Turntable Interview: Sinkane
Ahmed Gallab has had a busy few months. Not only has he just released his debut record Mars for DFA Records under the name Sinkane, but his band played seemingly every CMJ showcase, sometimes performing at three shows in one night. While Sinkane is a newcomer to the scene, Gallab has years of experience under his belt performing on a variety of instruments for a handful of notable indie outfits including Of Montreal, Caribou, Eleanor Friedberger, and Yeasayer. Gallab was born in Sudan but now calls Brooklyn home. His music reflects that geographic span, incorporating the raw edges of Brooklyn rock with the cosmopolitan smoothness of his globe-hopping upbringing. Before leaving on tour with Yeasayer, Gallab stopped by Turntable.fm to talk The Golden Girls, “world music,” and finally branching out on his own.
SINKANE: I’m here!
Sinkane started playing “Kalemba (Wegue Wegue)” by Buraka Som Sistema (feat. Pongolove)
STEREOGUM: Welcome to Turntable Interview. There is a hurricane brewing outside. How are you holding up?
SINKANE: Ha! Thank you! I’m holding up just fine. Totally prepared. Lots of food, drink and Golden Girls episodes
STEREOGUM: Which Golden Girl do you most relate to?
SINKANE: Definitely Dorothy Zbornak, she was the leader. I always loved her
STEREOGUM: Not Sophia? I always think she’s the secret leader
SINKANE: Sophia was always a bit aloof. I did think she was the funniest of the bunch
STEREOGUM: Yeah, she was too good for the rest of them. Who is the Sophia of Yeasayer?
Melissa Locker started playing “Indépendance Cha-Cha” by Baloji
SINKANE: Well Sophia was the breakout character in the Golden Girls so I think I might be her
SINKANE: I’m every character on that show.
STEREOGUM: You’re Blanche too? How scandalous.
SINKANE: Blanche was the Southern belle, right? Definitely Jaytram. We both jumped ship and started our own spinoff
STEREOGUM: How many bands are you in right now?
SINKANE: Just one! Sinkane. Blitz! This guy is my homie!
STEREOGUM: Yeah? I love this artist.
SINKANE: He’s a great guy and a serious hustler. Love his work a lot.
STEREOGUM: I really liked the song you started this session with. Where is Buraka Som Sistema from?
Sinkane started playing “Ayobaness” by Morra DeRey and Heavy Quarterz
SINKANE: I saw them perform at Fun Fun Fun Fest a while back. It was so exciting. So much energy!
SINKANE: This guy, Morra DeRey, in currently my favorite DJ
STEREOGUM: There are so many amazing bands and DJs in the world it’s hard to keep track. Who are some of your other favorites?
SINKANE: Big Four Tet, Daphni, James Holden. Caveman and Skaters are some of my current favorite bands.
STEREOGUM: That’s a diverse group you just named
SINKANE: The new Tame Impala and Kendrick Lamar joints too
STEREOGUM: The bands you just named all seem to be represented in or have influenced your own sound.
SINKANE: Yeah… well you can blame the internet for that. It has made it easy to have an eclectic taste in music
STEREOGUM: That is my favorite thing about the internet!
SINKANE: It’s all available!
STEREOGUM: Do you find yourself trolling YouTube or do people send you music?
SINKANE: My friends and I are always seeking new stuff. Via blogs or the old fashioned way by digging for records in shops
STEREOGUM: What are your favorite record shops?
SINKANE: Used Kids in Columbus, OH. Academy in BK is dope. Then there’s always some guy in the middle of nowhere with a shitload of records that he wants to get rid of. That guy is always the best.
STEREOGUM: You are going on tour with Yeasayer, right?
SINKANE: Yeah. We leave in a week
Sinkane started playing “Mango Walk” by The In-Crowd
STEREOGUM: Your bands are pretty intertwined
SINKANE: I’m stoked. It’ll be exciting to finally get Sinkane on tour.
STEREOGUM: Yeah, you’ve developed a pretty ardent fanbase who is undoubtedly eager to see you play
SINKANE: Touring is my favorite thing to do. I love traveling and meeting people.
STEREOGUM: Have you hit all 50 states yet?
SINKANE: While I was making “Mars” I was listening to this song a lot. It’s one of those songs that I wish I wrote. Such a great vibe.
