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The SoulBounce Q&A: The Brand New Heavies’ Dawn Joseph On Joining The Group, ‘Sweet Freaks’ & What’s Coming Next

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SB: With Sweet Freaks, you were pretty integral in the creation of it and it seems like a pretty fun and funky album. What was the vibe like when you guys created it?

DJ: It was quite simple actually. We got together in a real rundown rehearsal room -- I think it was about three or four days we got together -- and they started doing their thing, what they do best, and started jamming. I mean, they are amazing. You forget sometimes. I mean they forget sometimes, because we don’t get a chance to rehearse as often as we’d like, but when they get together and just start playing, it’s amazing! So they’d just start playing, and I’d just start singing some melodies. It was that simple, to be honest. I mean, I guess we’ve all got different influences, and mine certainly are quite funky and very soulful and melodic. I’ve got to have a catchy melody in whatever I do. And it just happened.

SB: Can you give a description for the fans of what the album is going to sound like?

DJ: Well actually, you described it well. It’s very funky. Very, well, I mean, they haven’t changed their sound. It’ll always sound like a Brand New Heavies record but I guess, as they’ve used different singers over the years, I suppose that whatever vocalist they have on board does reflect in a certain amount of the sound. But it’s definitely a true Brand New Heavies sound. I like to sing a track called “Bring the Rain,” for instance. We’ve started to play that live and the lyrics are really meaningful to me and they’re quite deep. I always try to sing about something I’m really passionate about. So yeah, very soulful, funky and real, I guess.

SB: And is “Bring the Rain” your favorite song on the album or is there another?

DJ: They’re all my babies, but I do love “Bring the Rain,” “You Are the Fire,” the sort of more sensual, deeper ones and I love the covers as well. I love “Don’t Let Go” because I’m a massive En Vogue fan. It’s hard to pick a favorite, you know?

SB: Speaking of the covers, you cover “Don’t Let Go” and you also covered Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer,” which is a very iconic song, so how did that come about?

DJ: Well, it’s always quite frightening when you try and pick a cover because you want to do it justice and there’s, in my view, absolutely no point in doing a cover if you’re just going to do it exactly the same. So we’re taking a risk, doing it in a different slot, different tempo. And we kind of approached it...It was my idea I think. We were just in a room and I said, “Oh what about this song?” And they just started playing it in a more uptempo, funky way, as they do. And it just worked. We didn’t really think about it. We just played it and it really worked. We played that in our live set and it has done really well.

SB: And what about “Don’t Let Go”? En Vogue, especially vocally, are so respected and they usually sing their songs in three-part harmony. So how did you take that on?

DJ: I suppose I kind of learned my craft as a singer listening to En Vogue. They’re like teachers. It’s a vocal masterclass. I can sit and watch them on YouTube and they’re just incredible live. I always try to show people clips of them because it’s just insane. I just stacked up loads of vocals. I mean, I could have done more but I was told to stop. [laughs] I just love stacking up harmonies.

SB: You guys did a cover last year of Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” which was so very unexpected, but it ended up becoming my favorite version of the song. So how did that happen and what was it like when you guys were recording the video and fooling around?

DJ: We sort of wanted to get more of a presence online and we wanted to do it more regularly, to be honest, but it was hard to sort of get together regularly and do a song regularly, so we came up with this idea of that song. And I think, as you said, it’s one of those songs that you never thought would work in the Brand New Heavies style. But that’s what, we like to do is take something that’s so far away from what is originally and then surprise people and put our slant on it. So yeah, we tried it out and we were recording in the studio, and we said let’s try that. And then, I just love filming stuff. When I was on the road with Kylie and Spandau, I used to make short little tour videos for the fans so they could see stuff they would never ordinarily see. So I just started videoing us messing about traveling on the road and, yeah, that was the video for it. It was good fun.

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