SNEAKY SOUND SYSTEM
Recording with US musical A- listers influences Sneaky Sound System’s latest work, writes Cameron Adams
Hanging out with Kanye and Jay- Z.
WHEN Kanye West slipped into Australia last year to work on his album with Jay- Z, he went to his regular local go- to girl for guest vocals – Sneaky Sound System’s Connie Mitchell.
Hours after his call, Mitchell and bandmate Angus Mcdonald ( both pictured) were in a plush Sydney mansion with Kanye, Jay- Z and his wife Beyonce.
Mitchell’s vocals would wind up on two songs on the rapper’s collaborative Watch The Throne album.
‘‘ I didn’t know I was on it until the record came out,’’ Mitchell says, with a laugh. ‘‘ That’s how he rolls.’’ The record session was an all- nighter. ‘‘ Their success is no fluke,’’ Mitchell says. ‘‘ They’re constantly working. Kanye was working until he caught a plane home. He took a power nap for 10 minutes, he’d wake up, listen to what I’d done and go ‘ That bit, that bit, that bit, do more like that’. This was 6am, I’d been there since 9.30pm.
‘‘ It was amazing to be in the room with people at that level. It cements the fact that this is what you should be doing, that you should continue to sing.
‘‘ They’re so incredibly respectful. I was quite honoured. All of them were happy to sit there and watch me sing for hours.’’
Mitchell said she felt pressure to perform in front of the musical A- listers.
‘‘ You think ‘ You better bloody deliver!’ Jay Z was such a gentleman, he stayed up with me the entire night.
‘‘ I thought ‘ God, Connie, your work ethic is shocking’. It changed me.
‘‘ And Beyonce was talking with Angus about what a joy it was to hear me sing.’’
Mcdonald says it was a surreal conversation.
‘‘ Beyonce was supposed to be recording upstairs. She took a few hours out to watch Connie; she was so enamoured by Connie and her presence,’’ he says.
‘‘ She was so humble, saying how incredible it was to watch someone really talented.
‘‘ To see Connie killing it, I had a lot of pride.’’
Those sessions influenced the third Sneaky Sound System album, From Here to Anywhere. ‘‘ Those guys absolutely hone their craft,’’ Mcdonald says. ‘‘ They throw out songs and write better ones. They’ll scrap a whole record and change direction.
‘‘ Connie and I used to go, ‘ OK we’ve done a record, now chill out’. We’ve written more songs since this record than we did while we were making it.’’
After downsizing to a duo for 2008’ s 2, the pair promoted the album with an array of club shows.
They found themselves turning to remixes of their tracks ( including Madonna/ Kylie producer Stuart Price’s version of It’s Not My Problem ) rather than their original versions.
That influenced turning From Here to Anywhere into a minimal electro record from the get- go.
‘‘ It felt right,’’ Mcdonald says. ‘‘ More honest. Less frills. We wanted to throw away the guitars, get back in the club.
‘‘ I didn’t want there to be any confusion it was a fusion between a band and a club. It’s a club record.
‘‘ But it’s also a really personal record. It speaks to people. One thing I wanted to correct from previous outings was Connie prefers more esoteric lyrics, I like being direct. So on this album we wanted to make the songs mean something to people. Even though it’s ostensibly for the dance floor, it’s still an emotionally charged record in parts.’’
The album’s raw, bleeding heart is breakup track Remember, where Mitchell sings ‘‘ I guess we got the timing wrong and it hurts like a barbed wire fence’’.
Mcdonald is particularly proud of the track. ‘‘ If we’re happy to be remembered by one song, then it’s that one. It’s the most honest song. It really encapsulates a lot of things we are. There’s no tricks on the vocals, it’s just Connie on her own standing on top of a mountain.’’
The pair have just re- recorded new single Big with the Australian Chamber Orchestra – another example of the scope of their club music.
‘‘ Club music can be smart,’’ Mitchell says.
( Modular/ Universal) is out now