Shingai Shoniwa Interview
added: 29 Aug 2012
interviewed by: Naomi Spence
In the week leading up to the eagerly awaited release of the Noisettes third album Contact, we caught up with one half of the duo. Lead singer and Bass player Shingai Shoniwa spoke to Music-News to discuss what her and fellow band member Dan Smith have been up to lately.
Read on as we endeavour to discover what really makes the Noisettes tick.
Music-News: Your single That Girl has just come out and your new album Contact is just about to release (on the 27th of August), how are you feeling?
Shingai: I can't quite describe the feeling. I feel quite hazy and dreamy about it all really. I want to celebrate it now because I feel like I have spent so long talking about it. I just want to release the bird into the sky. I feel like everything has been caged up. I've been talking about sounds and things that people havent heard yet, so, I can't wait for the release.
Music-News: It's been 3 years since the release of your last album, Wild Young Hearts. Was there a conscious decision to take your time writing the follow up, or did you just take things as they came?
Shingai: We were still touring the last album about a year and a half ago, which came out in 2009. Usually a campaign is about a year and a half. This one took about a year to record, then about 5 or 6 months doing overdubs and recording new songs. I think we just wanted to be really armed and make something that was really going to last and be special. There's also been a lot of travelling and moving around. We have done a lot of starting again, with people who have never heard of us. I don't think you can rush things sometimes.
Music-News: Your last album was a huge success, did that put a lot of pressure on you while writing Contact'?
Shingai: No, not at all. It's like someone saying 'your last kid was really pretty, do you think this one is going to come out ugly'. You make every kid with the same passion and hope that they are going to grow up healthy, confident and wonderful. I think the trick with a new release is maintaining a really good campaign and doing great shows to support it. Plus other assets like videos and artwork. Making the music is exciting, but it feels as though it's only part of the journey. Contact has given the other albums something to play with. Making new songs is like making new editions to your family in a way.
Music-News: You have been busy promoting contact over the past few months. What has been your favourite gig during this period and why?
Shingai: This summer the highlight gig for us had to be Blissfields. We also played the Queens Jubilee festival and 2 shows at Hyde Park, which were so much fun. We've played Romania- Bucharest, places that other members of the band would never have dreamed that we were going. We've had some wonderful shows, playing to people who speak different languages and that's been really important, as it's only the music that does the talking.
Music-News: On a similar theme, which is the most memorable performance you have ever given and why?
Shingai: Probably when we performed at the Lake of the Stars Festival in Malawi. That was naturally an amazing experience. We played as the sun went down at this magical place called Mangochi. They call it the Lake of a Thousand Stars, as the sky is littered with a constellation that you could never describe to anyone who lives in a city like London. I don't think we'll ever see stars like that. It was so beautiful. There were lots of people from all around the world, from all African nationalities, Europe and the UK. It was really incredible.
Music-News: You found mainstream success after your song Don't Upset the Rhythm was used in a TV ad. When you were first approached about the ad, what was your gut reaction? Was it ch-ching or were you sceptical?
Shingai: I try not to foster too much cynicism and not to be too sceptical as a person. I try to be as optimistic as possible about things. As my Mum says, 'Every disappointment is Gods Appointment'. If someone comes to you with an opportunity and it involves your music, I think you should have a good think about it before turning your nose up. If they're not interested in the music, that's different because it's about the money. If they love the song and they want to use it for an advert of a film, as long as it's not selling anything that's negative, I think that's something we'll always be open to.
Music-News: Contact contains an interesting mix of musical styles and influences. Who are your musical idols? Who inspires your writing?
Shingai: (Long pause) ooh, that's an interesting question. I think I'm really inspired by artists who have a unique personality. People like Tina Turner, Kate Bush, Jimi Hendrix, Supremes, Bilie Holiday. People who give flamboyance and a bit of colour to pop. Gwen Stefani is a great example of someone who was in a band for 10 years before she had a hit and she stuck with it. Anything middle of the road washes over me. I can't say I like it of don't like it, but I can't say I remember it.
Music-News: You and Dan met while studying at the BRIT school, do you think that studying at a specialist music school gave you an advantage in the industry?
Shingai: Not really, because I didn't study music there. I actually studied theatre and drama up to university level. I had known Dan for 5 years (from the age of 14) before we started taking the band seriously. We just kept in touch as friends. The Noisettes didn't really get started until about 2005. We did a covers band before then, but I was still at Uni. We got our first record deal in 2006 with Motown Records in America. We had our first album out in 2007, but I didn't have a clue about the music industry before that. I still don't have much of a clue about it.
Music-News: When you're not writing and performing, what are the things you like to spend time doing?
Shingai: Travelling, seeing friends, having a cheeky little game. I like riding my bike along the river, seeing my little nieces and nephews, doing cartwheels. Lots of stuff.
Music-News: There's a lot going on musically at the moment. Which other performers/bands are you currently into and why?
Shingai: There's a lot of people who have really big budgets, but its hard to say whether they are singing from the heart. There is a guy called Marcus Oliver, who sings and plays the violin who is fantastic. Michael Kiwanuka is a great songwriter. I really like the production of people like Little Dragon. I also like listening a lot of jazz and a lot of stuff that's not pop, because I can come back to pop from something that's a bit more of an inspired place. Femi Temowo is a fantastic Nigerian guitar player and singer, who has an album called Orin Meta. There's loads of stuff really.
Music-News: You had huge success outside of the Noisettes with hit 'I Heard You Say (hey hey) with Dennis Ferrer in 2010. Do either you or Dan have further side projects in the making?
Shingai: You have to keep an option, otherwise it just gets boring. Dan and I have been in the same band for 6 or 7 years now. It's important to do other stuff, because we have to keep coming to each other with new ideas and keeping it fresh. We both have each others blessing on that.
Music-News: What comes next for the Noisettes, have you got a master plan? or are you just taking it all as it comes?
Shingai: The plan is just to release the bird into the wild and see how he gets on. Then to keep on learning, creating and just enjoying it while you're at it.
Music-News: Have you got a message for all of the noisettes fans out there, which you would like to share with music-news?
Oh, um.... what would the message be? (long pause). Get up stand up, stand up for your right. Get up stand up, don't give up the fight. That's to quote Robert Marley of course!
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