Image by: Three Shades Creative
South Africa-born, Doncaster-bred, Skinny Pelembe has been releasing multifarious eclectic sounds for the past few years. Hot on the heels of his three-track debut Spit/Swallow’ via Brownswood earlier this year, his second EP Sleep More, Make More Friends is out today.
For his latest project, Skinny has worked with a notable array of artists, including south London four-piece band Hejira on ‘I Just Wanna Be Your Prisoner’ (think gentle vocals accompanied by melodic production). ‘Live From The High As A Kite’ featuring Sonia Bernardo was also recently premiered on Clash.
Skinny Pelembe’s music is definitively individualistic – a rich and enticing blend of jazz, off-kilter hip-hop and psychedelic soundscapes combine to produce his distinctive sound. Skinny comes across as humble, self-assured and generous in praise for his collaborators – traits that, in conjunction with his music, have steadily been garnering him respect in the music industry.
gal-dem spoke to Skinny about his process in creating Sleep More, Make More Friends, his musical alliances and positive affirmations.
gal-dem: You were born in South Africa, and raised in North England. Do you think this has influenced your musical style and taste?
Skinny Pelembe: Of course, we’re all only ever a product of our environment and experiences, even if that meant that I hated any aspects of either place, that still informs my attitudes and sound. Fortunately, I can’t think of any two better places to have come from. Having Mozambican heritage definitely brings a bit of flavour to the table (we are the original home of peri peri, you know…). Just being exposed to a different way of life, possibilities and struggles is something I’m very grateful for. And South Yorkshire is to me a very particular, beautiful, sarcastic, hard-working, honest, magical and fucking ‘orrible place to grow up.
2018 has been great year for you – following the release of Spit/Swallow, your new EP has just come out. Can you tell us about your journey in creating Sleep More, Make More Friends?
Yeah, best year I’ve had yet, so much madness I can’t remember half of it. Sleep More, Make More Friends. I love it, it’s a snapshot of this little moment in my life having moved down to London and met some awesome people. The title is really just a note to myself in my diary from a more manic time, probably just before I moved down to London.
Each track is with someone who in one way or another really had a big impact me just personally. Rahel, from Hejira hands down is the person who gave me the confidence to think that maybe I could call myself a singer, and I’m a massive Hejira fan anyway so that’s a bit of a dream collab.
I don’t really know what to say about Yazmin Lacey that anyone else already hasn’t. She’s deep as fuck, her voice needs no studio fuckery and she’s hilariously dark. Love her to bits. Made that beat with a great guy called Simon Byrt, just hung out in his shed all weekend fucking around with weird records and drum machines.
Sonia’s an immense singer who I saw take a selfie outside of my old job at “Wonderbunz”! Effortless vocals and also a complete weirdo, can’t wait to do more music with her, especially since we both have a Portuguese connection, so would love to go down that route. All in all I definitely made more friends, however I don’t think I’ve slept more than 40 hours since February!
Did you produce and mix the EP yourself?
This one was a bit of a magpie, odds and sods kinda situation really, and since I did the artwork too, I’m trying my best not to be too much of a control freak.
Mixed ‘Prisoner’ with Hejira at their studio. Kept it as a raw as possible, which for me as a massive reverb and delay head was a bit of a hard thing to do, but they’re all proper audio wizards, so had I to trust them, and now it’s in the BBC Radio 6 A List, so we definitely did something right, eh?!
Paul Littlewood mixed Yazmin and Sonia’s tracks with me at my local studio in Doncaster. I’ve been going there since I was 15 and I’ve found a real kindred spirit in Paul, I think we’re building towards a proper sound. By album two we’re gonna be an unstoppable force, mark my words.
How did the collaboration with Hejira on ‘I Just Wanna Be Your Prisoner’ come about?
As I said, massive Hejira and Rahel fan. Her track ‘I’m Fine’ with Eric Lau is the one that put me onto Brownswood Records in the first place, and for personal reasons is a huge one for me. Met her on a Roundhouse project, not realising for the first two months that she was THAT Rahel! Then a year later plucked up the courage to ask if they’d be into doing a sesh. Man, it was so goddamn hot that day, we had to leave all the windows open, so rather than try and cover up the traffic sounds, Sam embraced it and started sampling the ambulance and police cars that were passing by, that’s what the creepy cat/synth sound is! Like I said, audio wizards.
Are there any other artists you’d like to work with in the future?
Absolutely, I wanna / I’m gonna (positive affirmations!) make beats for Redman. I’d be in primary school singing the worst shit a seven year old could be saying thanks to that guy! I don’t think I could ever top Eric Sermon’s production on Dare Iz A Darkside, but by eck I’ll give it a good crack. I really love Aldous Harding too, man she’s the rawest artist I’ve heard in forever…
You signed with Brownswood at the beginning of this year and you were also involved with the Future Bubblers project last year – how has the label helped nurture your sound?
Amy & Selassie at Future Bubblers and Alex Patchwork at Ninja Tune are basically the coolest people breathing right now. To be honest, it’s been more of a thing of wanting to impress them more than anything, so the whole process has been a kick up the arse to stop being shy and just start doing. Obviously the Help Musicians grant, the Future Bubblers showcases and the connections/opportunities provided have been helpful too!
You’re currently on a UK tour, are there any particular cities that you love playing?
Nottingham massively surpassed my expectations for a city! Unfortunately we’re not there this time. Their town planners must be microdosing acid or something. What a fabulous place!
Sheffield is gonna go off, it’s the last date on the tour and the closest to Doncaster, (and has way less of a “spice zombies” issue than Donny), so 100% guaranteed vibes.
Of course, my diplomatic answer is that, every city has its own special vibe, and gosh, we just can’t wait to get out there and meet the allofthefansyaknow…
Catch Skinny Pelembe on one of the following tour dates:
21st September, Leeds, Headrow House
22nd September, Sheffield, The Harley
26th September, Brighton, Green Door Store
27th September, London, Corsica Studios
28th September, Bristol, Crofters Rights
29th September, Cardiff, Gwdihw
4th October, York, The Crescent