Coming to America to sing the blues (funk, pop, soul and lots more besides), Xander Ferreira presents his new live band, the True Tones
Xander Ferreira may be an artist by profession but he’ll also answer to philosopher, magician, seer, and above all – explorer. His mind is a playing field where ideas run rife and his environment is a sounding board for his analysis of human existence. In short this man is deep. A South African native, he first rose to infamy for his Gazelle project, which started off as a study of the socio-political behaviour of African dictators and turned into a book, musical genre, album and double act with DJ InviZAble (watch their video for rediscovered gem Speak Up here).Now based in New York, where he surfs decks as The Happy Show DJs (among other things), his soulful musings seep into his new musical endeavour Xander Ferreira and the True Tones. This is uplifting, groovy rock&roll that you just want to wrap yourself up in and stay with for a while. So let’s get comfortable…
How did you wind up in America?
I didn’t decide to come to America. I won the green card lottery so I kind of see it as destiny, almost.
Did you acclimatise easily?
For the rest of the world Africa seems exotic but for people in Africa, America has always been exotic. We aspired to America in terms of pop culture, so for someone who grew up in Africa watching American TV shows, coming to New York even the cliché American things are so exotic. New York is also tough and such a struggle that you get to face big challenges here, which is something that brings out the best and the worst in you.
“I’m hunting in American music culture
to find amazing artists to work with. Think
of it as a reverse-take on Paul Simon”
What was the impetus to form Xander Ferreira and the True Tones?
After the move I decided to start something new. As an immigrant you begin a new journey, a new path. You take who you are and whom you’ve been and you have to adapt in certain ways so that you’ll be able to prosper in your new environment. For me it was the idea of doing the opposite of what many Americans and Europeans have been doing through the ages, which is going to Africa and sampling African music to make Western music. I’m hunting in American music culture to find amazing artists to work with. Think of it as a reverse-take on Paul Simon.
So who and what have you come up with?
One of the things I’ve discovered as I’ve been working on the band is this context of people coming from Africa and bringing music to America, starting in the American south as “African music” and then evolving into genres like the blues which morphed into R&B which morphed into funk and then eventually hip hop. I want to take this musical journey full circle by coming to America with African music and meeting the line of evolution where those two tips meet and finding something unique. That’s my mission with the music and why I’ve been trying to find the right people to work with. My band mates Paul Frazier, David Bailis and Steve Williams have played with the likes of Sade, Michael Jackson and De la Soul.
Wow! How did you find them?
Buddhism… but that’s another whole story.
There is an ominous rhetoric in the world right now around segregation and division. Do your songs address these issues?
It’s all tied to what’s happening around me. I make songs that carry meaning and positive messages. With the current climate of things, I think as people we’ve looked at the way we exist through the perspective that adversarial relationships dominate. For instance it seems like Donald Trump is winning and successful, but in reality he is temporary. He is only going to dominate the cultural space for a moment, and will ultimately destroy everything around himself. Just like big corporate companies that create products that are harmful for their consumers or the environment, they don’t realise that they’re just killing themselves. There is no long-term plan. The only way for things in the future to exist is through symbiosis.
How come you don’t have any singles online that we can geek out over?
I only have live tracks. I don’t have any recorded material because I really want to see if I can build the album not by recording the songs but by playing the music. People tend to record the material first and then put it out, which is why most recordings today are soulless. It’s the opposite of how people did it all the way up to the 1970s. Elvis for instance played a song maybe a hundred times before it was recorded. You only get one shot to record a song and it lives in this spirited moment that is captured through sound. It’s like the difference between a good photograph and a bad one.
What’s your plan for the near future?
I’m putting a together a team, a manager a booking agent and so on, before I can go touring. But in the meantime you can see us playing in NYC.