Q&A - Flamingods
Flamingods are a five-piece multi-instrumental band founded in 2009 by Kamal Rasool in Bahrain. Now based in the UK, the band are exploratory and experimental - often taking influence from different cultures around the world using an extensive collection of instruments from as far as Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia, Turkey, Japan and Tanzania.
Fusing the musical movements and forces of East and West, Flamingods evade categorisation. ‘Ethnic Pop’, ‘psychedelia’, ‘noise’, ‘tribal’ and ‘freak folk’ are all terms that have been thrown at them. The band are currently touring their ‘carnival of sound’ around the summer festival circuit. We caught up with Kamal from the band to discuss their upcoming performance at Liverpool Psych Fest.
Q. You will a be a part of the Liverpool Psych Fest 'Congregation' this September, what can we expect to see from you?
A. Yes! We’ve been pumped about this all summer. You can expect a high energy, tropically psyched out affair featuring six musicians giving it their all; rotating on an eclectic array of both Eastern and Western instruments collected from around the world.
Q. During the 1960s Liverpool was a hotbed of music from all around the world and had an important place at the heart of the psychedelic rock movement. What bands are there from this era that have had a significant influence on you?
A. It’s a weird one for us as though there were so many awesome bands coming out in the West in that time that we love and are inspired by - I think it’s more what was happening in the East that has fully grasped us with inspiration. The 60s and probably even more so in the 70s, you had all these bands around the world in countries like Turkey, Iran, India, Afghanistan and Lebanon that were taking influence from the psychedelic rock sounds of the West and applying that to their own traditional music in the East. It’s that sweet spot of authentic fusion that we love and that we carry in our own music - after all we do have members in the band that are from both the West and East.
I mean it works the other way too; bands like the Doors and Beatles were being directly influenced from the East as well. It’s a shame cause these days that can often be deemed as ‘cultural appropriation’ and I feel like journalists often misuse the term, limiting what a band are able to achieve or how far they can reach in terms of influence. If that term were as popular today as it was back then we probably wouldn’t even have psychedelic rock as it was a genre soaked in eastern influence. It’s resulted in a lot of bands being too hesitant to take on a more worldly influence these days and it’s a huge shame really.
Q. What is the story behind your band name and how did the band come together?
A. Well 4/5 of the members grew up in Bahrain in the Middle East. I’m a local and the other’s parents were living there due to the tropical climate and the good work opportunities. We’re childhood friends and were in a few different bands together growing up. When we went to university I started Flamingods as a solo project as a means of creating psychedelic music using instruments I had collected from my travels – the band name sums up two of our main inspirations: the exotic (flamingo) with mythology (gods). I needed to gather some musicians once I started getting offered gigs so I called up my old friends, adding one more member I met in the UK to form and complete us as a five piece. We developed the sound together from there and here we are, continuing that musical voyage.
Q. You released the album 'Majesty' this year. Can you tell us a bit about the ambitions and inspirations behind this work?
A. We’d been listening to a lot of exotica at the writing stage of the album; a lot of great sounds from the likes of Les Baxter, Arthur Lyman, Piero Umiliani and more library music stuff like Nino Nardini & Roger Roger. We had a clear vision to make an exotica album, or our interpretation of it. Going down a more sophisticated, almost vintage-like feel. In the process of that we ended up writing in a lot of orchestral instrumentation for the first time, writing sections of our songs for strings and harp, woodwinds and double bass and later inviting some talented friends of ours to re-create and develop these parts in the studio.
Exotica as a genre is one that is deeply rooted in imagination – the idea of trying to take the listener away to a distant exotic land, so we went about this, not only with the instrumentation but also in the lyricism and concept of the album.
Q. Your single 'Taboo Groves' paid reference to a haunted staircase in a Devonshire pub which the locals eventually buried after a pagan exorcism. If you had been in charge of the staircases' funeral and the epitaph, what would you have written on the tombstone?
A. ‘Rest well, friend. Your reign is over.’
Q. In another experience, the video for Rhama told the story of Pakistani Kusti wrestlers. If we were to point a really powerful water gun at you and force you into a wrestling match up with them, which band member survives the longest?
A. I think regardless we’d probably all get whooped as those guys are total badasses. But perhaps KP would put up a good fight; he’s pretty scrappy and goes to the gym more then any of us!
Q.There is an (almost) improvisational flow to your live performances. What are the challenges of translating this energy into a recorded album?
A. We decided a long time ago that we wanted our live performances to be a separate beast to our studio sound. We prefer the idea of not making these two aspects identical and that really opens things up in terms of what we’re able to do on both platforms. Our live performances are more loud and euphoric while our records are perhaps more of a dreamscape voyage.
Q. You are known to incorporate an array of musical instruments into your sound. What instrument is getting your juices flowing at the moment and why?
A. We’ve gotten really into vintage synths and keyboards lately, a love that grew out of spending too much time at Total Refreshment Studios in London perhaps. The sound of mixing these with some of our more traditional exotic instruments is pretty super. We’re probably going to explore that more heavily on our next LP.
Q. You have roots in Bahrain and London. What do these two places give to your music?
A. It gives us the opportunity of taking two vastly different cultural and musical experiences and feeding them into of our music. I think our sound is often affected by where we are in the world and what’s going on around us. It’s definitely a strong point having our roots not secured by one particular country, city or culture as it opens up our inspirations and where we can go next musically.
Q. What other bands/musicians are you looking forward to seeing at Liverpool Psych Fest?
A. The lineup is insane this year! We’re looking forward to Vanishing Twin, Acid Mothers Temple, Kikagaku Moyo, Harald Grosskopf and Cavern of Anti-Matter along with plenty others. Looking forward to discovering plenty of new music too!
Q. Finally, do you know any Liverpool/Scouse phrases and can you put one into a sentence?
A. I actually didn’t know of any but looked it up online to brush up my knowledge. I found a phrase called ‘Antwacky’ which sounds pretty great – it means something that’s outdated or old fashioned right? Best avoid being that.