BOOM! Sugarcane ‘Shambala Mess’

Today’s Boom! track comes from London-based Sugarcane. Their hybrid sound updates vintage bossa nova and calypso for twenty-first century London.

With one British parent and one from the Caribbean, it’s not surprising that frontman Robin French’s music is a post-Colonial jumble. On new single, “Shambala Mess”, the influences gather to make a ferocious storm of Bahian drumming, French chansons, Trinidadian steel pan, and jet-black British indie.

We got him to tackle the BOOM! questions so we could find a little more about him and Sugarcane …

What made you want to start making music?

I think I was about nine when me and my brothers chanced upon a pile of 7 inches my Dad hadn’t played for years. It included Jimi Hendrix, the Beach Boys, Little Richard, Elvis. We were all hooked. As soon as I learned the guitar, I started making music of my own.

’Shambala Mess’ is a different sound from your previous single. Can you talk about experimenting with new ideas?

I don’t think it was necessarily a conscious departure. Songs seem to bubble up from my unconscious rather than be planned for. I’d just finished writing the last two series of Cuckoo and I went off to Lisbon for three weeks, and one day, sat in the Botanical Gardens with a guitar, and this song came out.

I’ve been writing and demo-ing Sugarcane songs for ages – but it’s only last year, I got the band together to start playing live. I think that’s encouraged me into less sleepy BPMs – just because it’s more fun to play live. The firepower of a drummer like Xande also needs to be exploited!
Is this direction something you feel like sticking to for next releases?

Is this direction something you feel like sticking to for next releases?

I think I’ll always be writing songs with a sort of woozy melancholy – typified by something like “Midland Girls” – but yeah, I’m excited by exploring more fiery BPMs alongside that. I’ve also been bringing a lot more old calypso vibes in – very excited to share that stuff soon!

Whats the plan for the rest of the year?

Well, we’ve been recording furiously and we’ve got quite a few things to release over the next year – building up to an album. I’m also off to Berlin for a month in October – taking my guitar and my dachshund – so I’m hoping to start writing the next album there.

Is there any crossover between how your write music and how you write for tv shows?

For screenplays and plays, I’ve developed a lot more discipline. I sit down every morning and make myself do it. Sugarcane is an outlet for things that are more pesonal I guess – I allow it to come to me.