Dub is Good for You: UK Dub’s Resonators Catch Fire on “The Constant”
An interview with London’s Resonators on their new LP “The Constant”
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Think of a Jamaican sunset, awash in golden and rainbow colors, ocean waves lapping at your feet on a soft and sandy cove, air of salt and fish fry, a soft trade wind caressing your body, cold Red Stripe in hand. Then transport that moment to London (or any cold, wet city) and add a 9-piece band playing deep, dubby reggae in the background. You can’t help but sway your hips to the pulsing bass and rich tapestry resonating through the air.
And this is the effect London’s Resonators have on the ears, body and soul — transporting listeners to a magical, mystical place where worries and stress slip away. You may not be in Jamaica when you hear them but their sound will sweep you away to another state of mind.
Resonators are everything you love about dub reggae and much more. “An extremely well-rounded and highly enjoyable performance from a band that oozes confidence, are at ease on stage and most importantly have a real thirst for and understanding of real, authentic reggae music,” says UK Reggae Guide. It’s old school reggae with a new school energy and sensibility and Resonators have built a strong presence on London’s and Europe’s reggae and soul culture with a sound that’s warm and familiar yet radically different. Resonators’ music embraces diverse influences, making their music relevant in today’s Bass culture as well as reminding us of reggae’s uplifting influence on the dance floor.
What unites us is a love for the feel, the groove of ‘classic’ reggae. However, we also want to be open to new influences, and be free to create how we want to create, no limitations.
Inspired by the meditative quality and universal appeal of Jamaican roots music the band radiate a playful and unified stage presence. The two lead singers Kassia Zermon and Faye Houston wipe away the notion of the big-ego front man whilst Darren JamTone provides live dub effects, and the balance is set. Following its release in 2010, Resonatorsʼ eponymous debut album gained worldwide and national radio support on BBC Radio 2, BBC 6 Music and Kiss FM from the likes of Mark Lamarr, David Rodigan and Craig Charles.
Since signing with Wah Wah 45s, the band have released four heavyweight 7″ singles, receiving international radio play and widespread acclaim.
The last couple of years have seen them play at legendary venues including Brixton Academy, Koko, Jazz Cafe and at top UK and European festivals including Glastonbury, Green Man and Outlook Croatia. To date, the band have shared stages with Horace Andy, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Mad Professor and TheSkatalites amongst many others. This summer saw them at Lovebox, Sunrise Celebration and Notting Hill Carnival, to name but a few.
The eagerly anticipated second album and first for Wah Wah 45s, The Constant, has been critically acclaimed and is in heavy rotation on all reggae-loving jukeboxes and laptops alike. It fuses direct and healing messages about today’s world with progressive roots-inspired dub and a deep soulful sound. The first single taken from the album, Surrender was released earlier this year and was described by David Rodigan MBE as ‘British Reggae at its best.ʼ
MundoVibe was fortunate to track down the very busy Resonators for this interview.
MundoVibe: Congratulations on the release of your second album, “The Constant” on Wah Wah 45s. How does it feel to have this record coming out?
Resonators: It feels great to be putting out our second LP, especially with the support of the fantastic crew at Wah Wah 45s. A lot of work has gone into it and there’s a real sense of progression with this record. Very pleased we’ve been able to release it on vinyl too!
MundoVibe: Though you have a classic sound, it isn’t stuck in the past. How do you balance being a contemporary dub reggae band with retaining a classic feel?
Resonators: There’s a massive melting pot of musical tastes within the band and everyone is capable of pulling out some music that the rest of us have never heard. What unites us is a love for the feel, the groove of ‘classic’ reggae. However, we also want to be open to new influences, and be free to create how we want to create, no limitations. Therefore, it’s a love and respect for that old feel, and the freedom to explore and be influenced by new territories which gives us that blend.
MundoVibe: Tell us about the cover art for “The Constant”, which is a painting using strong symbolism.
Resonators: The artwork is by a good friend of ours, Jim Sanders. It’s very primal and he has an amazing way of evoking all sorts of emotions with his work. Whether the reactions are positive or negative, his work is very striking and visceral and reflects on the subjects of life, death, love and reproduction. It’s universal. We hope our music is too!
MundoVibe: As an 8 member group, how do all of you get along? Do you approach the music collaboratively or are there some members who assume greater roles in writing the music and orchestrating it?
Resonators: We’re 9 members including Darren, who’s become a significant creative element of our sound. Our approach to the music is very collaborative. Often someone will come along to the regular sessions we have with an idea and we’ll play around it, each finding our own space within the music. Other times we’ll just have impromptu jams which’ll spit out new ideas. We tend to spend a good few months developing tracks before they’re unleashed on stage. We’re very lucky to have such an an amazing group of musicians who get on so well and are completely open to each others suggestions without any ego. It’s all about the music!
MundoVibe: Your two vocalists, Faye Houston and Kassia Zermon are the perfect accompaniment to your sound. How did you end up with these two charismatic ladies on vocals?
Resonators: We’ve known each other and worked together for a long time now. Kassia and Faye have sung together in various other projects, through which they’ve built a good relationship and sensitivity to each others styles. It’s fairly unusual to have two lead vocalists and it works well with Resonators because of this long-standing relationship.
MundoVibe: Lyrically, your music addresses social and personal issues. They stand out for being socially conscious but not overtly preachy. What is your stance on your lyrics and how are they formed?
Resonators: Kassia and Faye’s writing processes are actually quite different; Faye likes to take away a rough recording of a new instrumental idea, put it on repeat and let lyrics evolve from the feelings, experiences and memories evoked from the music, in a considered fashion. Kassia’s practice is deeply rooted in improvisation, on-the-spot ideas and jamming, but again inspiration coming from how the music makes her think and feel. They tend to put the two together and see where it takes us.
MundoVibe: Tell us about the dub side of Resonators. How does dub influence and shape your sound?
Resonators: From the outset Resonators was intended to be a live dub act, to merge the aspects of a live band and dub engineering to create that other, sonic dub space we all know and love so well!
MundoVibe: If you could describe your sound as a delicious meal, what would the ingredients be?
Resonators: A hearty, fruity, spicy veggie curry. With chocolate icing.
MundoVibe: How does “The Constant” differ from your debut LP, how has your sound evolved?
Resonators: The current Resonators line-up had just very recently formed when we recorded the first album; ‘The Constant’ is thus the true fruits of labour of the nine-piece as it stands, and in some ways our first real album, as it’s more collaborative from the writing point of view. We had more time to develop the songs and work with the same extremely talented producers who mixed the first record too – Darren JamTone (our live dub master), Nick Manasseh and Richie Phoe.
MundoVibe: You are on the indie label Wah Wah 45s, which is run by two passionate music promoters and DJs, Dom Servini and Adam Scrimshire. Tell us about how you connected with Wah Wah 45s and its role in forming your sound and getting your music out.
Resonators: Wah Wah 45s booked us for a gig at the Vibe Bar back in 2010. It was a steaming night and the vibe (no pun intended) was incredible. We slipped Dom a copy of our debut album and the next day we got and email saying they wanted to release Sweet Love Affair as a 7″ single. Since that success, we’ve released three other singles with them and now the LP. It’s great to work with an independent label who are so personally passionate about our music and they’ve really helped get our music out to a wider audience.
MundoVibe: Assuming you’ll be touring in support of “The Constant”, what can we expect from your live show?
Resonators: We’ve been gaining some reputation for the natural energy of our live shows. A large part of this stems from how close personally we are as a band, and the enjoyment we get from gigging with each other and interacting with the audience.