Superfood: The Difficulties of Making Music Without a Record Label

UK band Superfood (aka Dom Ganderton and Ryan Malcolm) have released their highly anticipated new album ‘Bambino‘ following the release of singles ‘Double Dutch’, ‘I Can’t See’ and ‘Unstoppable’While they are now label mates with the likes of The 1975 and Wolf Alice after having signed onto Dirty Hit Records, the band didn’t have that support of a label when they began recording their new album ‘Bambino’.

Despite, the obstacles of making an album without a label, Dom Ganderton shares with us the advantages of having more time and creative control to perfect their sophomore record, and upon listening to the album, it really shows. The band have honned in on their craft and delivered a pretty impressive second album. We also spoke about the creative process behind making ‘Bambino’, the meaning behind the title and the importance of sampling in music. Read our chat below

So you guys have a new record ‘Bambino’ come out next month, could you tell me a bit about the title and the concepts and themes of the overall record?

We came up with the name after we finished the album and we started listening to it a bit more differently. We started to realize that there are loads of themes like childhood and we though Bambino would be a perfect title for that.

So you started making this record from your flat without a label or a studio, I can only imagine that that must have been a frustrating process for you – what was the most challenging part of that?

Well the most challenging part would probably be, having to deal with neighbours and obviously not having the right equipment that we needed. But I think it’s more refreshing in a way because you have no one breathing down your neck like in a studio and instead of spending a day on a song, you can go back to it in little parts in the space of two weeks and really get something that you are happy with. But I think without having a label the most frustrating part about that there was no deadline for us to finish. So we kind of just went on this spiral of just going over and over things. I think looking back at things if we kind of had a kick up the ass we would have gotten things done quicker. It all happened to them and happy that it did.

Yes with that freedom, as you say, you just keeping going over it because you have the time and the creative freedom. How did you stop yourself from tweaking over and over? Did you go into the album with a sense of what you wanted it to sound like?

I think we just got to the point where we just had to stop. We were recording it for like a year and writing it and we thought we just had to start playing some gigs now. We were really looking forward to finish off the mix and things went from there and we sent it to Dirty Hit and we are up to the release now.

How did you keep motivated through those setbacks?  

I think me and Ryan just both knew that if we are going to give up that we would be pretty upset, sort of thing. I think that if one of us were kind of like ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’ and the other one would make sure they would stay on the path and we just egg each other on. I think that if it was either one of us on our own and doing it on our own than I don’t think the album would have gotten finished. I think we just both had each other’s back really. We just bought each other a sandwich when we feeling down really. (laughs)

What advice would you give to another band in a similar position that you guys were in?

I guess it would just be to keep going and remember that you’re not making music for other people, you’re just making it for yourself.I think if you stay in your own lane and enjoy what you’re doing and back what you’re doing and then just good things will happen. If you put in hard work and spend long hours in the studio, things will happen. If you kind of just half ass it then you’re probably not going to get to the point where you where you want to be. So you’ve just got to keep your head down and keep going and eventually something will just click.

In a sense though, I guess you kind of do make music for other people in a sense, just because you know you do need to have a label backing you as it’s very difficult to make music independently. So how do you go about staying true to yourself and not feeding into that pressure of needing somebody backing you?

In a sense when I say you make music for yourself I say make music for your own personal reason. It’s not like there is anyone forcing you to make it and like if you want to make music that you listen to 9 times out of 10 it is something that your friends will want to listen to. I think the minute that you start thinking I need to write the world’s number one Ed Sheeran massive banger then I think things will just start getting diluted. I think that if you just stay true to yourself but of course you will stop yourself from making a 10 minute clarinet solo on a track and think of it’s a bit self-indulgent, you know what I mean, you will at least 9 times out of 10 write songs that have to connect with other people.

I don’t think you should ever worry about making music for the label. I think it’s always go to be for you and ultimately what the fans that you’ve got would like to hear from you.

So listening to the album, the sounds and influences jumps around a bit – was that something that you set out to achieve or did that happen naturally for you?

I think that just kind of happen naturally. I think a lot of the times we were kind of just chopping and changing songs on the album. I think you got to the point where it was less of just an album and it was more of a soundtrack of what our kind of influences were over the course of the last 2 years. It was just bits that we nodded to .I do think that there are elements that pull it all together but I think the reason that it jumps around is because that is what everyone listens to and I think everyone kind of listens to different parts of music everyday. 

