When last did you hear a modern psychedelic funk-rock band? Proving to the world that it’s not a genre of the past, Jamila & The Other Heroes are bringing it all back in style. The international band have just released their latest single, ‘Aliens In My Bed’ via Springstoff on Friday 13th. The track explored love in times of capitalism, with a humourous set of lyrics to counterbalance the seriousness of the topic.
With influences from the Middle East, Latin America and Eastern Europe, it’s hardly surprising that an Arabic style of strumming leads the track. Paired with a reverberating bassline, we knew that it was was the track to hook us on the band. We found the previously released EP, Changes. We’ve received word that their debut album, Sit El Kon (The Grandmother of the Universe) can be expected out early next year.
Eager to get a little more information on our next favourite psychedelic rock band, we began to dig a little deeper in the form of an exclusive interview.
Looking back, what were some of your earliest entries into music appreciation? And music production?
There is a video of me as a one-year-old dancing by holding onto the cupboard to Lambada, even before I could walk. Music was always the centre of my life, a way to express myself and connect with people. When I was fifteen, I visited my cousin Stefan in a hippie village in the Sierra Nevada in Andalucia. He had built a studio into the garage he was living in with his girlfriend, they both were painting and making music, trading goods with the village people and trying to avoid being part of the capitalist and bureaucratic life in Germany. He was really inspiring for me. That was the first time I recorded some of my own songs. I remember how we were the whole night up making music, while my grandmother and his girlfriend were sleeping. The next morning we would show them our music and load it up on myspace.
Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?
Usually, I have a melodic afflatus and I just record it on my phone as a sound memory. In the days after, I sit at the piano and experiment with chords around that melody. Usually, by then an idea of the feelings/ topics around it becomes more clear. Then I take these fragments to the rehearsal room and together with Leon, Kuba, Bilal & Salam we build the complete song structure – may it just be adding other colours to the chords or an unexpected rhythm/ guitar and bass riff or completely new parts. And from that structure, I then start writing lyrics. I love writing them analogue in my notebook on my travels like in a bar or on the train.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
Travelling, getting inspired outside the comfort zone, meeting new people, sensual and spiritual experiences (like rebirth breathing), jam-sessions & going to live concerts. The latest very inspiring concerts for me were Matthew Halsall, Nai Palm, Noah Slee and Yasmine Hamdan.
Also trying to digest heavy emotions often leads into creating music that for all of us is like a Group Therapy for us and our music community.
The latest song we wrote – ‘Aliens in my Bed’ – had a special experience. I met with fellow singer colleagues & friends; Alin Coen and Dota Kehr for a writing session – one mind-map technique lead me to the idea of the title “Aliens in my Bed”.
A few weeks later we had an incredibly beautiful gig at Fusion Festival. I lost my phone and had an emotional discussion with yet another lover afraid of feelings and falling out of my life quicker than deepening our falling in love. Later under the shower, I felt my anger and sadness about this reproduction of heteronormative gender cliches (both being excited about spending time and opening up, women interested in building a partnership, man being afraid of feelings and pulling back after a first romantic phase). While showering I unconsciously composed the first verse and bridge of ‘Aliens in my Bed’ including the lyrics. I couldn’t record it due to my lost phone so I sang it around 30 times to myself before going to bed and luckily remembered it the next morning.
As a musician, it becomes apparent that there is a huge difference between the art and the business. Is there anything about the music scene that you would personally change?
Actually, I feel quite lucky of my scene in Berlin – we support each other. Sometimes I meet with fellow musicians to co-work and consult each other in our needs and next steps. We share contacts with each other and give us good energy when we sometimes feel desperate. And our manager Rainer Scheerer from Springstoff Label is just out of this world – such a warm-hearted, smart, supportive person. Also with the venue owners and promoters, I have really good relations because I curate and book events on my own. So it’s a big scene most of the time. But outside my Berlin bubble, I wish for more international solidarity & collaborations, to make all our music travel. I wish more participation tools in making our music globally heard. We were lucky to have our first single on 3 editorial Spotify and one Apple Music playlists – but I still don’t get how those pitching systems can be fairer.
Your aim is to set an example for emancipation and empowerment for women of colour in the music industry. Tell us about some of the steps that you, have taken to achieve this goal?
I am not just performing as a musician, but also curating festivals, programs and panels. E.g. at WOMEX world music expo 2018 in Gran Canaria, I hosted a panel with Rasha Hilwi (journalist and writer from Palestine), Sama Abdelhadi (producer from Palestine) and Shermine Sawalha (Malahi Entertainment Jordan) about the music scene in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region and especially featuring these powerful women in the Music Industry. I also curated JOINED FEMALE* FORCES at Katerblau Club Berlin in 2019 with people like the UK based Egyptian queer belly dancer Shrouk El Attar; and in all years of curating ARAB* UNDERGROUND – a program I founded at Fusion Festival to share perspectives from the MENA region and beyond – I always wanted to make women voices heard like Raneen Bukhari, art curator from Saudi Arabia.
Your track, ‘Aliens In My Bed’ takes a satirical approach to a political topic. What made you choose humour to convey your message?
Humour to us is a way to digest heavy emotions that lay under the surface, like sadness, desperation and anger. People in our generation are struggling hard to feel accepted and find their place in this world, to have a purpose and build new forms of connection.
Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?
Uhhhh why either or? I think they complement each other, also I often hear I’m a stage hog (haha). I come from the live scene, I love creating a feedback loop full of energy floating between audience and us on stage; but I also gain a lot of energy in the introspective times in studio work, it’s like meditating on your music, refining it, trying out new things that you don’t just do live. I am grateful for both experiences.
What is the most memorable response you have had to your music?
Once a woman came to me after a show and told me that she hasn’t been dancing since her mom died 9 years ago and that now for the first time since then she couldn’t believe it, her body just wanted to move to our music.
What’s on your current playlist?
I just created a playlist for the cold autumn days called “smooth Sunday” including tracks by some of my favourite acts such as Kokoroko, Quantic & Alice Russel, Nai Palm/ Hiatus Kaiyote, Yusef Lateef, Pink Freud, Yasmine Hamdan, Matthew Halsall, Alsarah & The Nubatones, Altin Gün, Khruangbin, Nick Drake and Kate Tempest.
In our band collective we share a passion for rock music from our youth. We all love Led Zeppelin but on our Tour Radio we also love to listen to heavy Hip-Hop and Neo-Soul beats as well as Global Grooves from all over the World.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you in the near future?
31st of January 2020 we are releasing our debut album on CD + 12″ Vinyl SIT EL KON (The Grandmother of the Universe) via the Berlin-based label SPRINGSTOFF (distribution worldwide: INDIGO). We are working on a 360-degree video at the moment, and some other video material soon to be released.
We will tour Germany and the Middle East and hope to spread more in other European countries, following invitations to launch or album in London and France. We want to travel and connect with people all over the places with our music.
Famous last words?
We all can be heroes. Discover your superpowers and make the world a better place every day!
Follow Jamila & The Other Heroes:
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