We interviewed the wonderfully talented Nubiya (lead vocalist and MC) and Denis Scully (Tenor Sax, and one of the band managers) from Nubiyan Twist, ahead of their performance at Love Supreme festival.
So you just got back from performing in Switzerland yesterday, how long have you been on the road for?
Nubiya: This weekend was a three day weekend, the summer’s started so the weekends are filling up for sure. This was definitely our most exciting weekend, we were like “Oh my God, how are we gonna do it? Are we gonna have to stay up?”, it was like we were planning our first sleepover or something…so this has been our most full on experience so far this year.
Are you attending any other festivals this summer?
Denis: Mainly Europe at the minute now, this is the first summer where we’ll be hitting Europe properly. We did a little mini German tour in February, we did Berlin and Dresden, that went down really well. So this summer we’ve got a lot of the open-air festivals around all over Germany. So in the UK we’ve done Glastonbury, but we’re mainly trying to hit up Europe at the minute and hold out for the bigger ones in the UK now, to try to raise the profile and hold out for the ones we really want to target. Love Supreme was one we’ve wanted for years, it’s only been on the go five years, and it’s brilliant. Every January comes round the booking agents ask “what festivals do you want to hit up?”, Love Supreme was top of the list so we are delighted to be here, and then hit up a load of Europe ones over the next month or two.
How was your Glastonbury?
Nubiya: I loved Glastonbury, it was amazing, because it was the first time that I’d been that I wasn’t in this horrifically stressful situation. The audience was great, I went out there and it was dead as disco, then we went on stage and were like “where have all these people come from?”. It was good, it was Sunday night, everyone just wanted a bit of a dance, we were like last on as well, and it was nice when loads of my riff raff mates from Lewisham turned up.
So you guys are based in Leeds and London, what’s your background and how did you come together?
Nubiya: We met at the Leeds College of Music, all studying different courses, we all hung out together and it was at the end of the course, when all of us were finishing, and we all had this jam. It’s funny because I did not take that first rehearsal seriously at all, like anything was gonna happen. I was just like “yeah we’re just us guys it’s about time isn’t it”. Yeah it was good, thank god, because I think I had nearly lost my faith in music before that time.
You have just released your new single 'Dance Inna London', is there an album to be released soon?
Nubiya: We’ve got a new album in the works.
Denis: Yeah it’s in the making. We don’t want to say soon because you never know how long these things take. We’re starting to write the back of it, we’ve got about four or five brand new tunes written and nearly finished demoing at least. So we’re trying to get that out to labels, see if anyone bites with the demos, and then we’ll kind of have a better idea of where we’re looking at launching. We’re going to be launching a Kickstarter in the next month or two, hopefully that’s basically gonna help fund most of the album, we got a bit of help off PRS which was great, but as you can understand with a ten piece band with an album, it’s a longer project. So keep an eye out for the Kickstarter.
Nubiya: It’s exciting. We’ve worked really hard on the conceptual idea, especially lyrically, this album is going to be our most important piece of work. Emotionally for us as well, it’s a really deep anthology of things that we’ve witnessed and experienced over the years, and things that we wanna help comfort our listeners, so it means a lot. I’m super excited, so Kickstarter – keep an eye out.
So who are your biggest influences?
Denis: For me personally, I grew up and studied jazz in college playing sax, you know all the usual’s like the John Coltrane’s, Sonny Rollins’, Chris Potter’s, but the great thing about having ten people is that we all studied different things. We’ve got some people who did jazz, some people did production, some did it for a few months and packed it in.
Nubiya: Some are classically trained as well.
Denis: Like Tom the MD, he makes everything from dub to jungle to jazz, everything, most things I listen to are jazz but most things other people listen to are so varied, Nubiya’s influenced by a load of other stuff. You’ll hear it in the music, it’s a battle, but it’s a nice battle.
Nubiya: I think we all have jazz in common, but certainly we’ve all had different experiences, like Pilo [Adami] is from Brazil so he bought this very desirable sound with him, he has a lovely voice, and he learnt the congos because he couldn’t be bothered with doing his coursework, which was great, so that’s how he started becoming a percussionist. I’ve got a big dub and reggae background, I started with blues, which then lead me to jazz when I came to meet these guys at LCM. Everybody is so different, Ollie [Cadman] our keys player has been a big dynamic change for what’s happened within our writing, he’s got some crazy ears that boy, very talented.
Denis: Brain bubbles I call them, good brain bubbles.
Nubiya: Almost too many brain bubbles.
Obviously you’re a huge band as it is, but are there any dream collaborations you have?
Denis: At the minute, for the album, we’re trying to get a few people involved. We’re trying to get Sparks involved in a tune, a few of us think he’s one of the best MC’s on the planet. Nubiya’s got a new vocal she’s putting on a track we’ve been playing for a while called ‘Permissions’. The lyrics are very heavily involved around women and pop culture.
Nubiya: To be honest it was a very bitter rant, I was feeling really annoyed, it came from the story of me growing up as a black girl really, but also for anybody who feels irregular against this whole media perspective on what it is supposed to be beautiful. I don’t believe in things like The Kardashians, I don’t believe in all those critics who tell people how they should look, just you be you. I know that I’ve got really long arms, I’m really off balance, I’ve got crazy eyes, I’ve got dark circles all the time just because of pigment or whatever, I could never match that whole thing.
So I think I just felt, you know, that was a bubble up of a whole lifetime’s experience and just being like, actually do you know what, f**k you. I wanted people to feel secure about who they are, because it is so important, especially for young coloured women of any ethnicity, even Caucasian women, they will invert racism to themselves, because they want to change themselves so much. You know every a brown woman wants to have maybe straight hair, or they want to have a weave, or they’ll contour their face up or whatever, and I think that’s sad because I don’t think they know how beautiful they are.
Denis: We were saying with that, we are currently trying to get hold of Akala, just because I think that he’d be someone who has a great voice and is a great commentator on all subjects to do with that, love what he has to say, not only as an artist but also as just a commentator. So we’d love to get him involved on a track like that, especially with something that’s got such a meaning to Nubiya, it would be great to have someone else on it like that. I suppose in terms of other collaborations, like I said you’ve only got two of us here, we can already list 20 feckin’ people when there aren’t even ten of us. Basically half of the line-up here at Love Supreme at least, if you said we were collaborating with anyone here I’d say we’d bite your hand off.
Nubiya: But for now, hi Herbie [Hancock], my names Nubiya, come and give us a shout.