Can you tell us a bit about the band, how the whole thing came together, some of the history and what’s been going on with the band?
It all started with the soundsystem, Jam Jah Sound, which started in 2001 as a weekly Monday night event with Bongo Damo (our drummer) Robin (our guitar player and producer ) and Keir who now lectures in Bristol. At the same time, Robin was starting a label called Friendly Fire Music, producing riddims and recorrding local artists who used to also perform on the sound. Damo being a drummer and Robin a guitarist, it was a natural thing to put a band together by draffting in a handful of their musician friends, that would feed into the live shows and recordings and bring it back to the live thing which both were involved in before taking up djing. Friendly Fire Band first started gathering momentum with the monthly Friendly FIre Sessions, at the Hare and Hounds, where would invite a famous artist to perform with the band, alongside the artists they usually worked with. This led to recording the first set of 7″ vinyls in 2010, Badness Riddim, which featured some of the artists they had met along the way. They have been releasing records ever since.
What are you’re big plans going forward for the rest of 2020? Any releases in the pipeline?
Everyone is coming with the 2020 vision talk, but we are actually planning on going in hard with the releases this year, as we’ve been sitting on a few projects for a while. Myki Tuff’s “Luv Song” is due to be released early March with a music video with the intention to start a much needed epidemic of love, a video for Tippa Irie’s Mini Bus Man, and also more releases with Tomlin Mystic, Laddy D, Duane Stephenson, Al Campbell, Raphael amongst others, and hopefully an album for Myki Tuff should reach by the end of the year. We are also planning the summer festival season, which is usually a busy time of year for us.
People might not have seen you before, what should they be expecting from your live shows?
When you come to a live Friendly Fire Show, you’re going to see different aspects of undiluted reggae music – we have 3 frontmen that each bring their own flavour – as a result, you’ll get serious roots music, uptempo ska, rub a dub, and dancehall delivered by Tomlin Mystic, Laddy D and Myki Tuff, all with an upful and bright message, and – even when the message is hard hitting – it’s all about smiles and good times.
You also do recording, bookings and dubplate service under the Friendly Fire Music, are all the band involved with that side of things as well or is that more of a mix?
Friendly Fire Music remains an umbrella for the different activities. It includes Friendly Fire Band, Jam Jah Sound, Friendly Fire label, and the dubplate studio, Friendly Dubs – and they all feed into each other.. The band records instrumentals. Through inviting artists to voice dubplates for soundclashes to the studio, some get roped into recording singles on the instrumentals. Jam Jah Sound gets to test all the tunes in front of an audience to see what works and what doesn’t. However the band isn’t directly involved with the runnings of the label, studio, and dubplates which stay Robin’s responsibility and main activity, but are part of the system and are involved in most of the recording sessions in some way.
We’ve always been about uniting communities and showing music from all over the world, do you find a lot of your shows and the work you do brings people together?
Community is a very big aspect of what we do, as the foundation of the Friendly Fire movement came from the local soundsystem night we have been running for almost 20years. Since its inception, it’s been a free entry event and has become an local institution. Reggae is powerful in its accessibilty and range – everyone will find a reggae song they like, even if they aren’t into reggae particularly! As a result, it welcomes all sorts of people from different ages and backgrounds, which is the biggest achievement of the night – and this has always been a focus for us. Even as a band, with different backgrounds and origins, reggae brought us to becoming a unit formed of people from Paris, Chester, Jamaica, Birmingham… Music is a strong unifier, and reggae manifests this more explicitly by being the voice of the oppressed – now it has evolved out of Jamaica, and you’ll find incarnations of reggae around the world that suit the same purpose, but for different struggles than that of the Jamaican ghettos it originated from. Reggae originates from the melting pot that is Jamaica, so naturally it appeals to a wide range of people, which reinforces its strength in uniting communities.
Any other comments for the readers?
We are really honoured to take part in the 0161 festival, because the festival and the bands that play are all defending the same cause of unifying people, and it’s great to be involved in the journey!
Looking forward to the show!
Saturday day tickets – https://0161festival.com/product/0161-festival-saturday/