Melissa Locker started playing “Loro On Loro” by Sexy Fi
SINKANE: No not all 50 but I have played in every continent except Antarctica
STEREOGUM: Wow! Would you ever bring Sinkane to Sudan?
SINKANE: I hope to! I’ve been talking to my family about it. Actually, I lied. I haven’t played in Africa so I haven’t played in every continent. But that is a serious dream of mine. I would love to tour Africa
STEREOGUM: Didn’t you play instruments when you were growing up there?
SINKANE: Not really. I started playing the drums when I was 10 yrs old. Prior to that I was setting up boxes and tin cans and playing spoons
STEREOGUM: Okay, well I guess you can’t say you’ve played Africa then. Do think you could set up a tour of the continent?
SINKANE: There are talks. I’d love to do it. I think it’d be amazing.
STEREOGUM: It would be amazing and you really don’t hear about too many US bands doing it. I think people find it daunting outside of Jo-burg, anyway.
Sinkane started playing “Moshanyana” by Batsumi
SINKANE: This band Batsumi is from South Africa. Found the record in a dusty store in Buenos Aires
STEREOGUM: Wow, that is a very well-traveled album.
SINKANE: Yeah. Seriously. The cover looked amazing so I just picked it up. Been one of my favorite records ever since. I got a lot of old African records at that store, actually.
STEREOGUM: This reminds me of the Indestructible Beat of Soweto album.
SINKANE: Yeah definitely
STEREOGUM: Do you think African music gets overlooked in the US?
SINKANE: Well the term “World” music kind of bastardizes any music that isn’t Western. There are so many different kinds of music in Africa and all over the world too. I don’t think it gets over looked but rather dumbed down
STEREOGUM: Right, like J-Pop and a band like Tinariwen have nothing in common other than the unfortunate “world music” title.
SINKANE: Although recently there have been SO many different African and International music compilations that are showcasing amazing music from all over the place.
Melissa Locker started playing “Shanty Town” by Desmond Dekkar
SINKANE: Desmond Dekkar is a lord. He certainly gets overlooked!
STEREOGUM: Like we were saying before, I do think the internet has really helped open the door to so many types of music
SINKANE: Yeah. A lot of the most indie rock bands are a byproduct of the Internet
STEREOGUM: How so?
Sinkane started playing “Jiao” by Daphni
SINKANE: You know. A kid makes a track in his bed room, posts it on Tumblr, and then, all of the sudden, he’s a star
STEREOGUM: Kitty Pryde, for example.
SINKANE: Odd Future, DOM, lots of bands.
SINKANE: More power to all of them.
STEREOGUM: Yeah, the more music the better.
SINKANE: It’s inspiring people to make more music but it has created a bit of cacophony in the game too. It’s a bit over saturated
STEREOGUM: It’s hard to keep up.
SINKANE: Well it’s certainly hard to pay attention because there’s just so much
STEREOGUM: It’s kinda your fault. You’ve been in so many amazing bands! It’s hard to keep track of that alone
STEREOGUM: Eleanor Friedberger, Caribou, Yeasayer. How many others?
SINKANE: That’s about it. Of Montreal too
STEREOGUM: Right. So what’s it like finally taking the lead and doing your own thing?
Melissa Locker started playing “Tenere Taqhim Tossam (Four Tet Remix)” by Tinariwen
SINKANE: It feels great. It’s nice to be able to see your vision through. The 4 of us in the band have become really close and I’m exciting to move forward as a team. I’ve wanted to do Sinkane from the beginning but I felt like it would be a great opportunity to play with other bands. I had a blast these past four years but now it’s time to focus
STEREOGUM: Right. And while there are a lot of other bands in the world, your voice is a welcome addition. Do you feel like your single “Runnin” is emblematic of your vision?
SINKANE: I have a lot of ideas. The past Sinkane records don’t sound anything like “Mars” and I’d like to explore ideas beyond what I did with “Mars”. “Runnin” is definitely a good representation of what Sinkane is, but it surely isn’t the only representation
STEREOGUM: Right, when you’re combining music from all genres, it must be hard to distill one sound.
SINKANE: Well not really. I have the rest of my life to make music. I don’t have to make the same record three or four times in a row. It’s exciting to think about how you can re-invent yourself time and time again. Caribou are great about that.
