INTERVIEW: DIKEMBE

A couple of months ago Dikembe, the band whose name I recently realised that I have no idea how to say out loud, made an emphatic return with their sophomore record, ‘Mediumship’. Their debut record, ‘Broad Shoulders’ got a lot of love from this blog and I’ve been wanting to write about how great their new record is since I first heard it. But instead of listening to me badger on for 700 words about how their subtle grunge influences coupled with the bands innate ability to write moody but very infectious melodies make for one of this years must hear records, I thought it would be a much better idea to get Dikembe to agree to an interview. As luck would have it they did, so here it is. Answering the questions is drummer David Bell.

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Is this thing on? – Hi. You have a new record out, how did you go about writing and recording this time round?

Dikembe – Our last record, Broad Shoulders, was written and recorded on the fly, so much so that there were a couple songs we had to learn to play together after the album was sent for mastering. We wanted to avoid that situation this time around. New songs were pushed into our live set as often as possible so that we could get a sense of how the tracks felt to play. If something felt weird we would bring it up during our next practice and try to make it feel better. When it came time to track the record we decided to track everything live, which saved us a lot of time and reaffirmed for ourselves how comfortable we would be to tour with these new songs.

ITTO? – The songs are recognizably Dikembe but there seems to be a progression in the sound from your previous records, has this evolved naturally or have you made a conscious effort to change your sound?

Dikembe – I would say we made a conscious effort to go with our gut and give little to no thought on the expectations of others. We just focused on writing and recording a group of songs we knew we’d all enjoy playing live and not worry about whether or not elements fit a predetermined genre or sound.

ITTO? – I love this record but found it to be a grower. Sticking with it has paid off really well, how has the reaction been to the record? Have you been nervous about how this record will be received compared to your previous records?

Dikembe– Feedback about the album has seemed pretty positive. I don’t think we were too worried going into the release. We were just excited for people to hear the jams we were having fun with during our live sets, especially since it felt like a lifetime since we finished our first album. I think Steven was the most nervous about Mediumship’s general reception, but we were on tour when it dropped and it wasn’t too hard to distract him from the twitters and such.

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ITTO? – I’ve noticed a grunge influence to the record with some of the riffs used and the loud/quiet/loud pattern on some songs. What have you been listening to recently and what has influenced your writing this time round?

Dikembe – Steven had the sudden realization that Pearl Jam’s Ten is an amazing album about two years ago. He has also been claiming that Soundgarden’s “Fell on Black Days” is his favorite song ever. Most of the musical elements to Mediumship were developed during practices, so I think this album displays more of the group’s collective tastes than our previous releases. Randy and I grew up heavily influenced by our fathers’ CD collections, which they probably attained through some sort of Columbia House Record Club style subscription. Late 80’s, early 90’s “alternative rock” feels very familiar to our ears, and it probably seeps into our song production style.

ITTO? – Steven Gray’s voice does weird things to me, it melts my heart like an emo Eddie Vedder. What vocalists have this kind of effect on yourselves?

Dikembe – Jeff Buckley’s voice in “Hallelujah” gives me goosebumps every single time. It’s disturbing.

ITTO? – You recently put out a split with veterans the Jazz June, how did that come about? Any other bands you’d love to do splits with?

Dikembe – I believe they contacted us in some way and pitched the idea about a year ago. We were blown away by the idea that they had heard our music, let alone dug it enough to let us be part of their long-awaited return.

Randy says a split with Creepoid would be cool.

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ITTO? – Are you guys able to commit to the band full-time or do you have to fit everything in (touring/recording etc.) around your regular lives?

Dikembe – As much as we would love to commit our full-time to life on the road and in the studio, Steven has a big-boy job teaching middle school kids and Ryan just produced a real-life baby human. We practice maybe once every two or three months because Steven lives in Orlando, a two-hour drive from the rest of us in Gainesville. It’s astonishing how much we’ve been able to do and how often we’ve toured given how little time we commit to this band as a whole.

ITTO? – What would have to happen for you guys to come and tour the uk?

Dikembe – We’ve gotten close, but scheduling issues continue to kill off plans. We would need a UK band to agree to a summer tour, let us squeeze into their van, and allow us to use all of their gear every night. I don’t think we can afford to fly over, rent gear, and rent a vehicle with our own finances.

ITTO? – Bands keep getting robbed on the road, seems to be an everyday occurrence at the mo. Have you had bad experiences yourselves? Does it put you off going on the road? What security tips can you give aspiring bands?

Dikembe – Thankfully, we have not had any bad experiences on the road so far. It helps that we tour in a 2013 Dodge Caravan that features an alarm system, slightly tinted windows, and an overall look that suggests it carries a family of six around instead of hundreds of dollars in musical equipment. Nevertheless, we still are very careful about where we park it. There are only two things I can think to suggest for a band going on the road in a 15-passenger van:

Get an alarm system installed or insurance on your gear. It’s obviously an investment, but you don’t want to have to rely on internet donations if the worst happens. Plus, it would really suck to have to cut a tour short because someone popped a lock off your van door with a screw driver.

If you can’t throw down that kind of money, invest in making your van look like a difficult job. Buy a fake alarm system with a flashing LED light on the dashboard, or get some tint on the back windows so that the value of heist is less defined. Carjackers and thieves look for easy wins, not possibly complicated scenarios.

ITTO? – Since the World Cup, we’re told that America has fallen in love with football (soccer) and football (soccer) is about to surpass regular American sports, such as basketball, as the national sport. can we now expect a Dikembe football (soccer) themed EP?

Dikembe – The United States’ love for football is as transient as it’s love for the Olympics. We’re just big fans of the concept of national pride. I’ll believe soccer is reaching the hearts of Americans when I can watch an MLS game on basic cable. I think Steven and I are the only members in the band that have any interest in professional sports, and that is solely reserved for the NBA.

ITTO? – Everyone says the UK is always a year or two behind America. What is the next big thing (TV, music, fad) sweeping America we can expect here in a years time?

TV personalities taking selfies while on the air and constantly mentioning their twitter handles. Be prepared, it’s awful.

ITTO? – Sounds awful. Thanks for talking to us!

You can buy ‘Mediumship’ on vinyl in the UK from Monkey Boy Records HERE

Or you can stream/download it HERE

Thanks for reading. Get in touch: http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, @alex_itto on twitter or ittoblog@gmail.com

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