Sunday, 7 March 2010

Pete Bingham - Sendelica Interview & EP

I stumbled upon Cardigan-based Sendelica a while back, when I interviewed the band's Glenda Pescado for the forthcoming free festivals book, wrote about them on here and then subsequently in R2 magazine. The band have a free to download EP, 'Screaming and Streaming Into The Star-lit Nite' on release as of last weekend (I loved my old mate Rob Dreamworker's enthusiastic commentary on this over on Facebook when he posted that he thought it a "seriously blissful EP" and then immediately posted again, "until the second track kicked in with its hobnailed boots on" and summed it up as "Very Nice Indeed."), and you can go and pick up a copy here. In the meantime, I got on the phone and had a great time talking about the history of the band with co-founder Pete Bingham.

What are the roots of Sendelica? How did it all come about?

It sort of came about back in 2006 as something fun to do, really. I’d been playing in a kind of electronic pop band at the time, for about four or five years and I’d actually put a gig on in Cardigan by Acid Mothers Temple which brought back fond memories of all the music I used to like as a kid. I first started going to gigs when I was about 13, bunked off school to go and see Pink Floyd at the end of the Dark Side Of The Moon tour and became very entranced by that kind of music and so [doing the Acid Mothers Temple gig] was like a flashback to my childhood and I decided I wanted to play that sort of stuff again, just for a bit of fun. So it was about getting together, this was the middle of 2006, on a Sunday afternoon for a jam and a bit of fun. Then I met Glen [Glenda Pescado] who I knew vaguely in the area, and Colin Constantine who became Sendelica’s producer, gave me his telephone number. I gave him a ring, he came down one Sunday and we had a great time but still we didn’t see it as anything serious, though I fondly remember it being said after the first rehearsal that it would be “something good to do on a Sunday afternoon for the rest of our lives!” It kind of just got out of hand from there, really. We used to record the jams and rehearsals and a promoter got hold of one of the CDs that we used to give to friends and we got offered a couple of gigs... and it took off. We’ve had a lot of line-up changes but me and Glenda have been the constant two, right from the beginning.

Glen’s a bit of a veteran of festival bands and the like...

That’s right, he’s had an illustrious past as a travelling circus man / musician, then he ended up settling down in this area of Wales, similar to myself, and he played with Nik Turner’s All-Stars for quite a number of years but he’d kind of reached the same point in life that I had and was looking to do something for his own enjoyment.

Were you both coming from the same area of musical love? Because you can hear a bit of the Floyd in your stuff, and a lot of Krautrock and in that respect Neu! are obviously an influence?

When we first got together I’d made a few really rough demos, bits of ideas that I had in my head, and he was, “Oh yes, a bit of Neu! there, a bit of Faust, a bit of Pink Floyd,” so we were singing off the same hymn sheet, but we also love a lot of modern stuff. I was really into a lot of dance music, was a huge fan of people like Massive Attack and Orb and Underworld and all that stuff was being thrown into the melting pot as well. So we had that historical stuff we were pulling from, but we also brought a lot of other things in as well.

The next stage was that Colin had been nagging me for ages to get a MySpace page, so I did a Sendelica MySpace and discovered this vast psychedelic community out in the big wide world. We became friends with this guy called Niko, who is the guitarist in a band called Seven That Spells, who did a lot of stuff with Acid Mothers Temple and was signed to a Russian label called RAIG Records and through him we e-mailed the label manager, Igor, who was really into the band and we ended up signing to them. That was quite bizarre really, because it came from something we had no ambitions for, or preconceptions of, that just took on a life of its own.

I’ve had a few e-mails with Igor and he’s got a really nice little label that puts out quite an eclectic mix of stuff.

I love it, it’s kind of like a psychedelic version of Factory Records, he has this vision of the whole label, not just from the point of view of the music he releases, which is mostly psychedelic or improvisational music, that’s what the label is all about, but he also has this vision of the artwork and this consistency of what the label puts out which is fantastic. We felt immediately at home being on the label. Fortuitously at the time, there was another label, a Welsh label called TidyLike who were interested in working with us as well and part of the deal we did with them was to record albums for both labels using equipment they had. So we recorded Spaceman Bubblegum And Other Weird Tales From The Mercury Mind for RAIG Records at the same time as doing a very ambient album, SleepWalker Fever, which eventually came out on TidyLike and of which we ended making a movie of.

That was released in a limited edition as a bonus DVD with your most recent album and clearly you’re interested in joining up the visuals with the music?

Yeah, that’s going back to seeing those bands like Pink Floyd all those years ago with the lights and the projectors and stuff, but also I’ve always been a huge Velvet Underground fan and interested in the Warhol EPI shows where they were bringing, oh, maybe a touch of theatre, but a touch of something else to the music. So when I got to know Igor and we got to talking, he really sees that as the future of music, releasing things with DVDs so that there’s a visual aspect to go with the music. It’s a double-edged sword, our music is very visual and very soundscape and landscape and puts images in people’s heads, so there’s a bit of me that’s concerned about giving people images to see instead of what they can see for themselves but then our music does really lend itself to working with cinematographers, like Grant Wakefield on the SleepWalker Fever movie which was a fantastic experience with an end product that was really satisfying.

