Record­ing with US mu­si­cal A- listers in­flu­ences Sneaky Sound Sys­tem’s lat­est work, writes Cameron Adams

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

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

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