Sad Night Dynamite: Gorillaz-approved duo soundtracking a nightmarish alt reality
Growing up on the outskirts of Glastonbury in Somerset, Sad Night Dynamite were never going to fit neatly in one genre. With the decadent chaos of the biggest and best festival washing over them every year, it’s no surprise that their self-titled debut mixtape (out February 26th) is a nightmarish trip through hip-hop, dub, Britpop, punk, electronica and beyond. ‘Skully’ sounds like a dystopian version of Gorillaz’ opus ‘Plastic Beach’, and ‘Icy Violence’ sees The Streets meet Twenty One Pilots while ‘Killshot’ is a twisted garage anthem. A shadowy world to get lost in has emerged in every track.
While Alice had the White Rabbit to follow into Wonderland, Sad Night Dynamite have the white limo, which has been a recurring image in all of their videos so far. “That visual is the centrepiece of the first mixtape and it represents us in a weird way. You can hate it if you want but once you get inside, you can’t help but love it,” says Josh Greacen. His bandmate Archie Blagden adds: “it’s just so obnoxious, cinematic and so twatty. Plus I’m getting used to being taken around in limos, so it’s not going away anytime soon.”
The pair of schoolyard mates have every reason to be a little obnoxious. They’ve already been tapped up by FKA Twigs and Pa Salieu to write with them and there are plans for a UK and US tour at the end of the year, as well as more new music on the horizon. They tell NME where that white limo might end up…
The mixtape dabbles in a little bit of everything. What were you pulling from?
Josh Greacen: “So much. Archie and I have three different worlds that we pull from and one is American hip-hop: Dr. Dre, MadLib, MF DOOM, Schoolboy Q to Snoop Dog. Hopefully our lyrics can never be shit because we’ve listened to people like Kendrick Lamar, who is the king of lyrics.”
Archie Blagden: “We also love film scores and we try to play with contrast like Tarantino does with beauty and violence. We also adore British bands like The Clash, Stone Roses, Portishead, I Monster and MIA. We throw all that together and whatever happens, happens. We try not to overthink it.”
How would you describe the music you make, then?
Greacen: “It tries to pull you out of real life and take you somewhere else. It doesn’t take itself too seriously but it’s got to have heart. It’s evolving and it changes but it’s usually dark and sexy.”
How much did growing up near Glastonbury impact you?
Greacen: “I used to release a Christmas song every year hoping one of them would take off but they never did. Living next to Glastonbury meant that every year I was listening to all the best bands and it was so inspiring. It wasn’t a conscious thing though, it just washed over me until it got to the point where I realised music is all I wanted to do.”
Blagden: “Anyone that’s been will know it’s the most bizarre experience. Nothing really compares. After going for the first time, I knew I really wanted to be a part of it.”
Is that where your music outlook comes from?
Greacen: “It’s definitely one of the reasons. It also comes from us coming from quite different backgrounds. I went to a music school where it was quite classical and I’ve dabbled in a lot of the theory of music whereas Archie comes from a dance music background. He used to make 130BPM bangers. The genreless thing really comes from being exposed to all this different sort of music though. It’s natural for our generation to make music that’s eclectic without a real focus, because that’s what we’re used to. It just feels like there aren’t any limitations, so why not? I don’t know if Sad Night Dynamite could exist at any other time.”
Noodle included you in her recent Spotify playlist. How do you feel about being compared to Gorillaz?
Greacen: “It’s a massive compliment. We can’t get away from the fact that when we were starting out, they were a huge influence – we owe them a lot. Damon Albarn is a genuine hero of ours and we want to respect what he’s done without stepping on his toes. We don’t want to piss him off, basically.”
Blagden: “We put these tracks together at Studio 13, which is where Damon works. We had to turn the music down when he walked past though. What was really inspiring about Gorillaz is that they were taking influence from dub and hip-hop but Damon found a way to sing over it without it sounding gross or like cultural appropriation.”
On the subject of superstars, what was it like working with FKA Twigs?
Blagden: “She’s one of our favourite artists and we got to write a song with her for her new album, which sounds amazing by the way. At one point she played an opera she’d written… which just irritated me like, ‘you make amazing pop music then you’ve gone and done this opera?!’”
Greacen: “She just came into the studio, blew us away, then left. The way she works is incredible, she’s doing all the production, moving around the synths and bossing it. She was really into ‘808s and Heartbreaks’ so we had to go and be Kanye West for the day. It was a baptism of fire but we’re really happy with the track we made. Hopefully it gets released.”
“We’ve got no expectations… but we’d be gutted if it stayed at the level it’s at now.”
The mixtape feels like a mix of confessional lyrics and fantastical storytelling. What were you writing about?
Blagden: “There’s a lot of parody and it all has quite a malevolent feel. We’re not particularly drawn to the happy, softer side of things. I don’t think it’s enough to just want to cheer everyone up, that’s such a nothing thing to do.”
Greacen: “We had to work out how two privileged white people could say something that is actually interesting. We’re never going to sing about how hard a life we’ve had, because we haven’t so it’s about finding a way to talk about how gross and unfair our privilege is, without being too altruistic about it. The reason we’re able to do music is because we’ve been put in situations by our parents and a world that allows us to walk into a room and be heard. Hip-hop was created by the black community and we are very much guests in their house.“
What’s the new music sounding like?
Greacen: “It’s getting bigger. It’s definitely better, though we’d always say that. It feels like we’re in a different space now. There’s a lot of unique elements on the first mixtape, so we’ve taken those and explored them more than the Gorillaz-y stuff. It’s harder to hear our references in it, which is what we want. We want to stand alone.”
What do you want this band to mean to people?
Greacen: “It’s really nice when people say that your music has given them some sort of escapism. It’s weird, I didn’t intend for it to help anyone but it does, just by the nature of it. If someone said they hated Sad Night Dynamite and our music made them angry, that’d be cool but I just want people to love it. It’s nice to mean something to people.
“I’d never call us pop stars but we have dreams of playing big stages. We want to play Glastonbury (and would have this year if not for the global pandemic) but we don’t want to start at the Pyramid Stage. We want to do the whole thing and get as far as we can without selling our souls. It’s not about numbers, it’s about playing shows to people that really love the music. We’ve got no expectations… but we’d be gutted if it stayed at the level it’s at now.”
Sad Night Dynamite’s new mixtape is out February 26