Sound Citizens: let’s Swunk!
Last week, I jumped in a plane and flew to Antigua (an island in the Caribbean, for the geographic morons like me), which is pronounced “Antiga” and not “Antigoua” like some may have wrongly assumed (still me).
I’ll spare you the details of the rum flowing like water, hammocks on deserted white sand beaches and turquoise sea, Caribbean style parties every night and barbecues on every street corner. No, really, it wouldn’t be cool, and we are here to talk about music anyway.
Antigua’s local music, called “socca”, consists of, well… of this:
Wether you like it or not, they are crazy about it over there. There are also obsessed about Bob Marley. No shit, they managed to make me overdose. Some will know what I’m talking about.
The ones you won’t ever get tired of, however, are the very talented, slightly nuts and totally electrifying Sound Citizens.
What is Sound Citizens?
Sound Citizens play swunk, a word coming straight out of the imagination of this multi-faceted band and incidentally the title of their second album, scheduled for May.
Swunk swings, you guessed it. It funks as well, but there’s more to it.
Listening to their first album, Mia (standing for Made In Antigua), makes you tap your foot, move your head and shake your hips in rhythm with the powerful soaring sax melody, laid-back guitar riffs, vigorous drums pace and jazzy piano notes, sometimes accompanied by Tatiana Vaz and Alex Goldhill, the two guest singers. But mostly, you jump from one surprise to another between and within each song, discovering in this manner the many eclectic influences of the band.
That’s what swunk is all about: a perpetual astonishment.
FYI, Mia, released early 2015, was recorded in Antigua by Hani Hechme and the great Steve Jackson, sound engineer of Elton John, Earth Wind and Fire, The Police, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. No less.
The Sound Citizens assertively mix styles, opening the album with the monstrous and utterly funky Groovezilla before juggling with a hip-hop R’n’B’ flow, to which they append their own print (the excellent Will’s a Stranger), and even manage to inject a Pink Floydish psychedelic pop interlude in the mesmerizing Mia.
Their cover of Summertime has become my personal obsession, and I’m getting close to surprising myself by ordering a glass of milk in every bar I step (Got Milk? Definitely worth listening). The lyrics, mainly written by singer-guitarist Josh, tell zany or disturbingly real stories, play with words and cultural references, mingle poetry, humor and melancholy and carry you to the unique world of the band.
From jazz-swing to good old school funk including reggae, ska, pop or blues, the Sound Citizens astonish by their mastery of an infinite panel of musical genres, together with their fine, sharp words.
Keep your eyes wide open and your senses on alert, Groovezilla will swunk you up!
Who are the Sound Citizens?
It’s a group of spare parts scattered across the globe who managed to miraculously find each other and form a colorful funky puzzle on a heavenly island.
In their natural environment, they look like this:
Starting from the left, the man standing in the sea with his black suit and hat is Ché Ferris, the Antiguan frantic paced drummer, mastering tempos changes as if he had fallen into a set of magic drums when he was a kid.
On his right, wearing the indo-psychedelic pattern shirt and never without his sunglasses is Josh Winfield, charismatic singer and talented guitarist, from Antigua as well. When he’s not improvising goose bump-inducing guitar solos, his catchy and resonant voice brilliantly imposes the spoken or sung lyrics he wrote.
In the middle, the stunning British/Spanish influenced keyboardist and singer Amy Banger stands proudly. When you share a first name and headscarf with a soul diva, you’d better have a damn powerful voice and an impressive groove. Good thing the spicy blonde can brag about how she masters both features with style.
Next to Amy, the dude posing as a dreadlocks & tan version of Mr.Clean is Reuben Chandler, the Londoner saxophonist with no reason to be jealous of Charles Miller. In addition to handling the sexiest instrument of the woodwind family with brio, his stage presence is a dangerous threat to the fight against global warming. Leo DiCaprio should be concerned.
Last but not least, coming straight from Sao Paulo, the great Bruno Mestriner on bass! Picture an average bass player, staying in the background, not moving too much, almost amorphous. Got it? Ok, now imagine exactly the opposite. There you go, it’s Bruno. I had genuinely never seen such a fired up bass player before.
Sound Citizens live are dangerously badass
Between the energy deployed by Josh, a beer bottle at his bare feet, Ché’s trance and his unleashed drumsticks, Amy’s fingers strolling furiously on her keyboard and the funny game between Reuben and Bruno, in total symbiosis, ensuring the rest of the show, the experience is intense.
Sound Citizens can play anything. They cover the explosive piece Money from Pink Floyd before moving seamlessly into I Need A Dollar by Aloe Blacc: their medleys are judiciously arranged in a thematic way.
My favorite one was undoubtedly the one dealing with the deadliest rock stars’ flaw of all time: drugs and alcohol. The guiding line of the medley is Rodriguez’ magnificent Sugar Man with his stock of “silver magic ships,” “jumpers”, “coke” and “sweet Mary Jane”. Josh spices things up at each chorus, cleverly turning its last green syllables to every substances, preferably illegal, ever tested by Pete Doherty. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Brown Sugar, Rehab or Cocaine are covered with style, and the 15 minutes of pure adrenaline are concluded with a “Smoke Weed Everyday”, Snoop style. Boom.
I would have gladly immortalized this unforgettable moment with a video, but I was too busy dancing furiously, barefoot with glass of rum in my hand, Antigua style. Sorry.
Sound Citizens playing live is unmissable, and the lucky buggers living on the other side of the Atlantic can enjoy it every Tuesday at Skullduggery. For the others, if I manage to convince the band to come and make us swunk hard in Barcelona, you are all invited to my house and we have a hell of a party. Given that my readership is limited for now to my mother, my best friend and my boyfriend, I am technically not taking any risk.
Mom, if you read this, to listen to the first single of Sound Citizens’ new album super loud on your brand new speakers, you have to click just below, yes, right here, on the small white and orange arrow, nooooooooooo not that one, you made the window disappear now, yes, heeeeere you goooooo, that one. Ok. Breathe. And enjoy, while waiting for more Swunk: