Interview: The Potbelleez

Australia’s fearless dance commanders The Potbelleez are striking back this summer with a new album: Destination Now. If there’s any pressure to follow up their career defining hits ‘Don’t Hold Back’ and ‘Are You With Me’, it certainly isn’t showing as Blue MC and Jonny Sonic confidently chats with me about the forthcoming LP, working with Paul Mac and hints of an American crossover.

The gang’s last single ‘Hello’ has just been certified gold sales in Australia and they’re currently working the new Blue-fronted single ‘Shake It’.

The interview podcast will be uploaded on Friday 26 November on Diff’rent Strokes‘ iTunes page.

Dave: You guys are revving up for the big summer festivals. The new single ‘Shake It’ has just dropped and the album comes out in the new year – tell us a bit about that.

Blue: We’re really excited about ‘Shake It’ – it entered the ARIA Dance Chart at #8 and we’re really happy with that. We collaborated with Paul Mac on this track and it was a great experience. He was so much fun and he’s such a talented, talented man.

Dave: With the forthcoming album, what’s the balance like in terms of the big vocal tracks that Ilan might do versus the electro rap ones that you might jump on?

Blue: It’s much more balanced, actually. With our first album, we were rushed and under a lot of pressure after the release of ‘Don’t Hold Back’ so we didn’t have time to make it as balanced for both vocalists. This time around, it was definitely important for us to have me representing a bit more and to show both sides of what we do. My style represents more of our underground roots.

Dave: This being the band’s second album – what’s different about the dynamics now?

Jonny: There’s definitely been a change. We’ve all developed as characters individually. We’ve all put in equal passions into this album and we made a conscious decision to write more together. [Making this album] has been a really good experience – it was more developed from the ground up, with the songwriting coming first and then, production.

Dave: You mentioned that you’ve got Paul Mac (The Dissociatives) and Justin Shave (producer for Darren Hayes) on board, who else have you collaborated with?

Jonny: We did a track with one of our little proteges Christian Luke, he’s an amazing Melbourne producer/DJ, and did a bit of work with Klaus ‘Heavyweight’ Hill. With Shave, it was an amazing experience because our studios were next door to each other. We did two or three tracks with Paul and we’d have an awful lot of fun in his studio. It’s been a collaboration between eight artists to get this album together.

Dave: There seems to be a trend with dance music – especially the ones amalgamating R&B influences – to have feature artists. Have you guys got any collaborations lined up?

Jonny: Yeah there’s been a few things thrown around of late, which I can’t tell you about. We have dabbled in it and there’s definitely opportunities for us to do it on the American side of things. Blue and Ilan are two of the best vocalists in the country so we don’t really need anyone else but when we start going State side you might hear one or two little masters collaborations happening.

Dave: The first single ‘Hello’ saw you guys returning to the Top 20, which is brilliant, but what I’d like to know is how would you define its success if we take away the chart positions and sales.

Blue: Frankly, it all comes down to how many people sing it back to us when we’re on stage. From the first day we performed ‘Hello’, everyone was singing it and since it got released on radio, it’s just gone completely bananas!

Jonny: The chart position’s not as important as it used to be. If it’s on the radios and people are singing it back to us, we’re happy.

Dave: Where is the strangest place you’ve heard your music played?

Jonny: I got an email the other day to say it was played in Israel. That’s the furthest I’ve heard, so far. But The Potbelleez are actually going off in my home country, Ireland, right now.

Dave: Do you get to tour there a lot?

Blue: We have a lot in the past years but recently with the writing of the album, we’ve just stayed home and focused our energies here but as of next year, we’ll be back over in the UK, Ireland and hopefully, America.

QUICK THREE with THE POTBELLEEZ:

1) Who in the band is most addicted to Facebook.

Both: JONNY!

2) When was the last time you got in trouble with airport customs?

Jonny: Me in New Zealand, a year and a half ago.

Dave: What did you do?

Blue: He didn’t do anything. He just looked dodgy as.

Jonny: I concur.

Blue: Jonny and Dave have been travelling the world so consistently with their old shitty passports, keeping them in their back pockets and ruck sacks, that [the passports] were just destroyed. So when he came through New Zealand they looked at him and went, ‘Dude. Are you serious? What is this?’

Jonny: I wasn’t looking too healthy either, which didn’t help. It was two and a half hours of customs, searching through my bags…

3) Christmas albums – yay or nay?

Jonny: No. Unless you’re Cliff Richard, there’s just no point doing a Christmas album.

Blue: But we could do dance remixes of every Christmas carol!

Jonny: I’ll leave that one with you, Blue.

Check out our show: Diff’rent Strokes on JOY 94.9

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