It's fair to say Superfood are a very different band now from the group to which we were first introduced back in 2013. The most significant among the changes they have undergone is the shedding of half the band. Drummer Carl Griffin and bassist Emily Baker have departed, leaving just the two lead writers and performers, Dom Ganderton and Ryan Malcolm. They've also left their old label and signed, having completed work on sophomore album 'Bambino', with Dirty Hit Records, home of The 1975, The Japanese House and a whole roster of exciting, young, British talent.
The follow up to 2014's 'Don't Say That' LP, 'Bambino' sees the band – originally considered part of the baggy-indie wave of bands that included Peace and Swim Deep – cut a funkier shape, with singles 'Double Dutch', 'I Can't See', and 'Unstoppable' demonstrating the influence of R&B, dance and ska on their sound. Samples abound, ranging from a Double Dutch tutorial video to a Prince Buster cut on 'Unstoppable', and crowds at their live shows are likely to go wild for upbeat bops, 'Where's The Bass Amp?' and 'Natural Super Soul'.
We caught up with Dom and Ryan before the rowdy London date of their UK tour (alongside fellow Dirty Hit artists Kin Nun and Pale Waves), to talk about how the making of 'Bambino' differed from that of their debut, the crafty way they used sampling on the record, and when we should expect a Superfood jazz album...
...we record a lot of stuff on our phones when we’re out and about. I’ve really enjoyed doing that, so I’m always on the lookout for interesting sounds.
COUP DE MAIN: You’re currently on an 18-date UK tour, but you’re not planning on releasing your album until after a run of festivals in the Summer. Is it important to you that your fans hear your new tracks live first?
DOM GANDERTON: I think if it was up to us, we wish we could’ve put the whole record out and let the people listen to it and live with it for a couple of months before we even started playing shows, because by nature it’s a studio-based album. It wasn’t really written [by] doing live takes as a band. So we wanted people to listen to it and then see how we interpret it live, but I guess it’s the way it’s ended up.
CDM: I read that you thought that this tour would begin a bit “hairy” because it’s been so long since you last played live regularly. Now that you’re on the last few shows, how has it been getting back into that groove over the past couple of weeks?
RYAN MALCOLM: It feels good. The more you tour, the tighter you become. We were practising a lot before we went on tour, so we felt pretty confident, but as soon as you’re on the stage, it’s a completely different environment from being in a rehearsal room and staring at your feet. It just took a while to dust the feathers off, but it feels really good now.
DOM: It started a lot stronger than I thought it was going to, to be honest. The first show was a blessing, the crowd was so good that night. It’s gone really well.
CDM: You’ve been all over England and Scotland over the past two weeks. Has there been a city that you feel has responded particularly well to the new material?
DOM: Bristol last night was amazing. I think they’ve just gone up and up and up. Once we’ve started putting pictures up and people have seen that the tour is happening, I think more and more people have been getting excited about it and coming to the shows. It’s kind of rolled on like that.
CDM: You’ve halved the number of band members since your first record, making you technically just a duo now. Did this personnel change impact the sound of the new record?
DOM: I think so, yeah. It’s always been me and Ryan who write all the music, but because we had a band there, we felt obliged to follow this path where it would be two guitars, a bass amp and a drum-kit. But it’s just been us two there, and that wasn’t always possible, so we’d start making beats and start thinking about it from that angle. So I think it’s definitely changed it, but we knew what we wanted to do, and I think [if] Carl and Emily were still in the band, we’d probably still make this record, I think.
CDM: What music were you listening to that inspired the change in direction on the new album?
DOM: For me, I was just listening to Stereolab loads. I don’t know why, there’s just one album, ‘Dots and Loops’, that I keep going back to. It doesn’t really sound like anything on [our] album, but it was in my head all the time.
RYAN: I’ve been listening to a lot of experimental hip-hop. Producers just messing around. People like Knowledge. I don’t know, I haven’t really been listening to anything other than weird artists.
DOM: And our music! <laughs> I think nine times out of ten, if I’m listening to something in my headphones, it’s a mix of one of our songs.
CDM: I love the sample on ‘Double Dutch’. Could you tell us a little about where it came from and why you wanted to include it in the song? What came first, the sample or the song?
DOM: There were always loads of kids outside of our flat block, and I was inspired by seeing them every day. I think one day we tried to record them out a window. Then it was just in our heads, so we went on the Internet for ages to try to find some kids chanting, and found this Double Dutch instructional video, and it just went from there. That sample came first, and then we made a beat around it. When we came to putting vocals on it, we thought, why not continue this theme of Double Dutch and make a surreal song that was more of a visual thing than a song that had real personal meaning to us.
CDM: I know you’ve used more sampling throughout the rest of the record. Do you find yourself constantly on the lookout for vocal samples to fit the song?
RYAN: Yeah, my phone’s full of weird sounds and things from on a train or whatever. We record a lot of stuff on our phones when we’re out and about. I’ve really enjoyed doing that, so I’m always on the lookout for interesting sounds.
