We catch singer-songwriter, and lead vocalist/bassist for The Noisettes Shingai Shoniwa, at a busy time; not just in her life, but also in the day. Not content with writing new material and finalising material already written, we find Shingai in rush hour, in the middle of a car journey through central London. To make matters more stressful, she’s also simultaneously packing for a promotional tour to Italy which leaves first thing in the morning; “it’s mad at the minute, but it’s good mad”.
Yet amongst all of the scramble to get ready on time, and to finish material, and to arrange the finer details of new music releases, it’s not Italy that’s on Shingai’s mind, it’s Newcastle, “I’m really feeling the pull towards Newcastle at the minute to be honest, and I can’t wait to get up to play. It’s been far too long”.
Lead vocalist with The Noisettes, Shingai’s recent output has been focused on her solo project, Ancient Futures, a sonic, genre-hopping, conception that takes in pop,jazz, soul and electronics into a genuinely original sound. Intentionally staying outside of genres, Ancient Futures is the sound of an artist interested in more than just composition; it’s the sound of an artist pulling together inspirations from the visual and the dance spheres also.
“Life seems to be all about labels at the minute” confirms Shingai, centred in the midst of the chaos around her “but you shouldn’t ruin your life trying to fit into one. With my music I try not to worry about fitting into pre-existing places and styles, for example part of the sounds of our music tends to be that it’s drum heavy and I don’t think that’s a style that really fits in with an existing sound. In fact I think that if I tried to fit in with an existing sound I would forget who I am.”
Having pushed the space in-between boundaries for some years, it’s with recent releases that Shingai feels some of her best work is being done “musical genres shouldn’t be restrictive and where I grew up in London there were always different musical sounds coming out at the same time. You couldn’t help but hear those sounds and take them all in at the same time. And you know what happens when you take things in, they tend to come out, so my recent material has been a mixture of those sounds I heard growing up and it’s a collection of sounds that just explode in my heart when I perform them live or in the studio”.
Bringing her live show to Newcastle for an exclusive performance at the Cobalt studios, Shingai doesn’t give much away about the size of the outfit she will be appearing with, or the visuals that will accompany the show, suggesting instead that “in a live setting, when I bring it, I bring it. I think with being around for a while I have such an arsenal of songs, both from my solo work and with the Noisettes, that we can really give the show in Newcastle some thought but also not have to plan it too much in advance. I want to really think about which songs will work, and how I want to perform them. What I would say though is that regardless of whether this is just me playing solo, or if it’s me and a ten piece band, the one thing I can guarantee is that it’ll be a dynamic show, I will bring my spirit and it will be high energy.”
Nudged into providing an insight of what tracks we can expect, or how she will decide which tracks to play, Shinghai’s response provides evidence of just how comfortable she is playing live and living out some of her Jazz stylings; “I tend to hang out in the venue or in a place in the city for a while before the show, maybe checking out the local scene or listening to the room. If you listen to the room, or to the local area, the spirits will tell you what to play and what the local scene needs. What’s important to me and to my music is understanding how to perform it in each venue so that it fits that particular show and that particular space. Music should come alive it should not be forced.”
Having already had several insights into Newcastle (“I’ve played Newcastle a number of times but I remember playing the Arena once with Muse and it being one of the best shows on the tour”) Shingai is already starting to get a feel for what type of performance, and which songs, to play, “I’ll bring some new material that’s for sure, and Newcastle will absolutely be the first place to hear some of the new material played live, and I’ll also bring some re-worked Noisette material. The show will be genre-fluid, that’s my promise, and there’s going to be something for everyone; some downtempo material and some really up-tempo tracks to really shake the week off with. I find when I play Newcastle that’s there a really strong desire to sing back, even on new tracks that people haven’t heard yet, and I’m really happy that Newcastle is one of the venues I’ll be playing as I want to feel that energy again.”
Whichever performance we get from Shingai at her show it’s clear that when you listen to her, even in the midst of noise and traffic, you know that she’s listening back; always keen to hear noises that inspire her to create and connect.