Words: Anna TuckAnna catches up with the Manchester collective ahead of their new EP and upcoming tour.
Agbeko are a Manchester band who are rocking stages with their unique blend of funk, rock and afrobeat.
Born from a shared love of Fela Kuti, Agbeko have a massive sound and tons of personality. Their vibrant songs are infectious, powerful and danceable. With festivals in the UK and Europe under their belt, Agbeko have perfected their high energy live shows. With a new album release and a UK tour coming up, the band have got lots to be upbeat about. Jamie Stockbridge (saxophonist, song writer and band leader) gave us the lowdown.
What does “Agbeko” mean?
A rough translation from Ewe means ‘if only there is life’. What drew me to the word was its function as a narrative dance among the Ewe people of Ghana. It’s origin, and what drew me to the word, is that of a war dance, acting like an oath from the participants before going into battle. When there’s 11 of you in a band, it can feel a little like that sometimes!
How would you describe your sound?
Describing the thinking behind it is maybe more useful – taking inspiration from a great deal of Nigerian, Ghanaian and Ethiopian artists that I love and trying to marry that sound with my love for songwriting and being a nerdy school kid in a rock band. What comes out is Agbeko’s sound.
You’re releasing a new album, D.O.D. (Death of Discourse) in March. What can people expect from it?
People can expect our longest studio track yet, which is our most explicitly Fela-esque track, D.O.D.
We’re also really proud to have captured the band’s live energy on record for the first time, which is always a challenge to get across in a recording environment.
Any favourite tracks on the album?
The band are all really big fans of the instrumental live track, Terra Firma, that I wrote after we’d been in Milan for a few days.
I tried to capture the brooding, industrial side of the city and marry it up with my disbelief that figures like Matteo Salvini have such widespread support there. It ended up getting pretty heavy.
The album is 50% live and 50% studio based. What was the thinking behind this?
We were keen to reflect the group as best as we can, and this way we can communicate our love for proper audio-nerd recording and our more raucous live side. Previous releases had always felt like we were having to pick one over the other, so why not both? The 12” is lovely for this too, as it splits it so nicely.
What aspect of being a band do you love best? Performing or composing?
I love performing with this band, as it’s when we most get to come together and be like a big, weird family. There’s so many of us that meeting up all together outside of gigs is hard, so it’s a beautiful thing to turn around and catch the eyes of everyone stood up there alongside you.
Are you psyched for your tour of the UK in March? Where can people catch you?
We are more psyched than we’ve ever been for a tour! Please come, the rehearsals are sounding really tasty and there’s some brand new tunes!
Shows include a big Manchester headline at YES, another London headline show and our first tour dates in Scotland. We’re psyched, big time.
8th March – HiFi, Leeds (Sunday Joint w/DJ Lubi and Shaniah Williams)
13th March – YES Manchester w/Lovescene
19th March – The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen (Jazz Festival)
20th March – Cobalt, Newcastle w/Ponyland
21st March – The Bongo Club, Edinburgh w/Samedia Shebeen
22nd March – The Rum Shack, Glasgow w/Samedia Shebeen
27th March – Jam Jar, Bristol
28th March – The Waiting Room, London w/Lovescene
4th April – Threshold Festival, Liverpool
I love Leaders of The Free World (released on vinyl by Stutter and Twitch). It’s eloquently political. Do you see music as a form of activism?
I think it can be, and often should be. It’s certainly my main form of activism, and being brazen about wanting to write political songs keeps me having to ensure I’m as well informed as I can be about political issues. Am I perfect? Of course not. But to have a platform that we’re working towards having, and then to use that platform just to sing about how attractive you find someone, or how sunny the beach looks, seems like a bit of a wasted opportunity.
Which other bands/artists do you rate?
Are there any bands/artists you’d really like to work with?
Again, loads! Speaking more along the lines of Manchester artists, I think Layfullstop is unbelievable and I’d like to do a collaboration there. We’re also working on putting out an EP of remixes with some top-notch Manchester producers, which I’m really excited about.
What’s the dream gig/project?
The dream gig? Probably the Afrika Shrine in Lagos! But shorter terms goals… Gorilla in Manchester and Jazz Cafe in London. If you like our tunes and tell ten of your friends to come along, we can make that happen by the end of 2020.