In the run up to the release of their new album, Hey Negrita front man, Felix Bechtolsheimer, blogs exclusively for The Music Fix.
My name is Felix and I am the lead vocalist, songwriter and general instigator of London’s cuddliest alternative roots band, Hey Negrita. I would like to start off by saying a massive THANK YOU to The Music Fix for asking me to do this exclusive blog and for giving me a platform to vent in the run-up to the release of our new, all-acoustic album Burn The Whole Place Down on October 5.
The Hey Negrita boys at the Bergen Music Festival in Norway earlier this year
Over the coming weeks I will be channeling my hazy ideologies straight into your boxes via invisible vibrations on the rum-soaked airwaves (or through my bright yellow Ethernet cable whenever my wifi connection conks out). Although I haven’t really begun thinking about what kind of nonsense I might end up spouting, I would imagine that the following subjects are bound to get a mention:
– What it’s like being in Hey Negrita, where we came from and what we’re up to;
– The New British Roots Movement (Alabama 3, Kitty Daisy & Lewis, Mumford & Sons, The Barker Band, The Travelling Band etc);
– Our animated zombie videos and upcoming interactive zombie-sex fighting game;
– Anything that relates to my deep passion for good music, firm breasts and ice cold beer
Hey Negrita frontman Felix Bechtolsheimer with Larry Love of Alabama 3
I suppose it probably makes sense to start off by giving you a bit of background on the band and by explaining why we have decided to release an all-acoustic album this time around. It all began around nine years ago, when I moved to a detox ward in south Florida in a desperate, last-ditch attempt to try and break my five-year addiction to heroin. When the physical withdrawals finally started to loosen their grip, I began writing songs as a way of getting out all the emotional crap that had built up over the years. I spent my evenings jamming with two of my roommates – a 55-year-old cowboy-junky who had played with Gram Parsons and Little Feat and one of Ray Charles’ long time backing singers.
When I returned to London the following summer, opiate-free and armed to the teeth with bittersweet music and bright ideas, I decided to start a new band in order to make sense of the 60 or 70 songs I had written during my ‘sabbatical’. The release of two albums and several years of sweaty gigs passed me by and, before I knew it, I found myself sitting backstage at The Rescue Rooms in Nottingham on the last night of a long tour with Alabama 3. The band that I had worked so hard to put together had all but disintegrated. Our percussionist had left to become an orgasm therapist on a Portuguese avocado plantation, our keyboard player had met a girl on tour and was getting married and moving to Missouri and our guitarist had had enough of life on the road. The UK tour, which had followed a shambolic stint up the west coast of America with Tony Joe White, had been a perfect cliché of everything you might expect from a month of debauchery with Brixton’s finest. Now all I had left was our drummer, the Reverend Neil Findlay, and a bunch of new songs I was aching to record. So together we returned to London and assembled a new band. We recorded our third album, You Can Kick, and spent the summer performing at over a dozen festivals. From Glastonbury and Bestival to Latitude and Cambridge Folk Festival, no one was safe from our glorious racket. We were even invited to open for The Beach Boys in Germany before heading out on a fourteen-date UK headline tour.
Felix and drummer Neil Findlay at SXSW in the US earlier this year
In order to promote the new album we recorded a bunch of acoustic sessions for the BBC (including the Bob Harris Show on BBC Radio 2). We were so pleased with how these sounded that we decided to book an afternoon in a studio to see how many tracks we could get down without any overdubs or edits. So we abandoned our electric guitars, turned off the amps and stripped down the drums. We just sat in a circle and put some microphones up. We didn’t even bother with headphones. We really wanted to capture the vibe and intimacy of how we sound when we’re jamming late at night in the kitchen. We ended up with a 12-track album which even included a brand new song, the title track Burn The Whole Place Down.
I was very excited when we were invited to introduce the acoustic incarnation of the band in March this year during a short American tour, which included performances at the Canadian Music Week in Toronto, a seven-gig stint at SXSW in Austin as well as one-off concerts in New York, Nashville, Memphis and Chicago. When we got back we played sold-out shows at London’s Borderline and at the Bergen Music Festival in Norway as well as a secret busking session at the Cambridge Folk Festival.
Hey Negrita in full flow at SXSW in the US earlier this year
So now, as we prepare for the release of the acoustic album and a couple of large tours in the autumn, hopes are high and below the rough surface of uncertainty and anticipation, it seems that something bigger is bubbling away.
Burn the Whole Place Down is due for release on 5 October 2009 and you can pre-order it now using the best prices links at the top left of this article