DOM: We’ve actually sampled a few of other people’s songs on the album. When you’re listening to a track and you hear a little part of it and you’re like, actually that could work, then you whip your laptop out and start playing around with it.
CDM: The album artwork is gorgeous. It looks kinda like a brain, kinda like a puzzle, and kinda like candy. What was the idea behind the design of that?
DOM: There’s thirteen tracks on the album, so the original idea was to have thirteen different shapes that fit together like a 3D sculpture that could be taken apart, with each one representing a different song on the album. We sent this idea to Samuel Burgess-Johnson, who’s our creative director, and a guy called Zolloc [Hayden Zezula], an artist, and this is what they came up with. The 'Double Dutch' artwork is just one piece of it: each single is going to show a different piece of the final album artwork. I really want to have it printed out and framed in my room.
HOW I FEEL ABOUT OUR NEW ALBUM...
CDM: After working on a record for three years, how hard is it to hand it over and know that it’s done?
DOM: When we signed to Dirty Hit, they kind of just [told us] the record’s done. We sent them our final mixes, but there were still little bits that were niggling me. But they were just like, it’s done, let’s get it mastered. And that was it.
RYAN: I think it takes that external force to stop you and say, “Right, there’s your deadline, that’s what it is.” It got to the stage where we were just tweaking and changing things that didn’t really have much of an impact to anyone else but ourselves.
CDM: You were given the ‘slacker’ label on your first album. What are your feeling towards that genre or label? Was your change of sound a reaction against that?
RYAN: To be honest, at the start when we first got together, like Dom said earlier, we were just four of us in a room making that kind of music. They were just the first songs we made, so it was just quite natural for us then. And this is exactly the same, it’s natural. We’ve just grown together, we’ve lived together for that many years. We both went through personal things. It’s natural that the first album is just writing without really thinking about anything other than, “We enjoy making music together.” It wasn’t like we thought we need to escape from the [first] record, it just happens.
CDM: You’ve said that the new album jumps around in sound with each track. Is there a genre or sound that you don’t tackle but wish you had?
DOM: I mean… I don’t want to say the ‘J’ word. <laughs> But it was there! With Stereolab, it’s not like jazz, but it’s kind of like bossa nova, samba kind of shit, but I think we’re a bit too young for that still!
CDM: How important is where you write and record to you? Can you just rock up anywhere or does the magic only happen in a certain location?
DOM: I think we can definitely do it anywhere now. That’s what we had to do for the whole album. It was just like, car parks, parks, flats. Anywhere. So yeah, I think we’re well trained. When we had a studio for a day to do the remix [of ‘Double Dutch’], it felt really strange. I can’t wait to get into the rhythm of having a studio again.
CDM: I’ve read that you feel that the recording of ‘Don’t Say That’ was rushed and that affected how happy you were with it. Aside from not simply taking more time, what did you do specifically when making this new record to make sure it would be something you would be completely happy with?
DOM: Listen, and step back from it. Because we had so much time, we could spend a month before revisiting a song, like, this song needs to be slower, or it needs new drums, or the bassline isn’t right, or the vocals are too keen. I think we just had time on our side.
RYAN: Yeah, exactly. We’ve had songs where we’ve revisited them, changed the tempo, changed the parts, rearranged it, and then after about five months been like, “You know what, it’s not working, get rid of it.” Scrapping songs like that, I think it’s essential because you need time. If something settles on you after time and it still feels great, then you know it’s good. But if it doesn’t, it’s definitely not. It can take months for it to settle in and realise whether it’s good or not.
CDM: You’ve talked about how signing to Dirty Hit has allowed your more freedom. How much of an impact does how things are running behind the scenes have an impact on your ability to be creative?
DOM: I think after this tour, because it’s our first tour and we had to put a lot of working into making it sound good ourselves before we got sound guys and stuff in to help-- I think now, we can really actually focus on writing more music and just being creative in that aspect rather than having to think about sending stuff to labels. We’ve got a manager, we’ve got a label now. It’s just like, let’s just fucking do what we’re supposed to do now.
CDM: You’re on this tour with Pale Waves and King Nun, two Dirty Hit signees that are in the beginning stages of their careers. Have you been able to give them any advice about how to navigate that stage, the hype, the industry, or their first album?
DOM: In some ways, they’re ahead of us because they’ve been gigging for the last year or so. But we’re all in the same boat. I’d feel patronising if I was trying to give them any advice at this point. I mean, we’ve taught them how to open a beer bottle with another bottle, and to have a shot of gin before you go onstage. <laughs>
RYAN: We’re so not well experienced in anything. We were thrown into it when we started the band. Within a month we were writing for the album, and were signed. We’re just learning as we go along now. We’re in no position to be giving anyone advice, really.
MY FAVOURITE THING ABOUT DOM IS...
MY FAVOURITE THING ABOUT RYAN IS...
'Bambino' will be released on September 8th and is available for pre-order here. You can listen to 'Unstoppable' below: