Having just released 'Telephone', their second single off the upcoming album 'Life & Livin' It', Sinkane band member Ahmed Gallab shares some personal insights into band life, his music, living in New York and everything in between.
You've got WOMADelaide coming up in March which is exciting, what're you most looking forward to about performing as part of this Festival?
I'm just really excited to come back to Australia, it's been a couple of years and every time we go we have such a warm response from people and it's just really fun to connect with the folks down there. We have a bigger band now, we've added two new members, so the show is a little bit more exciting I think. We're excited to introduce them to all of you guys.
How do you normally spend your time in between tours?
This is the first year that I haven't really toured that often, I've stayed in New York and really just got to know the city a little bit better. It was a lot of fun. I went out to eat a lot, and still played a lot of music. New York is the sort of place that makes it very easy for you to stay busy.
You recently released your second single, 'Telephone', from your upcoming album 'Life & Livin' It' - are you happy with how it's been received?
Yeah absolutely! It's been really fun. The whole album, and everything with the album has been really great. We've had a good time with everything and I'm just so happy with it, I'm excited to get out there and play now.
The album cover for 'Life & Livin' It' is quite simplistic, but at the same time has a lot of elements to it - can you tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind its aesthetic?
Yeah, sure! I was talking to my drummer Jason Trammell and he had the idea for an album cover where I’m sitting in a kind of beach environment, or like a tropical environment, but it's not an actual beach. And I thought that was really great. We reference Neil Young’s 'On the Beach' and Bob Dylan’s 'Basement Tapes'. I also wanted to do a ‘Where’s Waldo’ kind of thing where I’m sitting in this seemingly tropical environment, but in my friend’s backyard, and these things all around me correspond to my life and the album - so like, the drill machine is something that I use on the album a lot, the Cleveland little figurine is the mascot of my favourite baseball team in the United States, and the Used Kids bag is from a record store that I used to frequent while I was in college. So there are lots of of little easter eggs that you can look into, and if you know me or you’re into the music then you’ll pick them up. It’s pretty cool.
Your music is so unique in that it can't be streamlined into one musical genre, what appeals most to you about this creative process?
Well, I think for me it keeps me entertained. I have a lot of influences, and I've traveled a lot - so that allows me to be inspired by a lot of different things. It's exciting because every album I get to explore those influences a bit more, I get to bring them out. It's fun for me because I never know how they're going to come out.
How do you think your multicultural, and subcultural background as a band enriched and taken form in your music?
It's definitely taken form within the band, it's a very multicultural group. There's only one white person in the entire group, and a bunch of black folks and two Asian people in the band now. Everyone comes from different walks of life, from different places in the United States and have grown up in this really interesting and dynamic way. My identity and my experience is showcased by that, and I think that's pretty cool. Again, like I said, I grew up moving around a lot so I got to experience the world differently, and see the ways that people experience the world. That's allowed me to sort of absorb all these great influences, be that musical or in life. That all kind of showcases in the musical mosh-mashing in the album.
A lot of musicians feel like they have a purpose or a statement to make with their music, do you agree with this? And if so, what do you feel yours is?
Every artist has something to say. Willy Nelson said 'you can't make a record if you ain't got nothing to say.' I feel like that's definitely true. For me, music is a very cathartic and therapeutic experience, it allows me to understand myself, my identity, and my place in the world. When I write songs and I work on lyrics, I'm being very vulnerable, open and honest about where I am in the world and what I'm experiencing. Every album that I've made and finished I feel like I've learned more about myself and that's really exciting.
I really like the title of this album because it's really interpretive and you can reach out to a lot of people with it, but what does 'life' and 'living it' mean to you?
Searching and connecting with people; trying to figure out more about who you are. 'Life' and 'living it' for me is touring and connecting with my bandmates, and finding people all around the world who share my experience and becoming friends with them. It's eating good food, and swimming at the beach whenever you get a chance.
I recently read a really uplifting piece you wrote for 'Clash Music' in tribute to the late William Onyeabor, and I'd like to offer my condolences - can you tell me a little bit about his influence on shaping who you are as a musician?
Yeah absolutely! The first time I heard William Onyeabor I was so blown away, because his music was the first that I'd heard that I thought related to my experience. What I mean by that is that it sounded so distinctly African and very much rooted in what African music is, but it also wore this American influence in a really inspired way. I kind of felt like it captured how I was living my life and how I experienced the world; I became so obsessed with his music and understanding it. So when I got the opportunity to play in the Atomic Bomb band I accepted all of the music they gave me to learn, I broke it down, tried to understand it in a very natural way and as I continued to play his music I found myself connecting with it in a very human and honest way. It was just really crazy, and it’s hard for me to explain because it was such a personal experience. I just really enjoyed putting myself into it.
While you’re in Australia in March what is one ‘must do’ thing that you’ve got on your list while you’re in Oz?
There’s a really good Sudanese restaurant in Adelaide called Babanusa that I really want to go to, so I’m going to try and do that. I’ve been scoping this place out for a couple of years now. And if I can, eat as much food as possible, because I know you guys have really great food. And I’ll probably buy like 20 boxes of Tim Tams to bring back home with me.
There’s all different flavoured Tim Tams now, even pineapple and turkish delight flavoured ones that’re really popular at the moment!
My favourite is definitely the double chocolate in the purple packet, so I’ll be stocking up on those!
What does 2017 have in store for Sinkane? What is your ultimate goal for 2017 as a group?
Touring as much as possible, connecting with as many people as possible, and travelling. Just playing out, it’s so much fun to play with my band, they’re my best friends in the world and I really love learning from all of them. We’re just going to take full advantage of any opportunity we get and have a party with as many people as possible.
Check out Sinkane's newest single 'Telephone' just below, and get your tickets for WOMADelaide here!
Header image via Sinkane Facebook