) to collaborate to try to achieve something innovative musically in our own country. We never thought that we could ever set foot on the stages of the best clubs in Europe. Now that the project is really coming together, we feel the need to create a proper band. First for the impact that is has on stage, which is certainly better, and then because going on stage without live instruments makes us feel strange, like we are missing something.

Tell us a little about the band members?

Roberto Costa aka Pisk and Loredana had met working on a previous project. Pisk is one of the most active producers on the Palermo electronic music scene, in the dnb genre. With his previous project, “Pisk & Moe” he had taken part in lots of local festivals. Recently he won a contest for best remix.

Loredana has always loved to sing, but has never had a singing lesson. Currently she is also the singer fr the Orchestra Popolare Rosa Parks, a big band very much influenced by Sicilian traditions.

The last arrival is Alessio Costagliola, the manouche guitarist, who in Palermo tours the area with his gypsy/jazz ensemble Zanga Zanga.

And finally the manager Giulio Castronovo who is to all effects part of the project. Thanks you him the Swingrowers have managed to leave the confines of their own country, which offers too little, and invade Europe in just a few months!!

Are you performing at any festivals this summer?

This summer we have already played at Meadowlands in Brighton. On 19th July we are playing at Secret Garden Party!

You recently signed to Freshly Squeezed - how did that come about?

We were lucky! In the right place at the right time. It was an evening when we played at the Book Club in London – our first gig outside Italy, and Chris Tofu noticed us and told his good friend Nick Hollywood about us. We sent a demo and after a few months we signed a contract.

There are new electro-swing nights popping up all over London at the moment - what do you think is behind this?

Electro-swing is really becoming fashionable now! Its a fresh music, and you can’t help but dance to it. The people have also associated it with retro fashion and like to wear the styles of another era. Electro-swing evenings are a real journey back in time.

A lot of electro-swing comes out of Europe - do you see a difference in the music made on the continent when compared to that that originates in the UK?

The many styles of electro-swing are very diverse. But we don’t think this is a fact linked to geography, its down to the individual artist. Each electro-swing band has its own different style from the others independent of their origins. Of course the place you grew up in will influence you in lots of choices, for example out ‘Sicilianness’ and the fact that we have strong ties to our origins has led us to make a track in Sicilian dialect “Senza Ciatu”. In general though, we would say that music from the UK is more ‘’bouncy’’.

 How does the London electro-swing scene compare to the Italian one?

The difference is enormous. As you said before, London is full of electroswing nights. Italy isn’t. This breath of fresh air has not yet arrived with us. Only in the north is is beginning to pick up a bit, one is beginning to hear people talking more often about electro-swing parties. In Sicily we organise them ourselves. We have just had the second edition of our electro-swing party, with juggling acts, burlesque, live music from great musicians from Palermo and obviously the Swingrowers.

What can we expect from you guys on the 30th at Swingkick at Ginglik?

We are ready! We are pumped! We will entertain you with our ‘strange’ English. But above all you can expect lots of grit and energy on stage. The crowd will like that!

Here is a taster of what to expect from them:

So, all in all, it looks like it should be a good night. I have not had a good thrash on the dancefloor since Parov, so I am very excited. I am currently finalising the details of a Swingkick related competition - watch this space - follow the blog so that you receive an update when I have the details!