Flamingods: Music without Borders
Charles Prest and Kamal Rasool, two of the five members of Flamingods, are relaxing before the penultimate show of their summer tour, slouching on a leather sofa in a pop-up bar in London’s Elephant and Castle. They talk happily about what they have achieved this summer, but also look very, very tired. Not surprising, considering that after just one warm-up gig the band had just 72 hours, rehearsing 16 hours a day, to prepare for their debut performance at Glastonbury, and then embarked on a European tour that saw them play 11 shows in two-weeks. To add to the workload, the band suffered two van breakdowns in three days in Spain and Portugal, forcing them to miss a gig in Oviedo.
This evening’s performance will celebrate the imminent release of Moon, a companion piece to their 2012 LP Sun, for which they asked various producers and musicians to remix tracks from their first album. They will then attempt to record their third album in three days, before Prest and Rasool return to Dubai, their current home. The other three members will remain in London.
This kind of hectic schedule is not uncommon for Flamingods, who are certainly not your typical band. Kamal Rasool, Charles Prest, Craig Doporto and Sam Rowe, all in their mid-20s, met as expat kids in Bahrain, where they played music together. But it wasn’t until they all moved to the UK for university in 2009 that Flamingods began to take shape.
It was originally Rasool’s solo project, started in his Bahrain bedroom and developed in his London dorm room. “When I started it, I didn’t really think it would grow into anything,” he says. “It was just meant to be a silly project where I created music in my room with lots of weird instruments.” But soon Prest joined in; then Rowe started to travel up from Southampton for jam sessions; they befriended and recruited Karthik Poduval; and, finally, Doporto became the fifth member of the band.
The band released some low-fi recordings and played a few shows in London, before recording Sun in 2012. But then university ended, and shortly afterwards Rasool had to leave the UK due to visa restrictions. So during the recording of the band’s second album in 2014, Hyperborea, which so impressed The Guardian that it named Flamingods its ‘New band of the week’, the five band members were never all in the same room as each other.
That separation seems only to have added to the band’s unique trans-global relationship. “It’s really important to us that we continue exploring different cultures and sounds and just taking in everything that’s around us,” says Rasool, who has been collecting unusual instruments since childhood. “There’s no limit.”
“We wanted to make music that we thought an ancient forgotten civilisation would have made”
Some influences include Boredoms, a Japanese noise outfit the band discovered at Matt Groening’s All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival in 2010, the year they formed, who particularly impressed Prest, making “a wall of noise with nine drums on stage”; Sun Ra; Pharoah Sanders; Animal Collective; Tito Puente and “a lot of Latin stuff”; and Fella Kuti.
“For the first album we took a lot of influence from Mesoamerican culture, like the Aztecs and the Mayans and stuff,” says Rasool. “Then Hyperborea had a concept: to make music that we thought an ancient forgotten civilisation would have made, in a far away mythical land.”
For the as yet untitled third album, they will be bringing in a lot of musicians from outside the band. “We’re going to introduce strings, clarinet, sax, harp, it’s going to be quite big,” says Rasool. “We’re aiming to make an exotica record, which was a style that was popularised in the 1950s by people like Arthur Lyman, Martin Denny and Les Baxter. A weird exotica record that was forgotten in time.”
The band hopes to pull off a tour of the Middle East in December. But for now, until they sign with a major label and can work full-time on the band there is no long-term plan. “We just take it as it is and keep going,” says Rasool. “All I can say is that it’s organised chaos. It’s just the sound that we want to make.”
Moon is out now (loversandlollypops.net)