SAMA nominated act Mix n Blend has been playing the dance scene in Cape Town for many years and have taken their sound to overseas shows too. While live samplers and effects are still controlled by the original duo of Jon Arnold and Kevin Ribbans, the pair have been joined by soul singer EJ von Lyrik and reggae MC Crosby Bolani, as well as Cape Town’s top horn players Ross McDonald and Lee Thomson, while cutting edge visuals are supplied by Inka Kendzia of Krushed & Sorted fame. As the band releases its brand new EP Mother City in collaboration with SFR, WhatsoninCapeTown caught up with Jon Arnold to discuss the new EP and how international audiences respond to the South African flavours in their music.
WOICT: A few years ago your DJ sets at Mystic Boer in Stellenbosch were all the rage. Now you’ve progressed into this full live band rocking shows and festivals everywhere. Briefly, what took you from the previous DJ duo you were to where you are now?
Jon: When we made the first album and we had to launch it, we needed to showcase all the tracks on it, so that necessitated getting a live performance together with all the musicians involved on the album. Then Tiago from 340ml introduced us to Jerome Galabert who runs this amazing festival called Sakifo in la Reunion, and he decided he wanted to book us out there. When we asked him what he wanted, he said a full showcase of what we could do. So we very quickly got a band together. Necessity is the mother of invention I guess.
WOICT: Your new EP Mother City has just been released. What are your plans on getting it out there to South Africa and possibly the rest of the world?
Jon: This EP is going to be free and is freely available for download on our Soundcloud page (at http://www.soundcloud.com/mixnblend ). We’ve been feeling for a while that we want to get music that we make out there to people, and get it out as we make it. It’s really important to us that people can access stuff we’re making that’s fresh and represents what we’re making now, rather than stuff that’s been sitting on the shelf for ages. We are talking to some very cool people at the moment about getting our own digital distribution deal, which would be amazing as we’d be on every digital platform (iTunes, Beatport, Spotify) etc, but with complete control over all our releases and when they happen etc. Hopefully that happens pretty soon.
WOICT: When you’ve played to an overseas crowd, what was the response to your music’s Kwaito sounds and South African flavours?
Jon: They absolutely loved it. One thing I can say about the French crowds in la Reunion in particular, is that they are some of the most musically switched on and open minded people I’ve come across. They’ll come across from listening to Salif Keita play the main stage there, and then check out someone like The Hypnotic Brass ensemble, drift over to see us do our electronic thing and then go straight into cheering the Brother Moves On. They’re there for the music, not to get trashed, and if they’re feeling it, they will go nuts.
WOICT: Aside from your local sound, what international artists have influenced you on this EP?
Jon: I’d say for this EP we were really liking the sounds that producers such as Redlight were putting out (check out his tracks “Progress” and “Source 16”), as well as Scratcha DVA and that whole Hyperdub crew. They were definitely an influence on this.
WOICT: What have been the most memorable shows that you’ve played in Cape Town?
Jon: Wow, that’s a pretty tough one, I mean we’ve been doing this for so long now, after a while a lot of it starts to blur. I really loved playing after DJ Q-Bert, our album launch at Assembly was pretty special, and it just had so many good friends and talented people involved. I think those two gigs. Kev might answer differently, but it’s a Friday morning and I think he’s still asleep right now.
WOICT: Where do you feel the most energy from the crowd, at indoor gigs or outdoor festivals?
Jon: It can totally be either, sometimes at a large festival the crowd can be going absolutely nuts, but you feel a little disconnected because the stage is so high up and you’re quite far away. At night as well on big stages, you can only see a couple of rows back sometimes due to the lights. Having said that, there’s nothing quite like a great set at an outdoor party. I’d probably go with outdoor festivals on this one.
WOICT: Any tour plans on the horizon?
Jon: That’s something we’re in the process of getting together. For the moment, any time anyone wants to see where we’re playing, if you go to www.mixnblend.com you’ll find a list of our current shows and what’s on the horizon on the front page. In terms of releases, next up we have two dubby reggae tracks we’re looking to put out, one with the amazing Sannie Fox on vocals, and the other with an incredible vocalist we know from la Reunion called Yaelle Trules. We’re aiming to get that out around then end of November. Then, a bunch of other stuff we have cooking, and by early next year the goal is to sit down and write a second full-length album.
Mother City EP is now available for free download on their Soundcloud page (www.soundcloud/mixnblend.com ) By Cassandra Rowley