In a year full of right wing political upheaval and iconic celebrity deaths, you wouldn’t be forgiven for looking back on the last 12 months rather bleakly. But to provide some relief, enter Flamingods. Their joyous and seamless blend of world music, folk and psychedelia has seen the band’s popularity soar of late, particularly since the release of their exuberant third album, Majesty. Sitting in the cramped tour van outside The Joiners in Southampton, we delve into the ins and outs of such an unorthodox, captivating band.
Joined by lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Kamal Rasool, multi-instrumentalist and occasional vocalist Charles Prest, and primary percussionist Karthik Poduval, their jovial and relaxed demeanour seems to be the perfect match for the similar nature of their music. After a few tongue-in-cheek remarks about their purported rock n’ roll lifestyle, Rasool reflects upon the reception of Majesty. “It’s been really good,” he nods. “It’s always interesting because people always translate the record differently live than they do for the actual record. They’re kind of two different entities. It’s always great getting people’s reactions to both.” This appears to be somewhat of an understatement; as I am due to find out in a couple of hours, Flamingods’ live performances are crafted into something even more bombastic and energetic than their records.
Listening to the exotic soundscapes and instruments that are littered throughout Majesty, it’s not exactly obvious who the band’s musical influences would be. Although the relatively simple song structure of the opening self-titled track and the infectiously catchy melodies in ‘Yuka’ may sound familiar to the average western ear, most of the album’s tracks revolve around eastern refrains, from the desert drones of ‘Rhama’ to the street carnival-like closer ‘Mountain Man’. When asked what kind of music influences their own output, Poudval says “a lot of exotica stuff. We all have a very different taste in music, and we also have a lot of similar interests…like Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman, Les Baxter…I guess they were the main influences for the album.” Rasool also muses on some of the non-musical influences for the album: “[We were] also just taking inspiration from our surroundings. We visited Nepal – I think it was just before we started writing the album, and that really influenced us in a big way. Me and Charles were also living in Dubai for the writing of the album as well, so we were taking in a lot of the Dubai heat.”
I soon find out that the meandering soundscapes that the band paints with its vast range of instrumentation has a narrative focus as well. As Rasool says, “The album follows the story of a protagonist called Yuka through his journey for enlightenment, and so it’s split into two sides: side ‘A’ which is the start of the journey, going through the many pleasures and great stuff, and then side ‘B’ is more the darker, perilous side of the journey, and then resolving in the final track, ‘Mountain Man’, where there’s a bit of a rejoice.”
The magic about Majesty is that for all of its various influences and the dynamic journey it takes the listener upon, it is consistent in delivering moments of pure joy and triumph; something that is sacrosanct in a year as bleak as 2016 has been. Rasool ponders the band’s place as a multi-ethnic band in an increasingly hostile, right wing western society: “We didn’t usually used to talk about stuff like that, but things have just gotten so bad lately that, as a band of culturally diverse cultural enthusiasts, it’s kind of hard to just stay silent. So we address it at every gig and try and throw some positive vibrations out there, to try and push for solidarity. I think the world needs it, and we’ll play our tiny part in that.”
With more touring to follow in 2017 – including a stint in the US – and a new EP in the works, it’s an exciting time for a band who seem to be enlightening people everywhere they go.