INTERVIEW: Bedouin Soundclash

A genre is a name tag. There are artists who wear it with pride and there are others who stick in their back pocket. BEDOUIN SOUNDCLASH is one of the select few who have never been spotlighted under a certain category. Their music isn’t a straight shot of reggae or indie and looking at their audience, there’s an eclectic mix of listeners who even dabble in punk. With a new album on the shelves, singer/guitarist Jay Malinowski chatted with us about crossing over into different audiences and how change can extend a musician’s career.

 
You broke through with help from a Zellers commercial in 2005. Has it hit that you now could be in the midpoint of your career?

I don’t really consider our career to be a form of success, maybe a monetary form of success. At this point, I think if we still want to continue to make music then we’ll keep doing it. I have no idea who we are in terms of whether we’re popular. It’s really too hard to think about that. We’re still inspired to write and that’s really why we’re making music.
 
Has your age changed your perspective of music in anyway?

Definitely. Not just age but experience in the music industry changes your perspective on how things could happen. Even from the time we first started playing in 2000, we’ve seen a lot of things come and go. When you’re younger, you have to endure that as you age. You see so many trends pass on by and it kind of makes you realize that there are some things that remain a classic, like good songwriting.
 
Is there a reason you’ve chosen to retire certain songwriting bits such as “Santa Monica”?

I stopped playing that song because it kind of lost its meaning. People did shout for it at shows, but it didn’t fit with what we were doing musically at different times. I did put it on my solo album, but I don’t really think it fits with what we’re trying to do with Bedouin.

What about collaborating with other artists on studio albums? Coeur De Pirate is your first notable duet.

The first time I played her the song “Brutal Hearts”, she really liked it and said she wanted to sing on it. I’ve been kicking it around for a while as I wrote it for another artist who recorded it but ended up not putting it on their album. She had heard it and her voice fit so perfectly on it. It’s definitely a special song for me. I just love her voice
 
What was it like working with another vocalist?

It was different as we were also dating (laughs). Though there was a whole other issue that came into play, it was a good experience as she is a great singer. We actually did a side project together too. Writing together was challenging because everyone has their own way of working, especially lead singers as we have a specific way to work and we can be pretty stubborn. But you’ve got to learn how to compromise so it can turn out to be a good thing.
 
Since Toronto artists are generally a close-knit group, should we expect more collaborations in the future?

We’ve got a remix and rarities record coming out and there’s a song with K-OS. I’m also doing a solo album with Coeur De Pirate.
 
Do you hope to achieve expansion through more releases with Bedouin as well as solo material or was that venture just a one-off experiment?

I’m just trying to write good songs. I think that if you can grow as a songwriter then you should keep writing. It keeps me engaged and inspired. If you’re successful you should keep writing.

Is Pirates Blend a project that will help other artists release music, sort of like what Zellers did for you, or is it more personal?

I’d say both. We’re planning on releasing a new Michael Rault record. He’s a really amazing 50s’ rock n’ roll artist who’s one local musician we trying to support with the label. We’ve also got this girl from Germany and other projects we think are good. The label’s also a home for our own records which is great.
 
You’ve said before you don’t want your music to be something that only people in a “scene” understand. Do you think you’ve achieved this goal?

Did I say that? (laughs) Yeah, we went from being a band in a punk section to a reggae section and now in Canada I think were in the pop section. I think that we have crossed over and if you come to one of our shows you’ll see there’s such a wide selection of people. That to me is a really great thing, it’s not just people who come from the same place musically.
 
Are you still trying to expand your audience?

Yeah, I guess so. We’re trying to make the music that we really like and if other people like it, then we’re happy.
 
What drives you: change or originality?

I’d probably say change. I’m usually someone who needs to keep things varied, and changing things up keeps me inspired.
 

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