On the 8th of June, The Maze will be serving up a tantalizingly eclectic Meze platter of mystical Mediterranean mandolin (the Bouzouki), explosive brass ensembles and pungent percussion that will leave you sweating, smiling and reaching for your Ouzo bottle like your name is Aristotle. The Derby-based Greek-infused band of gypsies conspirators, Hallouminati, will be launching and performing their debut LP, ‘Tonight, is Heavy’ (Batov Records), which promises to be a refined, tightened-up coming of age for the indiscriminate, broad-ranging, mosh-pit churning sound they’ve showcased thus far.
Our Liam sat down with the band ahead of their Nottingham gig and their release…
First of all, it has to be said that, the city of Derby remains an objectively unlikely boiling pot to combine the band’s sheer diversity of flavours, influences and instruments together so perfectly well. How did this modest, grey city come to be fertile soil for Hallouminati?
Emilios: Derby was always great for being small enough for all musicians to end up partying with each other, regardless of the varying subcultures we existed in. Any all dayer was an absolute smorgasbord of genres, and there were a fair few nights put on were musician/creative-y/ oddballs could get together and build a hub of totally different ideas. Derby was great for this – you didn’t have to try and play to a certain crowd, mainly because no one genre was big enough to dominate. We all played in various bands before Hallouminati, and when we came together we were sodding useless at picking a genre to stick with. Still are.
As cultural omnivores, we at INFL are always on the lookout for foreign, exotic sounds from far-off distant lands. Which artists and influences – Greek or otherwise – do you hold close to heart and give credit to for inspiring your debut record?
Emilios: The list is looooooong. Again, it’s hard to pinpoint genres as there’s just so many. I guess bands that we LOVE and are clearly in awe of collectively are : Asian dub Foundation, Balkan Beat Box, QOTSA, King Prawn, Goat, Rembetiko ( Greek blues from the 1920s that EVERYONE SHOULD LISTEN TO), The Destroyers, Hawk and a Hacksaw… but then it also depends who you’re asking. I grew up being a generic ska punk kid in London, some of us haven’t left the Jungle scene from 98′ and Hamish is the frontman of a b*stard heavy thrash band. We’ve had different musicians from all ages come in over the years and it’s all had an impact on the songs. Gogol Bordello are probably as relevant as The Ali G soundtrack, as well as Zorba the Greek, Skindred and Melt Yourself Down. Basically, we’re ripping off EVERYBODY.
You’ve played Nottingham and the Maze in particular several times. You seem to have a particular affinity with a portion of the city’s demographic, bringing the free spirited bohemians out of the woodwork. Have you noticed a change in the sorts of crowds you’ve played to over the years or do they remain as eclectic as your music?
Without sounding ‘cheesy’ (HAHAHAAHAHAHAHAH soz), one of the things that makes this so much fun is the connections we’ve made. Familiar faces definitely turn up more- some of these have become close friend of ours, and its utterly bonkers the way tat bands can oil the social machine. We have met some wonderful people at our show, and although some might already be part of the scene or whatever our subculture is, we also tend to grab the attention of the general public who may not have any idea what the hell we’re doing. I guess because we don’t stick to one genre and have absolutely ZERO cool points, we seem to pretty accessible and our crowds can be completely different from one gig to the next. We love this- young or old, tattoos or top-hats, all night ravers, or your aunt out with the girls, we have a totally unpinnable demographic and we love them for it!
Cheesy Question. How do you have your Halloumi?
Floating in perfume, served in a man’s hat .
‘Tonight, is Heavy’ is actually the translation for the first Rembetiko song I heard, ‘Apopse Einai Varia’. Rembetiko is this incredible genre that develop from the underbelly of Greece in the early 20th Century, with mass movement of Greeks and Turks and hard times hitting Greece, it caused this genre to be born. It’s often referrered to as ‘The Greek Blues’ and covers similar subjects, love, death and all aspects of the human nature. Rembetiko has a way of wrenching your soul out and connecting with you purely in its slow, almost drone like bouzouki lines. I could talk for hours about this genre- but (for me) , heavy describes that feeling of pure intensity- whether raving with thousands at some festival, or throwing your arms about in a zembekiko on your own. Its that feeling of movement when something in your soul needs to be thrown out and nurtured through movement. Though you’d be hard pressed to pinpoint one genre in the album, I think collectively the music we write has this intense, underlying pressure- as if we’re about to explode at any moment.
£5 advance Tickets available here or over the counter at Forever Records and Rough Trade.
£7 on the door.