STEREOGUM: What is your songwriting process like?
SINKANE: I wrote “Mars” on my own. My friend Greg Lofaro co-produced it with me. He was like an editor. I’d send him stuff and then I’d get notes and I’d make the necessary revisions.
Sinkane started playing “Con Mi Suerte” by Helado Negro
STEREOGUM: When did the rest of the band come in?
SINKANE: Well Jaytram came in late to play some drums. He’s the only one in the band that played on the album
STEREOGUM: So who are you touring with?
SINKANE: The Sinkane band is: Me, Jason Trammell, Mikey Freedom Hart, Ish Montgomery. I met Mikey and Ish after the record was finished. Roberto Lange (Helado Negro) sings on Caparundi. He has been a huge influence on my music. This is one my favorite songs of his.
STEREOGUM: It’s beautiful. It sounds almost Brazilian. So is the live show fairly different from the album?
Melissa Locker started playing “Stand Down Margaret (Live)” by International Beat
SINKANE: Yeah it’s a bit more energetic. It’s always good to have a different vibe and energy live otherwise the show is boring and you might as well stay home and listen to the record without a bunch of drunk people annoying you.
STEREOGUM: Ha! Speaking of which, what was your CMJ like?
SINKANE: We played a lot. It was very fun. We played with our friends Superhuman Happiness at Zebulon. That is always fun.
STEREOGUM: Did you discover any new bands?
SINKANE: We played with this band called Slowdance at Union Pool. I loved them.
STEREOGUM: Do you get out to see live music much?
SINKANE: Yeah I try to. Not as much as I used to but I love live music. I saw Matthew E. White at Union Pool a few weeks ago. That show slayed.
STEREOGUM: Oh I saw him at Music Hall. He’s amazing!
SINKANE: Also Delicate Steve at Knitting Factory. That band is seriously incredible.
STEREOGUM: Definitely. Aside from Yeasayer, which is kind of a dream bill, who else would you want to play with?
Sinkane started playing “Eu Vou Torcer” by Jorge Ben
SINKANE: It would be fun to tour with MGMT. I love their music. We’re fortunate to start our touring cycle with great bands: Yeasayer and Toro Y Moi are both amazing
STEREOGUM: Yeah, I can’t wait. Are you already thinking ahead to your next album?
SINKANE: Yeah I think about it but I’m not working to hard on it because this one just came out!
STEREOGUM: So are you one of those artists who writes every day? Or are you more of a write when the mood hits?
SINKANE: Right now I’m not writing anything new. My mind is not on writing. We have a lot of work ahead of us so I’m focusing on that. When we have time off in the next few months I’ll take the collection of ideas I have and try to flush some ideas.
11/06 – Northampton, MA @ Pearl Street Nightclub
11/07 – Boston, MA @ House of Blues Boston
11/08 – Montreal, QC @ Cabaret Mile End 11/09 – Toronto, ON @ Danforth Music Hall
11/10 – Clifton Park, NY @ Upstate Concert Hall
11/11 – Providence, RI @ Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel
11/13 – Port Chester, NY @ The Capital Theatre
11/14 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
11/15 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
11/16 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
11/17 – Charlottesville, VA @ Jefferson Theater
11/18 – Atlanta, GA @ The Tabernacle
11/19 – Carrboro, NC @ Cats Cradle
11/30 – Utrecht, NL @ Le Guess Who? Festival
12/01 – Munich, GR @ ON3 Festival
12/03 – Berlin, GR @ Cityslang Party
12/05 – Cologne, GR @ Gebäude 9
12/06 – Zurich, CHE @ Zukunft
12/08 – Rennes, FR @ Transmusicales Festival
12/11 – London, UK @ Sebright Arms
12/13 – Brooklyn, New York @ Music Hall of Williamsburg (w/ !!!)
Supporting Toro Y Moi
02/19 – Chicago, IL @ Metro
02/20 – Minneapolis, MN @ Fine Line Music Cafe
02/21 – Lawrence, KS @ Granada
02/23 – Denver, CO @ The Bluebird Theater
02/24 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
02/26 – Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore
02/27 – Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile
02/28 – Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
03/03 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Henry Fonda Theatre
Mars is out now via DFA.