On March 25th, IKESTRA are set to release their brilliant debut album. Their sound is hard to pin an exact genre on, but the best part about that is how this band has no limit on what they can accomplish with their sound. Some songs off the upcoming album feel completely jazz, while others will transport you into a world of bizzarre indie-disco. With all the excitement to get the debut album out there, we spoke with IKESTRA about the story behind their name, Sprinter, their debut album, and Ernie’s Balls (yes, you read that right)!
AMBY: Hey there IKESTRA! What’s the band been up to lately?
IKESTRA: Hello! The most time consuming thing has been getting the album ready to release. It’s out on 25th March and we’ve got an album release party on 27th March. As we are self-releasing I’ve been involved in pretty much every aspect of creating a record. It’s been a huge learning curve! Apart from all that, we’ve been rehearsing for shows in March and April and writing new material for our next recording.
AMBY: Your music combines funk, with jazz, and indie. Who influences your big sound?
IKESTRA: There’s so many influences! There’s 7 of us each bringing our own sound, and the aim has always been to create a sound with a real sense of oneness. So everyone’s listening to the sound of the full band rather than just thinking about their own part, and in this way we’re all affected by each other’s influences. For me personally, Frank Zappa, Herbie Hancock (1971-73), electric Miles Davis, a compilation CD called ‘Congotronics 2’, Fela Kuti, Battles are a few of the big influences, but I could keep going for days!
AMBY: IKESTRA are a seven-piece band! How did you all meet?
IKESTRA: We’re all active musicians in Leeds and met through playing music together. We all share a jazz and improvised music background… in that scene even if you’re not already friends with someone, you definitely share mutual friends and it’s easy to link. IKESTRA wasn’t a group of close friends who decided to form a band. It’s a band assembled based on musical and creative compatibility, and we’ve become close friends as a result of sharing that.
AMBY: How did the band come up with the name IKESTRA?
IKESTRA: IKESTRA is taken from Sun Ra and his Arkestra, who are another big influence. The I is a oneness thing really, like the roman numeral or how you hear Rastas say ‘I & I’. Oneness and unity is an important theme in our music and we wanted a name to reflect that… this is the best we could do!
AMBY: Your debut album comes out on March 25th, the band must be ecstatic!
IKESTRA: Yes! It’s a good feeling to get it finished and out there, it was a long time in the making. Having it on vinyl in particular feels special!
AMBY: Which track is your favourite off of the self-titled album?
IKESTRA: Hmmmm. There’s been a couple of points when we were mixing the tracks where I’d heard them so many times on repeat I hated them all! After a short break though, I’d return to them and be cool again. I think each tune has a different vibe to it so it’s hard to pick a favourite. Dan Y Coed was written in a cottage the Welsh mountains (thanks to Joanna and the Boden/Lanes) and is probably the tune I’m most sentimental about.
AMBY: Sprinter is such a wicked song. How did you come up with that looping, funky guitar?
IKESTRA: I love that feeling where there’s a loop going but you can’t feel the pulse or it feels weird, and then the full groove drops and it confuses you for a second until you feel that pulse in its place. African and Cuban music has so much of that vibe… you can feel the pulse in so many different places and ways and its still heavy! So I was trying to write a part with a simple groove that sounded weird by itself basically.
AMBY: What’s a lyric you’ll never get enough of?
IKESTRA: “Is this love baby, or is it just confusion?” – Jimi Hendrix
AMBY: If you could tour with anyone, who would it be and why?
IKESTRA: The John Coltrane quartet with McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, and Jimmy Garrison or Reggie Workman. Just so I could see them play every night. I’d probably tell them that their music changed my life forever in a massive way and then feel really awkward.
AMBY: What has you excited for 2013?
IKESTRA: Our label-mates Mahogany Hand Glider are putting out a new EP late April and it sounds massive! It’s proper exciting being in Leeds at the moment, we’re surrounded by amazing music and there’s definitely a spark in the air. Also really looking forward to hearing the Physics House Band release, they’re my favourite new band at the moment.
AMBY: And last but never least, what’s something about IKESTRA that nobody knows yet?
IKESTRA: One of our album tunes used to be called Ernie’s Balls.
Keep your eyes open for IKESTRA’s debut self-titled album to be released March 25th! And until then, listen to their funky track Sprinter. Lastly, thank you IKESTRA, for giving us your answers!