Red Snapper | Interview

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It will be very sweaty and passionate… we can’t wait.

Red Snapper have been incredibly busy over the last few years; we catch up with them ahead of the Bristol ‘Hyena’ album launch show, at The Louisiana later this month. 

So this album has been very much informed by your last piece of work, re-soundtracking the first African independent film — the 70’s Senegalese cult movie Touki Bouki. What sorts of things did you learn there that you wanted to carry onto ‘Hyena’?

Doing the soundtrack was a chance to expand the range of instruments that we use, to some degree to reflect the West African textures of the film but also to stretch the dynamics of our sound. Having rehearsed and performed the soundtrack many times we were aware of tracks and sections that would work as album tracks.

One of things we learnt from doing the film was the importance of precise edits, changes of mood and being really tight live. I think through the writing process we learnt that after all these years we are still discovering things about how we work together as musicians and how to push each other.

Did many sections of music make it from one project to the other, or is the album all new arrangements?

Most of the material is there in one shape or another, the tracks have been expanded and given more structure. We were worried that if not the album could be perceived as a bit meandering or vague. Playing live to a film you would expect the audience to be focused on the film with the soundtrack as a backdrop. We had to reverse this perception for the album, making the tracks more succinct and focused. I hope we have achieved that!

What inspired you do undertake the film project in the first place?

We were looking at a film project to undertake, we have all worked on TV and film projects as individuals and as a band but never really in a situation that we can control. We looked at Russian and Eastern European cinema but we didn’t feel that was the direction we wanted to go in musically.

As a bit of a world cinema bore I was aware of Mambety and it seemed to make sense to go for Touki Bouki as the message is still relevant today – African people trying to escape their homeland for the superficial riches of Europe. At the time we were unaware that Scorsese and the World Cinema Foundation were involved. We love the humour in the film, it is essentially a psychedelic African road movie – it doesn’t get much better than that!

How does it feel to be back in a more ‘band’ performance situation after touring a movie soundtrack for a year?

A lot more fun! We were surprised by how tiring it was performing to the film, watching on small screens on stage and having to get every edit spot on. I think at the time we felt a little self conscious, we purposefully left a lot of space in the film for dialogue and some of the original music so of course there were times when we were stood still, not playing. That’s fine if you’re in an orchestra pit but if you’re on a stage people expect you to be tearing it up! Its great having played the soundtrack for a year to be now playing the new album tracks live, we feel very tight and its great fun.

And of course amidst these new live dates is a show at The Louisiana on 19th September, looking forward to playing Bristol? What can we expect?

Red Snapper have always loved Bristol, I remember a top night in the late 90’s when we sold out Thekla. I lived there for a few years and ran a night at Cozies. Bristol is a true original in the way that Berlin and Amsterdam is. Lovely people and lovely vibe. It will be very sweaty and passionate, one third new album material, one third tracks from the last 10 years (Key, Pale Blue Dot) and one third smashers from back in the day. We can’t wait.

Check out a special version of ‘Village Tap’ right here: