"We're Trying To Create Something Bigger Than A Band" Sad Night Dynamite Interviewed

"We're Trying To Create Something Bigger Than A Band" Sad Night Dynamite Interviewed

The enigmatic Somerset duo lay out their plan for expanding their little universe of sound...

Having come into being just before the pandemic effectively cancelled music, Sad Night Dynamite have not had your typical genesis as a band. 

“It’s all we know, so we’re just getting on with it,” explains Josh when asked how it feels to be releasing their first mixtape ‘SND’ without ever having performed live, “We’re building the live set now, just waiting for the world to open back up. We always wrote with live in mind, so hopefully going to be quite engaging. I can’t wait for that. I just can’t wait!”

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Though they eventually plan to add two extra members to flesh things out in a live setting, for now Sad Night Dynamite consists of multi-instrumentalists Josh and Archie. Friends from secondary school that now live together (a pretty beneficial state of affairs for a budding band in lockdown), the pair’s very different personalities aptly reflect the push and pull of their voices and music on record.

“I have a far deeper voice and Josh has this beautiful angel voice,” explains Archie, the cool and subdued yin to Josh’s bouncy, excited yang. He laughs when asked about his first impressions of his bandmate when he moved to his school in Year 10, “He was just very loud and very small. He had these big ears and was very confident and was… just… quite a lot!”

“I came from a very different school with a lot of confidence, which quickly got beaten out of me.” Josh responds, brimming with evidently undiminished confidence, “Archie was always sort of quiet, always just there. He would like to think he was the ‘cool people’, but I saw him as very self- conscious. It took us a while to get together, I was busy releasing Christmas songs every year.”

This brazen admission is met with a quiet guffaw, “Do you see what I mean? He comes to this school, he’s lively, he makes Christmas songs. That’s not the easiest person to warm to! But then he was very funny, and we got on very well.”

“And now we’re married basically!” Josh finishes, his enthusiasm for his band and housemate apparently undimmed after a year trapped together making music.

Rather than treating it as a definitive statement, Sad Night Dynamite wanted to capture a snapshot of their tentative first steps as a band on debut mixtape ‘SND’. “I think we weren’t really thinking too much, and you can kind of tell that on the mixtape,” quips Josh, utterly underselling his own creation. “We were just having fun and finding a sound! There’s a wide range of stuff: some songs that show where we want to go, like ‘Smoke Hole’, and then earlier songs from the beginning of Sad Night Dynamite like ‘Skully’. Peering into the whole of where we want to go, I think is the best way to describe it, without too much thought as to what we wanted to do.”

The material only goes back so far, however, omitting the two friends’ early experiments in file- trading while separated by university. “We were under a different name and the music was just terrible!” Archie admits, “We were listening back the other day and it really made me feel quite sick. This stuff always works better when you’re together.”

Nevertheless, the push and pull of this early technique can still be heard in the unpredictable and thrilling way songs like ‘Icy Violence’ and ‘Mountain Jack’ will suddenly segue into completely new sonic pastures. “With ‘Mountain Jack’ Archie and I were having a conversation about which way the song should go,” Josh recalls, “I’d written the first bit and Archie had written the meat of the song, the drop, and I was like, ‘We’ve got to have the beginning part because it makes sense’, and Archie said, ‘Well, I think my part’s better!’ So then we put them together and it was perfect.”

“And then the very, very end I decided to just stick on because I thought the song was too soft.” adds Archie. Icy Violence’s folky final act came about slightly differently, “We found a piece of Romanian gypsy music then just started chopping it up, and it felt right for the song.”

Archie and Josh are obviously musical magpies who cite a whole range of artists as influences, from Kendrick Lamar, Yung Lean and Travis Scott to The Specials, Sex Pistols and The KLF (though when asked whether Sad Night Dynamite will be burning their first million pounds Archie’s answer is an emphatic, “Absolutely not, no. I’ll just spend it all very fast.”) However, it’s very hard to discuss songs like ‘Icy Violence’ and ‘Krunk’ without dropping the G-word. “When we started this project Gorillaz were the band we were listening to,” admits Josh happily, “Damon Albarn was showing how you could put our kind of voices onto hip-hop beats, which is what we always wanted to do.”

