Fuelled by political and social events that have witnessed noticeable divisions within the past four years, Chris Redmond – co-founder of spoken word collective Tongue Fu has been inspired to curate an album creating a ‘space of hope and solidarity’ during a chaotic time. Ahead of the album’s release later on this month, Chris tells us more about the album’s line up, listening to the final edit and what listeners can expect.

Hi Chris, Tongue Fu will be releasing their debut album Boat Building on Friday 27th November. How are you feeling ahead of the release?

Hi. I’m feeling very excited at the prospect. I’m very happy with it and look forward to it finding some ears to land in. 

Boat Building looks to create a space of hope and solidarity during a chaotic time. What inspired Tongue Fu to produce the album?

The world has been shifting these last few years, since Trump was elected, since Brexit, there’s been a lurch to the right. Racial tensions are high, the Me Too movement has shaken up conversations around sexual politics, the climate crisis is upon us, refugees are being treated appallingly and all this in the never ending news cycle of shock and drama leaves us feeling startled and provoked, overwhelmed, angry and confused. There is no sense of definitive truth. Everything is binary and polarity. 

We wanted to make a beautiful thing; a vessel for anger and frustration, for conflict and love and hope – a big boat that we can all sail in, a place in which we can pause for a moment, celebrate our diverse experiences and reflect on this moment and the challenges we face. Poetry has always been political. But it’s also more than that. It’s a heart beat, a prayer and a way of lighting fires. 

Contributors include AMYRA, Dizraeli, Vanessa Kisuule, Joshua Idehen, Zia Ahmed, Rafeef Ziadah, Anthony Anaxagorou and Kweku Sackey. How did you approach organising the album’s creative team?

I wrote a list on the back of an envelope of people who I respect as humans and whose work I love and then I phoned them up and asked them. Thankfully they all said yes. Organising them was a whole new level of admin, but lets not go there…

The album was initially developed through a series of writing and improvisation sessions, what did this part of the creative process involve? 

The writers met in groups over a couple of weeks. We played games, listened to music, talked and wrote a lot. I had developed a sketch of the themes I wanted to explore, so I brought prompts for individual pieces and group writing and we bashed out a ton of material. I then went away and roughly arranged what had been written and we did a back and forth until we were happy with some versions. Then we went into the studio over several days and the band improvised to each of the pieces.

It was then produced by yourself and fellow Tongue Fu founder and bassist Riaan Vosloo, with keys played by Arthur Lea and drummer Patrick Davey. How did you all work together to create the album’s sound?

Some of the tracks on the album are pretty much as they were recorded in those first sessions, some with embellishments of strings, percussion or extra voices. Others were taken away, deconstructed and shaped using the improvisations as a base but were much more of a production job. Arthur, Pat and Riaan have a bunch of sound pallets that they have developed over our years of doing live improvised shows together, so they have an amazing short hand as a band. Once all the live stuff was recorded, Riaan and I discussed each piece and he went to town on the arrangements and production of the music. The process was then a back and forth between us, with me taking care of a lot of vocal arrangement and extra recording. 

Boat Building has been mastered by Grammy Award winning Lewis Hopkin, how were you able to collaborate to realise Tongue Fu’s vision for the album and how did it feel listening to the finalised piece?

Lewis has done some mixing and mastering for us before on a film project. He and Riaan have known each other for a long time. He’s a bit of a wizard. Good mastering engineers have brains and ears like no others so I was thrilled that Lewis was up for mastering it. I have to be honest I did have a bit of a cry when I heard it. It’s taken over three years and has been a massive labour of love. We didn’t want to cut corners, but we’re completely independent so that means a slow process of fitting it in around everyone’s commitments, fundraising and hustling. So to finally hear it fully realised was a moment of great joy and gratitude. 

What can listeners expect from the album?

It’s a moody, brooding, jazz inflected, fuzzy synth-hop soundtrack of a stormy sea. It sounds like waves and buildings exploding, like the sun setting and rising – sometimes a prayer, sometimes a celebration. It’s quite intense. 

What would you like for listeners to take away from the album?

I’d like people to feel inspired and soothed, fired up and connected, and reminded that we’re all here, in this together for a short precious time. I’d like it to shake people, to soften their armour and remind them to breathe. I hope it’s the right balance of head, heart and deep breathing. 

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

To find out more about the album Boat Building, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop