Hey Negrita recently released their new album 'You Can Kick', Clash caught up with front man and band leader Felix Bechtolsheimer and asked about their hard touring schedule, his time in Florida and the bands involvement in the UK Roots scene.
You played a multitude of festivals this summer, any particular highlights? Or most bizarre moments?
Glastonbury and Bestival were real mud-fests but we were pretty lucky with the rest. Cambridge Folk Festival, End Of The Road, Latitude and Larmer Tree were really special but the best festival by far was SXSW. 5 gigs in 4 days, 3 TV interviews and a bunch of radio and press stuff, cues around the block, cold beer and pretty girls. What more could you ask for?
How's the current tour going?
It’s going amazingly well. The gigs have been rammed every night but I have to admit that the hangovers are starting to take their toll. It’s been a manic week with radio sessions and in-store performances before most of the gigs. We had a great gig in Guildford last night and are now in the van on the way to Manchester.
You seem to be a very 'live' orientated band, how do you approach recording?
Pretty much as if we were playing live. The new album was recorded in a house in North London, with the whole band playing together. It’s like a big jam session where you can go back and do it again if you screw up.
How important was your time in Florida to the band Hey Negrita is?
My time in Florida was massively important to me as a person as well as a musician. I lived with a guitarist who had played with Gram Parsons and Little Feat and with one of Ray Charles’ backing singers. This had a huge impact on my songwriting. The fact that I kicked heroin whilst living there also affected my lyric writing.
With a steady gig in the sun, why did you return to the UK?
Florida was great for me to get my life together but after a year in the States I couldn’t wait to get back to London. It was important for me to come home and face the demons.
Do you still draw on that time for inspiration? How do you refill the well?
Our first album was almost exclusively about my time in Florida. The second one was more of a breakup record. Our new stuff doesn’t really deal with any of that crap, although there is a tribute to a friend who died of an overdose, called ‘Here I Come’.
Nowadays I tend to write about more ordinary topics like twisted relationships and life on the road. Life is interesting enough as it is so I don’t think you need to stick a needle in your arm every time you want to write a song.
How are the 'new guys' fitting in? Has it been a difficult process, bringing in so many new players at once?
The new guys slotted in immediately without any hickups. Their introduction has had a massive effect. It was amazing. We sounded better in our first rehearsal than the previous line up did after 4 years. We’ve moved the emphasis away from keyboard to electric guitar and harmonica. Matthew Ord is without doubt one of the best and most tasteful players in the UK and his playing pretty much dictated the sound of the whole album. Captain Bliss's harmonica playing was also hugely important in shifting things up another gear. It’s really nice to tour with a bunch of people you really get on with.
What was the band's involvement in the WE DREAMED AMERICA documentary?
Alex Walker, the director of We Dreamed America, had been filming us for the best part of five years. He had over four hundred hours of footage, which he wanted to turn into a documentary and then the band split up.
He decided to change the brief and to make a film about the new British Roots scene that has been infiltrating the club scene all over the UK. As I was friends with a lot of these bands, he asked me to produce the film: track people down, do the interviews and generally help him come up with a feasible narrative. I felt like I needed to get my teeth into a new project so I agreed. The only part I refused to get involved with was the Hey Negrita section. I felt that after everything that had happened I was too close to the chaos and that I had to let Alex piece something together from the footage he had without me sticking my oar in.
Do you feel an affinity with those other UK artists featured?
Alabama 3 are our mentors and metre d’s. Larry Love is one of the finest front men in the UK today. We also play regular gigs with The Barker Band and Kitty Daisy and Lewis. They’re both incredibly talented and some of the nicest people we have met in a long time. The Broken Family Band and The Coal Porters are also good friends of ours, as are The Epstein and Viarosa. There is a real sense of community amongst the new British Roots bands, we try to help each other out and we drink together when we’re not gigging.
As we're getting close to the end of the year and all that, what has been your favourite album this year?
Bon Iver’s new album is definitely the best record I’ve bought this year. It’s absolutely stunning.