Listening to and understanding the way Albarn, a fellow eccentric Englishman, managed to reimagine a form of music traditionally made by African Americans without it coming out as crass or exploitative was essential for the duo to overcome their early teething troubles, “Beforehand the music that we were making was rubbish, because we didn’t really know how to do it and it did sound like we were culturally insensitive. It’s hard to find your own voice and he helped us for sure.”

But, though the band are happy to acknowledge this crucial influence on the early material on ‘SND’, they are also confident that their own identity will keep solidifying with each release. “I think even since this mixtape has come out we’ve done a lot of developing ourselves,” Josh argues, “Songs like ‘Smoke Hole’ sit more in a place where you can’t really tell where the influences have come from, and that’s definitely where we want to end up.”

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It shouldn’t be long before we get to hear more songs in this vein, as the band already have a second mixtape ‘basically done’ according to Josh, “This first mixtape is us finding where we fit in. Hopefully this second mixtape it’s a bit more like, ‘Oh, so that is where they wanted to end up!’, something that sounds completely like us, you know?”

“It’s got the same vibe but lyrically I’d say it’s a lot stronger,” Archie adds, “It’s got a similar tone to it, that kind of haunting, world-building feel.”

This sense of Sad Night Dynamite being a band that are able to build worlds in and around their music is what makes them such an exciting prospect. The atmosphere they create on their songs has a particularly cinematic feel, one that is only enhanced when paired with their unsettling music videos. “We want to bring people into the world that we’re trying to create,” explains Josh, “All our favourite mixtapes and projects have a cinematic feel.”

Usually this sense of place and atmosphere creep in while they’re writing. “There’s a lyrical tone that we agree on, but no setting as such. That develops as the lyrics fall into place. A lot of the time there’ll be a vague idea of what we’re talking about, whether it’s some kind of fight in the woods or something like that, but a lot of the time songs like ‘Smoke Hole’ are just about going into the depths of your own mind without worrying too much about how much sense it makes, because that’s fun as well.” 

Despite their love of cinematic sound palettes, the boys are unsure yet whether they’d turn their talents to creating soundtracks themselves. “I think we’d rather make our own film,” muses Josh, “That would be the goal. At the moment we’re trying to create a thing that’s bigger than a band, bigger than just videos and music, but we’re right at the beginning so it’s hard to really know what we want to do. I think naturally more film stuff should come out of that, so yeah, soundtracks would be great, but it would be more fun to be in control of the whole narrative, I think.”

“Or we’d do Blade Runner,” chimes in Archie.

“Yeah, or Betty Blue!” laughs Archie, “It would be a bit weird if Archie and I took on those roles. But who knows?”

Sad Night Dynamite’s clear knack for injecting modern hip-hop with an evidently British sensibility has won them respect from artists working in a similar field, including FKA twigs from neighbouring Gloucester, whom the Somerset duo were photographed in the studio with late last year. “She basically just schooled us!” exclaims Josh when asked about the session, “We went in with her and she really showed us that there are levels to this game. Obviously we wrote a song with her and we’re still waiting to see if anything comes of it, but she’s aware of us and at this stage that’s all we really want.”

“That was an amazing session because we’re such huge fans and she’s doing her own thing and doing it so well,” Archie continues, “She is super talented in her melodies and her production, and she was playing some of her new stuff to us, which really blew us away.”

“It’s just one of things where you go in and see someone who is right in their element now.” Josh adds.

It seems clear that ‘SND’ is not all we’ll be hearing from Sad Night Dynamite in 2021, and now the only question that remains is whether or not they’ll be able to finally perform any of these songs live. When asked what the pair are most looking forward to once lockdown ends, Josh’s answer is lightning fast, “Gigs! It’s got to be gigs!” he bursts out before looking over at his band and housemate, “You’d say girls wouldn’t you?”

“I did want to say that,” Archie admits.

“He hasn’t seen a girl in a year,” Josh explains.

“Apart from your girlfriend, and that’s getting a bit weird isn’t it?”

Yeah, I’ve got to put some boundaries there.”

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Sad Night Dynamite will release their debut mixtape on February 26th.

Words: Josh Gray

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