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Thursday 09 April 2020

Check Masses: Duality Of The Protest Song & Love Ballad Explored On New Single Lonesome Little Paradise

After the darkened soul surrealism of their debut single Dripn Angel, Scottish trio Check Masses explore the duality of the protest song and the love ballad on their follow-up Lonesome Little Paradise, a left-field 'roots and culture' freedom chant.
Credit Laura Meek

Lonesome Little Paradise is the second single from the Edinburgh band's upcoming debut album Nightlife, exploring nocturnal themes and stories.

Philly' Angelo Collins, Vic Galloway and Saleem Andrew McGroarty have spoken previously of their "inspired and improvised" songwriting process, also describing it as an "outpouring".

Frontman Philly has often been spurred on by Andy's hip-hop or electronic collage productions, or one-on-one songwriting sessions with Galloway. 

But in the case of Lonesome Little Paradise, the challenge was to serve Philly's lyrics that explore the harrowing themes of slavery and abandonment within his own family, who were imprisoned and taken from Africa to the Seychelles. 

"The song is like a version of an early Bob Marley track, it has the duality of rebel music and sweet love songs," Philly explains.

"The analogy is like the covert nature of capoeira, how slaves invented a martial art to protect themselves but passed it off as a dance to the slave master to avoid being found out. 

"It may be sweet sounding but it has a darker side and that comes from slavery and all its ramifications."

Galloway elaborates on the assumed brightness in the song's arrangement, "it initially sounds quite light, airy and beachy", but as Philly sings of the "sands of time underneath my toes", it's a tale of loss on an island prison. 

"It has a strangely tropical feel in places, and the vocals at the end emulate an almost Soweto-style vocal harmony. 

"However, the tremolo guitar is still there, and that ominous Lynchian vibe pervades," says Galloway.

Philly adds: "It's the history of the Seychelles, indentured slaves from India, Africa and Madagascar. 

"It's not about anyone in particular but it has elements from the story of my grandfather, who was separated from his partner due to the caste/colour system in the Seychelles. 

"Paradise isn't paradise if you are there as a slave, working until you die."

The song also weaves in the struggle of his uncle Arthur, whose dream of moving from the Seychelles to the promised freedom of the UK was shattered when he faced years of racism that led to mental illness.

Philly wanted to write "a song with mass appeal but with a message… like "Redemption Song". 

"In the black diaspora, everybody knows Bob Marley's tunes." 

"His songs speak to their struggle, they identify with him — he was such a legend, a messiah to the cause, a writer of songs of freedom."

Producer McGroarty had been "stockpiling samples and ideas" for Philly since the pair worked on Philly's 2010 debut solo album Kings and Queens.

He dug deep into 60s psychedelia with a kaleidoscopic snippet of Rainbow Ffolly's "Sun and Sand" from 1968. 

He thought straight away: "I knew it was just the right kind of sound for Philly."

It turned out the veteran cult act weren't hard to track down, as Andy explains: 

"We were trying to clear the sample and Rainbow Ffolly were amazed they had been sampled at all! 

"They were very kind and gave us full permission to use it."

This psychedelia is grounded by Galloway's earthy twang and tropical tones, yet another nod to the contrasts within Lonesome Little Paradise

Check Masses release new album 'Nightlife' on 29th May 2020. New single 'Lonesome Little Paradise' is available now. CLICK HERE for info.

by: Mike Cobley


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Returning after four years away, Aidan Knight's penchant for astute observations and personal reflections remains a compelling component of his songwriting.

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Credit J. Taylor

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Credit Andrew Gambling

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Credit: Andy Sturmey

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This Saturday, 30th May, Together Co, the Brighton & Hove based charity that exists to end loneliness, is hosting a virtual music festival that will see more than twenty bands perform for free to raise money to help the most vulnerable and isolated.  

Following Brighton Festival's digital programme during lockdown, poet and author Lemn Sissay MBE has confirmed he will return as guest director in 2021. 

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