London-based 7-piece Cable Street Collective took some time to join our Q&A series following the release of their new single, ‘Speaking In Tongue’, featuring Gregg Kofi Brown. Check it out below and let us know what you think below:
How did the band form?
Three of us – Ash, Tris and Fi – went to Nottingham University together and used to play the occasional open mic, usually doing covers. But it wasn’t until later, when we were living in London, that we started to make music more seriously, and started playing the summer festival circuit – Secret Garden Party and Boomtown and so on.
Aaron and Sam joined in 2017, and we put out a second EP which got picked up by BBC 6Music, and various other places – and it just kept growing from there. Matt & Dom on the horns were regular “special guests,” and in the end we just thought “let’s get trumpet & sax in all the time” ‘cos they made it sound so good, and really got the crowd going.
What’s the story behind your name Cable Street Collective?
It’s taken from the Battle of Cable Street, an anti-fascist protest in 1936. The people of the East End banded together to stop Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts from staging a march down Cable Street – he’d chosen the site as a deliberate act of provocation, because it was a working class Jewish area at the time. Danny Dyer does a pretty good job of explaining it succinctly.
We used to rehearse on Cable Street. Two of our members actually lived in a warehouse space in Cable Street Studios, and the first show we played together was at an open mic night they ran in their living room. So it all kind of made sense.
What made you get into music, who were the people around you which influenced you?
There’s so many of us it’s hard to pick just a few, but Sam’s story is great. He grew up on the Shetland Islands and was basically a child fiddle prodigy – by the time he was a teenager he was making pocket money playing on the overnight boats back-and-forth to the mainland. So he has that trad folk influence as a base, and then got really into percussion, and particularly West African percussion, later on.
He used to play (and still does, occasionally) with Musa Mboob and Saidi Kanda. Tristan grew up in Swaziland (now Eswatini) and Malawi, and it was him and his brother (who used to play bass for CSC) persuaded Ash and Fi that this upbeat, Congolese-influenced take on indie was more likely to get the band booked for festivals (and so it proved). Oh, and Gregg Kofi Brown from Osibisa, who features on the new single, is Aaron’s dad.
What’s your relationship like with Gregg Kofi Brown?
A lot of people assume that Gregg’s on the single because Aaron’s in the band, but actually it’s the other way round. Tristan used to play guitar for a Mozambican band in London and Gregg used to dep on bass for them – so it was Gregg who introduced him to Aaron. We were looking for a new bassist at the time, and Aaron obviously had chops for days so it was a perfect match. Gregg’s been a big supporter, as well as an inspiration not just for Aaron, but for the rest of us too.
What was your approach and story behind your latest single, “Speaking in Tongues”
We were messing around with a percussion idea in a rehearsal, and came up with the main guitar riffs and the bass part. Fi had missed that rehearsal for some reason, so it was just an iPhone recording of that idea – a two chord riff. Gregg heard Aaron playing it on his phone, and said: “can you send me that? I’ve got an idea.” He came up with a whole vocal including the chorus line, about speaking in tongues, which was a metaphor for talking at crossed purposes in a relationship. We loved it, but we took it and re-wrote the verse melody and the lyrics to make it a bit more expansive – so it’s not just about personal relationships, it’s about political relationships and the trashing of public trust by politicians too.
If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing?
Well, most of us have day jobs outside of music – so Tristan’s a journalist, Ash works for a start-up, Fi and Sam are tutors, and so on. We’re appreciating that a lot this year, with the complete shutdown of gigging!
Which artist should we be listening out for?
As in other artists? Ah, too many to mention, but we’ve been listening to lots of BCUC, a South African collective, in the past couple of summers, also Rose City Band (by the guy who used to do Wooden Shjips), and loving the stuff that the mysterious group Saults are putting out at the moment.
What’s your relationship like with your current record label? If you aren’t signed, have you been before? Do prefer being independent or signed?
All our stuff has been self-released so far, and to be honest unless it was a major with massive budget to pump into marketing spend, it’s kind of hard to see what a label would offer you these days?
Describe your new single in three words
Be sure to check out the music video to theeir single, Speaking In Tongues, and let us know what you think:
Upbeat. Brassy. Pumping.