Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1091

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Sugasmak!: Sweet times

SugaSmack! SugaSmack!

Having independently released two critically-acclaimed solo albums - 2005âs European Gold-certified âSet The Toneâ and 2007âs âKingdom Fallsâ - British soul singer/songwriter Nate James this month steps outside his comfort zone by teaming up with Matt Gooderson of indie outfit Infidels to form the electro-soul duo SugaSmak!.

Indeed, described by Gooderson as âa celebration of individuals - the juxtaposition of two completely different people from two different walks of lifeâ, SugaSmak! make their debut this month via small London independent Better Get Records with their bass-fuelled, synth-driven first single âWe Areâ¦â. Which - described as âSly & The Family Stone jamming with Tensnakeâ(!) - will be followed in 2011 by the twosomeâs forthcoming, as-yet-untitled debut album.

Having, as a solo act, quietly established himself as one of UK soulâs most successful exports in recent years (selling over 2000,000 albums and enjoying sizeable airplay across mainland Europe and Japan), a now-31-year-old, Suffolk-raised Nate reacquaints himself with long-time industry acquaintance Pete Lewis to enthusiastically fill âBlues & Soulââs Assistant Editor in on his decidedly left-of-centre, yet highly interesting, new project.

PETE: How did you and Matt Gooderson of Infadels come to hook up as new electro-soul duo SugaSmak!?

NATE: âWe actually met at a house party back in May of this year. We were introduced by a mutual friend and just started talking MUSIC! Obviously heâd been doing his thing with Infadels, Iâd been doing my thing solo⦠And, as I normally do with a lot of people, I kinda just said âWe should do some writing together and just see what comes of itââ¦You know, with me being soul/jazz and him being sort of punk and indie, we were very much at opposite ends of the music spectrum. So I was thinking âWell, weâre either gonna crash heads or get a really interesting resultâ⦠And before we knew it, weâd pretty much written an album of material together! You know, although we are so different musically, together the chemistry just seemed to WORK! In that the stuff we were producing was encompassing all thatâs in ME, and all thatâs in HIM! I was like âYeah, this is really FRESH! We need to put this OUT!â... And thatâs how SugaSmak! was born!â

PETE: So, with you now naming yourself âSugajackâ and Matt calling himself âClymaâ, whatâs the actual concept and intention behind SugaSmak!?

NATE; âI just think right now the industry is quite saturated by things like âThe X-Factorâ and these kind of same-old-same-old/run-of-the-mill artists that are out there today. So in that sense SugaSmak! for me represents something fresh to bring to the table. To me itâs similar to when Gnarls Barkley first came out. You know, Cee-Lo who was this really cool, oversize black dude and Dangermouse who was this really kinda goofy-looking producer - and yet all of a sudden theyâre making great MUSIC together! You know, people from my fan-base whoâve heard the SugaSmak! stuff have been like âThis is really cool, but are you still doing your solo stuff?â.. And Iâm like âYeah, but I see this as an introduction to maybe a new kinda sound and coming with something different from just your regular soul singer singing a ballad onstage. Itâs soul, itâs punk, its indie, itâs electro stuff with a bit of a twist to itâ¦â. So yeah, overall I guess weâre basically just trying to come with something thatâs a bit out-of-the-box as far as music is concerned right now.â

PETE: What can we expect from SugaSmak!âs debut album - due to be released in 2011 through Better Get Records?

NATE: âBecause the single We Areâ¦â - which has like a hip hop/electro thing going on - is basically us saying âthis is something new - jump on board and enjoy itâ, we thought it was a really good introduction-track. But in terms of the album overall -though everything is identifiably SugaSmak! - every song is DIFFERENT! Because, while the mix of electro and soul may previously have been touched on with maybe a couple of tracks here and there, no-one before has really done it to the level of an entire ALBUM! I mean, influence-wise weâre very much going back to the late Eighties/early Nineties days of people like S-Express, Technotronic - all those cool kind of artists from back in the day, who again were a little bit off-the-beaten-track and trying something a little bit different. But while the album is definitely a mixed bag of electro and soul, at the same time itâs not like one track is really electro or one track is really soulful. Instead every track has elements of BOTH in it... So yeah, Iâm really excited about putting it out - âcause I think itâs gonna GO!â

PETE: What are the main ways in which you personally see the SugaSmak! project as differing from your previous solo works as a soul singer/songwriter?

NATE: âTo be honest, Pete, itâs brought me out of my comfort zone. Because I think with soul music there are certain confines - certain limits you have to live by. You know, every song is more like a story, with a start, middle and finish. Whereas with this more pop kind of thing itâs more about HOOKS and it doesnât have to make SENSE. Itâs not gonna take you on journey from start to finish - it could be just a random selection of WORDS. But, provided the hooks are there and the melodyâs there, it is gonna stick in your HEAD! So, on a personal level, I think I just had to kind of change my mindset in terms of how to write a song⦠Because it didnât have to have that sort of classic Stevie Wonder/Marvin Gaye/John Legend feel, as it wasnât that sort PROJECT. So, while my VOCALS will always be soulful, in terms of the actual WRITING this project was more âLetâs just piece some bits together and see how it worksâ⦠Basically I think itâs just more of a FUN project, and not quite as serious as my previous works may have been.â

PETE: So, as something of a Brit-soul veteran, what are your views on the scene today?

NATE: âWell, Iâm actually glad that the SugaSmak! project came ALONG. Because, though I was in a position to put out a new solo soul record and had written the songs for it, I honestly was in the mindset of âIs it gonna be wasted to release it here at this time?â⦠Because I just donât think thereâs that same amount of buzz and excitement about the UK soul industry today. You know, Craig David laid low for a while and then released his covers album; Lemarâs obviously got a new record coming soon; McClean released a few songs and has a good voice... But apart from that, thereâs not much HAPPENING! Taio (Cruz) has gone more down the pop/R&B route; Omar and Don-E are still in the studio⦠I mean, itâs all gone a bit quiet for me. Which, as I say, was another reason why I thought âWell, let me try something new and come at this from a different angle - just to maybe reignite that love of a UK soulful vocalâ⦠Because I do think the British soul scene has tailed off a bit. Which I think is quite sad. Because there are obviously some great TALENTS out there!â

The single âWe Areâ¦â is out now through Better Get Records

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