Sidestepper began as the studio project of producer Richard Blair in the mid 90's, making instrumental dancefloor tunes that mixed the hard and heavy emerging London drum and bass sound with Latin sounds and breaks, trying to do with Latin music what bands like Massive Attack and Smith and Mighty were doing with reggae, soul and funk to make that new Bristol sound.
Blair worked for Peter Gabriel at Real World in the early 90's where he made a record with Colombian legend Totó La Momposina. He went to Colombia to work with her in '93 and has been there pretty much ever since. Through his work as a producer he met many great musicians, singers and writers, and Sidestepper began to evolve into a full live band. They signed to Palm Pictures in 1999 and made two highly influential albums - 'More Grip' and in 2003 '3AM In Beats We Trust.' The latter yielded a big hit in Colombia and Sidestepper earned their place as the originators of a new Latin beats movement. Many players and singers from Sidestepper went on to great success with such bands as Chocquibtown, Bomba Estereo and Sistema Solar.
Each Sidestepper album has been a new proposal, with a new sound. It's no coincidence that they are regarded as pioneers, who opened the doors for a lot of bands that followed them. That sense of innovation and evolution continued with their new album Supernatural Love, which was released in January 2016 and is preceded with the digital release of the first single Come See Us Play on 14 August 2015.
For 20 years Richard Blair had been programming electronic beats, and reached a point where he felt there was nothing new to be said there - that we've come to a global homogeneity where everything sounds the same. The inspiration for Sidestepper's new sound comes from the idea that there were many incredible dance bands before the electronic revolution in the 80s and 90s - the great 'orquestas' from Colombia, Haiti, Trinidad, Cuba and Africa. Sidestepper wanted to create an organic sound that goes back to that tradition. It's still a dance band, but now the beats are made with hand drums, seeds and shakers, kalimbas, flutes and guitar, driving the melodic vocals. A minimalist, modal and groovy sound, electro acoustic with elements of dub and the ever present analogue synth bass. Strong and groovy, timeless and fluid, there is a clear vision of where the band can go from here and how to do it. There is a depth and coherence to the sound, the vibe, attitude and look of the band; it feels solid and rooted.
"This feels like we're starting afresh, and what you're hearing this time has come from here, from Colombia, from a small community in the Candelaria. We've tried to put a sound and a voice to how we live here, how we live together on the road and the joy we get from playing music, the seeds, drums and flutes, the food we eat, the records we listen to. Most of all we've tried to put a call out to love in all its forms, and I guess we started with our love of music is itself. It felt like the time to go back to basics, a song and a beat, warm sounds and magic players.
"It's an exploration of how all Caribbean music is part of the same family, from Colombia to New Orleans, there's an anglo-latin feel to the groove, and songs in both Spanish and English, often mixing melodies from both traditions. There's a strong indigenous influence, and the way the songs are put together comes from the timeless use of melody and rhythm that's been making dance music well before we started recording it in the 20th century. There is a lot of joy in the record, both in melody and the lyrics, which are consciously radiant and uplifting throughout the album," explains Blair.