It’s a very striking end result.

What’s strange about it is that we never sat to discuss what we thought the end visuals should be. We’d originally approached Grant with the idea of making some loops that could be projected onto the band as we played, as we did some shows in big cinemas. At the time I was putting the finishing touches to the album SleepWalker Fever and sent him a copy, and he said he loved it so much he’d like to turn it into a movie. We had no discussion about what he would do visually, so when he came back it was fantastic, a great marriage.

Let’s talk about the releases that you’ve put out...

We’d put out a few things on our own, before getting involved with TidyLike and RAIG, we did an EP with a singer called Chris Gibbs, ‘The Owls Have Eyes’ and then we recorded an album called Entering The Rainbow Light which again featured vocalists though we did have a lot of instrumental stuff on it. But from that point on the direction of being an instrumental band took shape and we moved on from there and released the ambient SleepWalker Fever and our first RAIG album Spaceman Bubblegum... which again was an instrumental album. We do use vocalists, but we use them as instruments for texture, choir-like sounds that we have singers in doing.

We touched on it being very improvisational, does everything come from just sitting around and seeing what comes out of jamming together?

We get together and jam a lot and record all those jams, then we try and take bits we like and over a succession of jams we come up with what would be the eventual track, but it’s always a lot of improvisational elements. Then again we have another way of working where, especially the ambient stuff, where I record a lot of material with guitars and electronics and then other people will come in and add their stuff to it. Two ways of working but it always has that Sendelica sound to it.

How does that translate into a live environment?

Well, we play a lot live but not necessarily in front of audiences [laughs]. There’s been a few gigs where we’ve just made up a track and it just kind of happens in encores and stuff. Tracks from albums do change a lot when we play live, there’s a track called ‘Manhole Of The Universe’ from the Girl From The Future... album, and there’s a live version of that on the new EP from when we played in America last year. It’s recognisable as the same track and has the same elements, but the live version is about twice as long, so we have certain starting points and middle points, and points we come to at the end but in-between those we do explore the songs, interpret them and move them around.

Okay, so we’re moving on to last’s The Girl From The Future Who Lit Up The Sky With Golden Worlds, which I reviewed for R2 and really enjoyed, so let’s talk a bit about that one?

That was recorded in America. After Spaceman Bubblegum... came out we got a lot of good press, especially from America and ended up making friends with a few people over there. I was invited to go to Boston and meet with a few musicians there, so I went over and did some recordings with a psychedelic-electronic band called Psylab and whilst I was there the idea of Sendelica going over and doing a few gigs was talked about and we decided to go for it. But I’d met a band in Boston called Axe Monkey and we got in touch with their drummer who was well up for drumming on the tour, picked up a keyboardist who played some of the dates with us as well and it was a fantastic experience. During the tour a guitarist from one of the support bands offered us a chance to do some recordings at a studio at Providence Rhode Island, a studio that he worked at, and it was free recording time. We finished the tour with a gig at the Knitting Factory in New York and the next day we were in that studio laying down some tracks that became the basis for the Girl From The Future... album. We brought the multi-tracks back with us, mixed them over here and that was the album.

Based in Wales, recording in America, released in Russia... very cosmopolitan then! But how do you go about getting the word out and getting people’s attention?

Myspace has been fantastic, and the prog-rock psychedelic community in itself has been very supportive in spreading the word. I mean, we have no huge advertising budget it’s just word of mouth. But we are a real Myspace phenomenal success, really!

So let’s talk about the new EP. I loved the really evocative saxophone going on there...

We started thinking about a new album in the middle of last year, we did do some work with a UK label but that didn’t work out for various reasons but out of the frustration of that I wrote a track called ‘Screaming and Streaming’ and Lee Relfe, the sax player, was in the studio with us and it just really came together as a track. So that’s on the new album, but we thought it would be good to do a free download before the album appears and RAIG have a download label where they release stuff that hasn’t been on albums and so we talked with them about doing the download EP.

So that’s the immediate future, but what are the ambitions?

We’ve just made a second movie but I don’t want to go too much into that because even with the visuals we want people to make up their own story and take what they want from the images and the music. There’ll be a limited-edition DVD with the CD of the new album, and in fact we’ve just started a storyboarding a third movie which we’ll hopefully film and record this summer. It’s amazing... we had less than £1,000 in the summer and from that we recorded the album, did a movie and a soundtrack for it, did a promo video for the EP...

You make it go a long way! Very impressive!

That’s the thing; technology now is fantastic – we can do things on budgets now that we could never even have imagined 10 or 15 years ago. When I became a musician, you were looking at ten grand just to record a basic album; now, if you’re prepared to work with the technology, and have the technology work for you, some really good stuff can come out of it. But Sendelica has attracted this really amazing team of people around us and we have the ability to really put a package together. It keeps us all quite excited... and makes it a joy to play!

Sendelica MySpace Page
Sendelica at RAIG Records

1 comment:

)O(~M.P~)O( said...

Awesome Review Pete!!
Much Love
Blessed Be~)O(