What were some of the records that you were listening when you created the album that might have influenced what we hear?

I think the main couple of influences that we were listening to was a producer named Mndsgn that we really got into and a band from the 90s called Stereolab, who are just incredible. And I think anything from the early Gorillaz records that were kind of just re-listening to and went ‘well this is some amazing’ and we just borrowed from everything. Ryan got all of his dad’s old dub records back down from Wolverhampton right at the beginning of recording this, so we just started sort of working our way through all the names and that’s why there’s a couple of dub records that ended up on the album like samples. It was just kind of like time and place and it was just what was there and what we were listening to and not forcing it I guess.

Did you worry being too heavily influenced might take away from your individuality and lead to comparison and being pigeonholed?

No I think that we draw a lot of out inspirations from I know that I just say Gorillaz but the main influences that we draw from a very far away. Like the producer that I mentioned Mndsgn and that band Stereolab, they are very far away from what the album sounds like and it’s kind of just like meeting halfway I guess. It’s just nodding, I don’t think we have ever been in the studio and gotten our phone out or laptop out and think we need to copy this part of this song all we need to sound like that. It’s almost like the move that it puts you in all the feeling that I put you in is kind of what we think about I guess.

Since the release of your first album, you’ve kind of ditched the four-piece indie band title, for a more synth and sample heavy sort of sound – why did you go down that road instead? 

I think it was just the fact that it was me and Ryan writing the music. It was just us two in the studio, it wasn’t a band in the live room recording the song. So you know we were just being honest, that was just what it was now. Obviously the other members couldn’t stick it out for whatever reason to be honest. Obviously it is a little bit hard when there’s not any kind of income coming in to it and you’ve just got to do it off blind faith. It just ended up as being me and Ryan doing this project and that’s just how it is now but yeah.

So on the topic of samples earlier, were there any samples that you really wanted to use that you couldn’t because of legal reasons?

The Prince Buster sample on ‘Unstoppable’. That one was very hard to get cleared because it was so strange, because you see the day after we signed with Dirty Hits he actually passed away and we were kind of in the midst of getting it cleared. It just went on for weeks and weeks and we thought we weren’t going to be able to use it and we thought the track may have been left off the album. I think it was like about 4 months ago that we just got this email randomly one day from his estate that’s said we could use it and we was so so happy because we thought we just have to scratch that song and start again but it made it.

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If somebody wanted to sample one of your songs, would you happily let them do that?

Yes of course, I love that. What I love about sampling is just you know that those microphones, in that air that was room in the late 60s, and you can just sample and just use the air that’s just being moved to that room and you can put that up and take in the mood and put you there instantly. To have that kind of vibe on something that you’re making and that could be included on a record in 2017, I think that’s just kind of invaluable and I love it and I think it is something amazing. I think you obviously always go to put your own spin on things, you can’t just sample a song and use it like that but yeah I love it.

To wrap up with a couple of questions, we will start by asking where is the strangest place you have heard one of your songs being played and what was your reaction to it?

Oh well you know what it was really cool I went out for Sunday dinner with my parents in the countryside, kind of near where I live in Birmingham and we sat down for dinner and then one of my songs came on the playlist just in the middle of nowhere. I just looked like the coolest son in the world that day. But that was the weirdest place it’s never happened.

I think we got played on this reality TV show called Made in Chelsea a few times, which was pretty strange.

Made in Chelsea has the best soundtracks though, they play the best music… (laughs)

Yeah yeah, I know but its just so weird, when they are all like arguing over frappuccinos and stuff and then your fucking tune comes on and its so strange. I just think that whole TV show is absolutely bizarre and I have no idea what’s going on with it. All of them TV shows like ‘Love Island’ as well – what the hell! (laughs)

 Lastly, if you weren’t making music what do you think you’d be doing?

I’d like to think that I’d be a chef to be honest but I think in reality I don’t know. If I was doing nothing to do with music I’m going to I don’t know what I would do I’m going to stick to you I’d be a chef.

Superfood’s new album ‘Bambino’ is out now via Sony Music Australia/Dirty Hit Records

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