Stylesetter Bedouin Soundclash

Style Setter: Bedouin Soundclash

In the searing temperatures of the Rogers Picnic on the grounds of Historic Fort York, FLARE.com finds Jay Malinowski cool and relaxed. Perhaps that’s because cool and relaxed best describes Jay these days. The 25-year old front man of Canadian band, Bedouin Soundclash has just come through a period of looking inward and asking some deeper questions, most of which he answers in the tracks of Bedouin’s third and most spiritual album, Street Gospels. So, although he’s next on deck to take the stage and the pressure of Street Gospels’ upcoming release is building, Malinowski remains unfazed. He is actually distracted by other things. Punk legends, Bad Brains, have just jumped in front of the crowd and he is anxious to hear them perform. But before running off to catch the opening riffs, Malinowski takes a few minutes to talk about how three Canadian guys turned to reggae, and why, despite that, they’re still anxious to call themselves a reggae band.

Flare.com: The music of Bedouin Soundclash has always had a general sense of spirituality about it, but it seems to have been taken to a different level with Street Gospels. Why is that?

JM: The whole focus of Street Gospels was to create a spiritual record. Maybe it’s because I turned 25 this year, but a lot of things changed. There were questions being asked, like “Why do I play in a band?” and “Why am I doing the things that I am in life?  What other meaningful things are going on?”, so, in answering those things, there has been a lot of soul searching since the last album, [Sounding Mosaic].

Flare.com: Do you think that’s because of the commercial success of the last album?

JM: I think it had its part, but it was already turning that way. The first single [off of Street Gospels], “Walls Fall Down”, was written before we’d even had success with Sounding Mosaic, so it was turning that way naturally. I was also listening to a lot more gospel music and I think that was probably why.

Flare.com: The band is about to head into some heavy touring. Is that the good part of the job?
JM: Um, it can be. It can have its moments. For me, personally, it takes me away from what I enjoy most which is the creative process of writing songs and just experiencing life. I don’t find that you experience life on tour. You just learn the same things every day – you wake up and you’re in a different city, but you’re doing the same thing.

Flare.com: When doing festivals on tour, like the Rogers Picnic, are bands typically backstage, jamming together and collaborating?

JM: Well this is different because we’re really good friends with Bad Brains, and this was formed around having The Roots, Bad Brains and Bedouin as the core three bands leading the bill, so yeah this festival is. The thing is though, when you’re at big festivals like Leeds [in England], it’s just “flavour of the year” bands, so it’s not really about a community of people coming together, it’s about what’s happening that year.


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Flare.com: You mentioned that Bad Brains are friends and their bassist, Darryl Jenifer is not only your friend, but also your producer. How did you guys first come together with him?

JM: A friend of ours in Montreal was pretty involved in the hardcore [punk] scene. He was friends with Bad Brains and gave [our first record, Root Fire], to Darryl. He really liked it, so he helped us out with our last record, [Sounding Mosaic], and we just became friends. We really connected as artistic minds in the sense that we have very similar ideas about music. We’re also misjudged all the time in a similar way – them being a mainly punk-hardcore band that is all black, and us being a… what most people view as a reggae band, that is two thirds white.

Flare.com: Why do you hesitate to call yourselves a reggae band?

JM: We’re not a reggae band. If you ask anyone who listens to a lot of reggae to listen to our records, then they can tell it’s a hybrid. The majority of people who listen to our records don’t listen to reggae.


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Flare.com: Well, I suppose that with bands now there are so many interpretations of genres, but clearly there is reggae, soul, ska and rock in your sound, and that combination is quite unique in Canada, so where did all of those influences come from?

JM: They came from the three of us coming together from different backgrounds. I listened to a lot of The Clash when I was younger and while some people listened to The Clash and took away their more punk elements, when I listened to The Clash, I loved their world elements. Eon [our bass player], with his West Indian background, loves soul music and reggae, and then [our drummer] Pat was more into Stuart Copeland. The one common thread between all of the music that we listened to was reggae. There’s a purity to reggae music that we really like and a lot of the artists that we love have been influenced by reggae, such as Bob Dylan. To me, reggae goes beyond coolness and trends –  it just is what it is. It’s from the heart, and you can’t take away that very basic “people’s music” aspect of it.

Flare.com: Is it a challenge to make that kind of music in Toronto?

JM: The one thing that we have to explain to people when we’re in London or L.A. is that in Toronto, we have a massive cultural mosaic taking place. You’ve got tons of West Indians and they’re all living in the downtown core. It’s not like that in Chicago and it’s not like that in New York – people are coming together here. We’re trying to convince people of that all the time. This is a Toronto band and, to me, Toronto is that city.

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