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Eon Sinclair, bass player for Canadian reggae-rock combo Bedouin Soundclash, is renewed. After spending the better part of a decade in transit, journeying from one club to the next without ever taking a day off, he has a right to be exhausted. Couple that with mixed feelings about the direction of the band’s music and future, and you’ve got the makings of a full-blown case of festering burnout.
So last year, the band put down their instruments in hopes of finding a new course. What transpired during that hiatus, besides free moments to decompress and pursue other interests, was a new lineup, a new label and a new vision.
Longtime drummer Pat Pengelly left the band, a move Sinclair said had been considered for some time; local session player Sekou Lumumba replaced him. The group formed their own label, Pirates Blend Records, eschewing their long history with SideOneDummy in favor of added financial and creative freedom. With the new lineup in place, they sought fresh direction, journeying to Philadelphia to record with producer/former Digable Planets member King Britt (Macy Gray, Santigold).
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“It’s just all kind of a new beginning,” Sinclair says. “We made a lot of changes, and there is now just a positive energy to everything we do. I feel like we’re slightly more progressive musically, and our position is improved on everything from the way we release our records to our health.”
The new album, set for release on Sept. 28, is the encapsulation of everything the band went through over the past year. Working with Britt introduced the band to the Philadelphia sound, enabling them to explore soul, jazz, and R&B vibes that hadn’t been part of their makeup. Light the Horizon shows the band expanding into more of a world music act while maintaining the tenets of its reggae/rock/prog foundation.
“Recording with King Britt in Philadelphia was completely refreshing and eye-opening for us,” Sinclair says. “There is just such a rich history of urban music there, and I think we kind of took that all in, and it flowed onto the record.”
Having Lumumba on drums, he adds, brought a new texture and tightness that wasn’t there before.
“Especially as a bass player, having a new partner in the rhythm section really makes it feel like a new band,” Sinclair says. “Even on our older songs, there are new fills and beats that make things more interesting.”
Light the Horizon will be the second issue on Pirates Blend Records, following the February release of front man Jay Malinowski’s solo debut, Bright Lights and Bruises.
The complications of a front man dipping his toes in the solo end of the pool can put a kink in the chemistry of some outfits, but Sinclair is completely supportive of his partner’s dalliance. In fact, he has been kicking around the idea of dropping a solo album of his own.
“I deejay quite a bit, and I’ve always been interested in experimenting with putting beats and rhythms together,” he says. “I think there will definitely be some sort of Eon Sinclair project released down the road. . . . It just may not have my name on it.”
The opportunity to explore new creative visions and release them to the masses was one of the primary reasons for starting Pirates Blend. The label, distributed by Sony Music Canada, promises to be more than just a conduit for Bedouin Soundclash and their related projects. Other artists already signed to the label include Canadian chanteuse Nneka and one-man-band extraordinaire Charlie Winston.
Venturing into the business side of things means marrying dollars with art, but as Sinclair sees it, it has been that way all along.
“I think as soon as we started touring and putting out records, we all had to become businessmen in some sense,” he says. “Having our own label actually makes things less complicated because we have all of the control.”
To support Light the Horizon, the band will return to the busy ways of the past, but there are some adventures slated that seem to mirror their new vigor. Bedouin Soundclash will perform in China for the first time, and they are also booked to play some shows in India.
“It’s going to be exciting, and we are ready for it,” Sinclair says. “It feels right.”
Bedouin Soundclash perform with Iration at the 2010 U.S. Open of Surfing music stage at the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier, Huntington Beach, (424) 653-1900; www.usopenofsurfing.com. Wed., 4:30 p.m. Free. All ages.
This article appeared in print as "New Lineup, New Label, New Sound: How Bedouin Soundclash found an all-new groove."