Sasha & The Shades have been building momentum around their native South London over the past 18 months, despite their blend of blues, folk and roots and rock sounds striking a distinctly different tones to the punkier sounds more usually heard om the scene in that corner of the capita;.
The six piece are mid way through a string of three singles – each with its own flipside tune – spanning this Autumn leading up to a headline date at Paper Dress in Hackney on November 15. We asked the band’s co-frontperson Sasha Adamczewski to talk us through their latest offering ‘Wait and Pray’ and its highly personal b-side ‘The Sun’, which deals with Sasha’s rather well known brother’s struggles with heroin…
You’ve just released a new single called ‘Wait and Pray ‘ – what’s the song about?
It’s probably one of our most lighthearted, quick and to the point songs lyrically. Generally it’s about how the best comes to those that wait for them. However, there’s definitely an inspiration from the struggle of running a six piece band itself.
There’s a lot hanging around – and hoping for the best, presumably…
So much of what you do is waiting, whether it be waiting for your soundcheck, getting to a gig, waiting to hear back from a promoter, waiting to hear back from the band on availability for gigs and rehearsals etc etc. My role as the frontman (alongside his co-singer Ell J Rose), within all that waiting and time, is – both onstage and offstage – to try and keep all the positives at the forefront of our minds, no matter how truly negative or scared I might be feeling within myself about something we are about to do or have done.
So, is it more from your point oif view as band leader?
That’s not to say that those emotions are not shared with the rest of the group, they are. However, since the band is entirely funded by myself (from working full time in a restaurant) it somehow seems so much more black and white for me. I guess what I am trying to say is that, that although it appears simple, the song is about not giving yourself the time to doubt yourself and how important and difficult a part that is to the experience and journey of being a musician.
Tell us about the origins of the single’s b-side, ‘The Sun’….
It’s one of our most expansive songs but one of the most personal I start to write it 3 or 4 years ago. Whilst I was in early stages of my art degree I came back for a weekend, during which, I had a session with some old band mates from school, my drummer Sam Evans from The Hics and bass player Sam Hostettler. Anyhow as Sam Evans owned (or rented the studio) at the time, so we could be there for however long we wanted, a rare opportunity! Anyhow out of this somewhat mad session I ended up with about one minute of music and the section of the song that I would call the chorus later. It features the lyrics “Run, Run, Run over the sun where children play with the fire and gun”. Definitely a case of the music coming first, rather than the words.
Is it true about your brother (Fat White Family founder Saul Adamczewski)
Then when I started to work with Tom JJ, his blues sound really helped to jigsaw the other bits of music into place. About the same time my second older brother, Saul Adamczewski, was addicted to heroin and ended up going to rehab. His addiction was not a shock to me but it caused some problems to resurface between him and our father. Saul is technically my half brother – we share the same father but have different mothers. And for Saul I think there was some unresolved anger over the fact our father was a different sort of man and father to me and my little sister, than he was to Saul and my eldest brother. I should say here, my father loves all his kids and strongly views them as some of his greatest achievements. At the time it felt like Saul was determined to make this anger of his mine as well and my frustration at Saul at that time was not about his drug use, it was just that I wanted him and me to have a relationship which was to do with us being brothers, rather than about our parents.
How do you get on now?
We have so much in common and Saul is a incredibly talented man, who has started some of the most important bands in the South London scene in last few years (Fat White Family, Insecure Men). We laugh and talk about it now – in way he has lived out all the rock & roll clichés for me! ‘The Sun’ comes from a place of confusion during a time when we faced difficulty in our relationship.
That’s the lyrics, tell us about the music that makes Sasha & The Shades tick?
For these two songs I wanted to create a big soundscape, so as a result was listing to artists who wrote in a particularly theatrical way, so that their songs are more like anthems. This list of Artists included Meatloaf, The Doors, TOTO, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, AC/DC, Queen, Thin lizzy, Deep Purple, The Ramones as well more bluesy artists like Daddy Long Legs and Ry Cooder. In fact, there’s a particular Ry Cooder gig on YouTube I watch a lot called ‘Ry Cooder and the Moula Band Rhythm Aces – Live at The Catalyst’ in Santa Cruz, 1987, which I used for reference and inspiration.
You recorded this with Dexys/Manics/Rockinbirds musician Sean Read at the helm. What was that like?
Working with Sean has been such a massive part of the band’s journey and I certainly don’t think without his time and commitment to the project, I would have taken it as far as I have. He has acted as our producer this time around and in the past he played keys and brass. He did do a fair bit of percussion in combination with Paul (my drummer) across all the recently recorded tracks, lots of playing the tambourine, as well mostly noticeably playing the xylophone on ‘Morning Blues’ the b-side for the last single that’s coming out this year.
What’s his strength as a producer?
I think having someone who can so easily communicate to you about your instrument and others is a real luxury and indeed he’s not only a creative ally but a great friend and mentor.