Reggae and dance-hall champions The Strides are dropping their hotly awaited third album, The Youth, The Rich & The Fake, with their official launch at the Byron Bay Brewery this Saturday.
The new LP represents the culmination of the band’s sound, forged through countless shows performing to frenzied dance floors across the country throughout their seven years on the scene. Fronted by the dusty, floating serenades of Ras Roni (Barbados) and the lung-puncturing toasts of Ltl Gzeus (Fiji) over a rock-solid rhythm section and combative horns, the Sydney eight-piece have returned with their heaviest release yet, with collaborations from Papua New Guinean soul siren Ngaiire and Sierra Leonese ragga powerhouse ‘Blacker’ Conteh.
With two other albums under your belt, what did you set out to achieve in recording your third, The Youth, The Rich & The Fake?
It was important for us to capture the sound of the band at the time. We had been touring solidly for years and we felt the music had evolved into something that finally represented what The Strides are about. Recording and producing this album definitely helped consolidate our musical direction.
I’d love to know what the album title meant.
It’s actually a lyric from a track on the album called Firearms.
The lyric goes ‘Sell ’em to the youth and the rich and the fake…’.
We liked the ambiguity of it as a title and the way it completely contradicts the album art, which is a shot of two Nepalese holy men or sadhus smoking a chillum.
As a band, what is your songwriting process?
For this album we were lucky enough to get a ‘new work’ grant from the Arts Council. This allowed us to spend a week together at Campbelltown Arts Centre, where we were able to workshop a bunch of ideas as a band. Each day someone would bring in either a musical sketch or some lyrics, then we’d all put our heads together to make it work.
As an eight-piece band it can be an intense and time-consuming way to write, but we are happy with the results, and the collaborative approach definitely brought elements to this album that we couldn’t have achieved any other way.
How do things change when you get to the studio?
We went into the studio pretty prepared this time. We just try to keep up the vibe and capture some inspired takes. We all slept at the studio in Ocean Shores for more than a week while we tracked the album. This gave the session a really communal feel and allowed us to record all day and night when we were feeling it.
What song or songs were you happiest with?
It’s quite an eclectic album and each member has their own favourites, so it’s hard to say really. There are a few special guests on the album including Ngaiire and Byron’s very own Greg Sheehan. The tracks featuring these guys are definitely high on the list!
What do you think hip-hop adds to classic reggae?
The Strides draw influences from many different places and a big part of our sound is the contrast between our singers, Ras Roni and Ltl Gzeus. Ras Roni’s vocal style is more in the vein of classic Jamaican reggae singers such as Gregory Isaacs and Dennis Brown, while Ltl Gzeus is influenced by dancehall and hip-hop artists such as Buju Banton, Sizzla and Dead Prez. That’s where the hip-hop element enters our music.
As for the fusion of reggae and hip-hop: It’s like any style and works well if the songs are good and the band can play! The Damian Marley and Nas collaboration is a good example of hip-hop and reggae working well together.
Whats the philosophy of The Strides when it comes to their approach to making music?
We just try to play good honest music that makes people feel good.
What should we expect for the Byron show?
A massive reggae party! Along with The Strides there will be sets from the local heavy weight sound system, The 4’20” Sound and hip-hop powerhouse Drop Legs.
Saturday at the Byron Brewery at 8pm. $12/15