My parents always used to say that there’s no song that wouldn’t sound better as a reggae song. Now that could have been their overwhelming sense of Jamaican importance (we always think we are the biggest island in the Caribbean) influencing their pride in reggae music but it’s hard to deny the brilliance of Jamaica’s most well-travelled genre. That’s why it’s always powerful to hear new bands who take the best elements of reggae and recreate it for today.
Mangoseed collect strains of roots music from around the world to create their multi-faceted south London sound. Formed in 2008, their gigs are always a stage show of well-coordinated moves, frantic guitars and steady, cautious bass lines. The band released their debut album Basquiat, a nod to American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, in 2014 and have high hopes for the future. gal-dem spoke to Mangoseed to find out more about the band and their original sound.
gal-dem: Firstly, can you introduce yourselves and tell us what you do in the band?
Karlos Coleman: Ok, oldest to the newest members.
Joint 1st position: Nicholai La Barrie – Lead vocals & samples & Karlos Coleman – Guitar and backing vocals.
2nd position: Richard Hardy – Bass and backing vocals
3rd position: Sam Campbell – Drums and samples
4th position: the audience
“We all kind of stumbled into it in different ways; church, hanging with friends who just liked to jam, spinning dad’s vinyl, you name it.”
How did you get into music? Are any of you classically trained?
We all kind of stumbled into it in different ways; church, hanging with friends who just liked to jam, spinning dad’s vinyl, you name it.
If going to a couple of piano lessons until the tutor smacked your knuckles or dipping in and out of various music classes count, then we were all classically trained for some moment in time. Only Sam has done the whole music school thing.
How did you all meet and start making music together?
Nicholai and I used to work in the same organisation and started sharing the music we were creating individually. Nico and I started to collaborate but we couldn’t do much more without a band.
Richard met Nico at a party and stepped on board as our bass player and Sam was heavenly sent via a friend of a friend.
What was the first song you ever wrote?
The first song this carnation of Mangoseed was ‘Brix-Tone’.
I read that you started jamming together at first. How important is spontaneity and jamming in the writing of your songs?
Jamming in the band room is the where ideas for new songs are conceived. If shit don’t work or make us groove in the band room it will be shit outside the band room. We are spontaneous but then the real fun begins when we pull apart and rebuild all the ideas and mould them into a song.
I know it’s hard to pin down your influences but how would you describe Mangoseed’s music? Who are your influences?
I’m gonna have to answer this question in reverse. Influences stretch from Curtis Mayfield, Burning Spear, Tool to Fishbone, Biffy Clyro, Bob Marley, Parliament Funkadelic, Lauryn Hill, Living Color, Skunk Anansie – basically nonspecific, just great musicians and songwriters.
“The diversity of south London – in fact the whole of London, is a major influence on what we do.”
You’re based in south London. How has living in such a diverse area influenced the band?
The diversity of south London – in fact the whole of London, is a major influence on what we do. We have the freedom to play any genre to audiences that embrace the mixed elements you can find in just one song: rock, funk, ska and reggae all smashed into one song.
What do you think about the ongoing gentrification and dramatic changes that are happening in places like Brixton?
I grew up in Brixton so I must admit felt a bit sick of how economic change hit my area, but you know what Brixton has a lot of surfers that boast about catching the wave of the area to their interloper friends. But if you walk slow you find the heart and soul of true fellow Brixtonites; it’s still there.
I know you put a lot of effort into your live performances. How do you try and entertain the crowd onstage?
Simple answer, to entertain a crowd on stage: don’t ignore them. Through this they will guide how the song changes when played live, that’s the best bit. Fourth position fifth member, remember.
You’ve got a new single out called ‘Jah Jah’. Could you tell us a bit more about it?
‘Jah Jah’ is a fiery exaltation as relevant to the displaced of today as much as yesteryear, ‘Jah Jah’ is tale of a people traversing the desert in search of sanctuary, hoping that the wisdom of their God and forefathers will guide them to a safer land and a better life.
What’s next for Mangoseed?
More of the same. Releasing singles and videos, alongside hitting the live circuit.