Interview: The East Collective

Landing somewhere in the ska-rock-dubstep arena are Rude Boys, The East Collective. With crunchy vocal percussion, funked-out bass and sweet melodic sounds, this East End ensemble has a rawness and unrefined quality that is all at once; a little bit rock, a little bit ska and a whole lot of heart.

How did the collective come about?

Fionn: Everyone recorded separately. When the rough mix had been put together, they came around mine for a listen and a decision on what we wanted to do. Following week we played a gig. I’ve played rugby with Mick Donovan (bass) for years, heard he was a great musician. Mickey B (Keys) New Years Eve Parties are legendary for late live sessions with him playing tunes; Harry I met at live events where we were both solo artists.

Mickey B: I’ve known Fionn for a while now and he has always been interested in playing music together. I’ve played piano for years but have been really lazy with it. When he said he had met a beatboxer it was something I have never heard of before so I finally pulled my finger out my arse and met up with the boys. Once Spud (Mike Donovan) dropped his unbelievably funky bass line underneath it was game on for me.

Your music has been described as a genre somewhere between reggae, ska and dubstep. Is that a fair call?

Fionn: Best explanation of our sound so far was been a comparison with The Police and The Beastie Boys. Add the Dubstep/DnB element that Harry adds, I’d say the description is all good.

Mickey B: It’s a fair call, Fionn has a great reggae tone to his voice and Spud and I try to underpin that with off-beat backing chords and funky bass. Harry’s background is very much dubstep and drum and bass giving us that modern ska feel.

You combine beat-boxing, vocal percussion and sweet melodies. What inspires The East Collective sound?

Fionn: The initial and prevailing idea is for our music to have soul but to put you in the mood for a night out.

Mickey B: It’s all about the mixing of our four music techniques and backgrounds to form one unified sound that will get people up and dancing.

Tell me about your writing process?

Fionn: East End Rude Boy was written in a couple of hours during band practice from one core riff, but for me it had been in the pipeline a year after a friend had passed – I felt it was time to write about him and the sort of people we all grew up with and live around still, cheeky chappies and skivers. A Boy was written 3 years after a broken relationship…nuff said. Go Hard was written in 15 mins during a shower break of a 3 day Party, needless to say that went well. Harry is like a vending machine of lyrics, I’ve never questioned him on it as if something’s not broke…and Mickey B is a cockney wordsmith.

Harry: I don’t think we aim for a particular sound in the studio, we are four mates hanging out doing what we love. That’s what you hear. Mick and Mike are certified musicians, so Fionn and mine’s games have to be high every time we practice, record or gig.

Mickey B: Fionn is a great constructor of songs and all elements are included deliberately and for a reason. Our initial songs were based around his original stuff as the rest of us put our own spin on things, and now we are beginning to find a groove when it comes to writing new material as a group.

Your music is fresh, fun and feels raw. I imagine The Collective would be a summer festival favourite. How do you manage to capture that raw sound in a studio environment?

Mickey B: When were in the studio, we all like to chip in and have a laugh as if we were hanging out as normal. Hopefully that translates into the recording gives our material that rough edge.

Mick: By having a group of really talented people round you that know what their doing it seems to flow naturally.

You’ve been known to cover and mash-up unlikely songs like ‘Tubular Bells and ‘Hit The Road Jack’. What are some other songs on your to-do list?

Fionn: Haha, I don’t know if I should give that away. Our current mash-ups are Shy FX / Prodigy, Creedence Clear Water / Andy C, and on second thoughts, I’ll give you one for the future: Moby / Desree.

Mickey B: Can’t tell you that.

 If you could collaborate with any current artist, who would it be, and what would you do?

Fionn: Rudimental. Get them to mix a new song of ours.

Harry: Definitely a DnB or dubstep DJ. I’ve always wanted to hear our tracks with a dirty dub drop, ha!

How do you relax after a gig?

Mickey B: We try and stay professional before the shows so limit our drink intake – after however is a different matter.

Fionn: After our gig at The Shoreditch we bought a couple bottles of Tequila for our fans to say thanks for coming, that’s about as relaxing as it gets after a good show.

Being a ‘collective’, do you guys argue much during the production process, and how do you usually resolve your differences?

Fionn: The production process is probably one of the smoothest elements for us. All avenues and ideas are given a chance, if one of us doesn’t agree a part fits, it’s revamped and given another chance. There is a real mix of songs that have been worked over for time and stumbled across while jamming.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

Fionn: Less Wafflers and Chestnuts please.

Harry: Have more bands like Queen and less products of Simon Cowell

What do you want the listener to take away from your music?

Fionn: You can rock right out to our songs or listen intently and find depths.

Mickey B: To see and hear things and sounds that haven’t been done that way before and enjoy the music as it makes you move and shake in ways you forgotten you can.

What can we expect from The East Collective in 2013?

Fionn: Next Crimbo one of us will be dating a model.

MickeyB: Going to teach a monkey to play the drums.

Mick: Pushing our music out to a bigger audience, recording a studio album

What is your favourite sound on earth?

Fionn: Too easy: The East Collective.

 What can we expect from your upcoming album?

Mick: A collection of fresh unexpected well-crafted original songs that will put you in the mood to party

 What has been your favourite gig so far and why?

MickeyB: Favourite gig for me was Halloween @ the Luxe in Spitalfields market, which is a small intimate venue and no one knew who we were. People began to leave just before we jumped on but by the end everyone was up and dancing and the place was packed. Real sense of justification that our music has the ability to make complete strangers jump up and enjoy a good old rave.

Harry: Probably the gig just after we released EERB (EastEnd RudeBoy). We played a set and when we dropped EERB the whole place was singing our lyrics back to us. Always said that was the reason I do music.

 What’s one thing we should all know about the East Collective?

Fionn: Ultimately Unique.

Harry: We are something that shouldn’t work but really, really does.

What have you got coming up that we should know about?

Fionn: Our newest track ‘Waffler’ is being recorded on the 30th of December 2012. So brand new year, brand new track.

Listen to the new tracks at theeastcollective.com

Words: Brent Randall