Get to know Smokey Joe and the Kid: the duet that will electrify Melbourne’s Bastille Day Festival
Bringing the best of Gallic culture to the heart of Melbourne, the Bastille Day French Festival (2018 being its 4th incarnation) will mark the occasion with plenty of French bubbly, bites, and beats for the Festival’s inaugural ball. Special guests Smokey Joe and The Kid will ensure the French-electro tunes are on track, while rappers Yoshi and Mysidggi are scheduled to round out the set for an evening on infectiously-French revelry. Smokey Joe tells us more…
Following a number of attempts to wrangle uncooperative technology, we finally got in contact with Matthieu who is currently located in France. In a calm voice with an undeniably dulcet timbre, he introduces himself:
“I’m Smokey Joe and my music partner, The Kid, is Hugo. We met twelve years ago – brought together by our shared desire to connect jazz music – in the spirit of prohibition, hip-hop and swing…with electro.”
Unifying the melody and rhythm of the instrumentals with the energy and power held by electronic sounds became a real “creative challenge” for the musicians. The challenge galvanised their sound and served as the basis for their Banzaï Lab Label, followed by the release of two albums (Nasty Tricks and Running To The Moon) as well as a number of Eps (The game, Smokid.Inc and Take Control).
A story behind every title
Played in clubs almost everywhere around the globe, the band’s music makes it an equally perfect fit for the big stage like that of the Garorock Festival where it recently performed to 50,000 spectators.
But how then does that music translate to the more intimate venues? “Of course, we’ve composed more sentimental, introspective pieces that you can listen to with your eyes closed on the sofa.” Smokey Joe, who we’ve read is a long-time lover of film music (that of Ghost Dog in particular), notes that in the same way films evoke escapism, he tries to build worlds that invite a sense of travel. “Each title has its own colour to it, a story to tell,” and as for creating this for the live shows, they “adapt to the audience we are playing to, we can play in all types of formats.”
For their Melbourne performance there will be four of them on stage with their electro gear, but also a generous smattering of instruments including electro drums, guitar, banjo and a scratching deck. The group will play songs from their first album, their most recent as well as a new composition produced specially for the Festival. Guests won’t be able to resist getting up to dance, making Smokey Joe and The Kid the perfect choice to headline the event.
Following Marmande and before Veszprèm (in Hungary), doesn’t the leap to Australia seem a little bit strange? “We were invited to come by the Festival. It’s important to acknowledge the French Institutes – that’s how we got to play in St. Petersburg.” For three of the musicians it will be their first time in Australia, and the band will only have a few days free to spend in the city – hardly enough time to explore. The concerts these musicians perform at while touring across the US, Canada or China don’t really include the time flexibility to fit in touring. Smokey Joe coins the process ‘zapping’ with a hint of frustration – not to mention the horrifying carbon footprint the travel no-doubt makes on the environment. The cost of success is great.
Surf, didgeridoos and dreaming
Australia – particularly for a foreign musician – is a country that offers bounteous inspiration, especially when delving into the rich diversity of Indigenous Australian culture. Smokey Joe has experience playing the didgeridoo and has conquered the art of circular breathing, and though he can’t quite recall their name he reflects fondly on the Australian group that mixes electro and traditional music.
Evoking the “Dreamtime” and the almost religious practice that is surfing, Smokey Joe appreciates the connections that are yet to be discovered in the Land Down Under.
In the meantime, he and his companions are prioritising rehearsals for the July 14 performance – a date he more closely associates with fireworks than a military parade along the Champs-Elysées. Despite that, his love for one shade of the tricolour will always hold a special place in his heart: the blue, of course for Miles Davis’ perfect “blue note.”
Valentine Sabouraud, traduction de Paige McNamee
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