How 40 minutes of chatting shit will get you the best interview ever.
In the case of Strong Asian Mothers, anyway.
I think, out of the 40 minute strong interview I have recorded with Strong Asian Mothers, there is about 5 minutes tops of serious content. That being said, it’s probably the best interview I’ve ever done, and that’s not just because the boys kick it off by pretending to row on a fallen tree branch in the part of the woodland I’ve dragged them into for this interview.
“Are you going to murder us in the forest?” asks Kalim ‘Kushi’ Patel as we sit down to start, and even though you’d think it wouldn’t warrant an answer I assure them I’m clean. Kalim is one third of the band and the voice to it, childhood friend and co-founder of the band Amer Chadha-Patel is on the keyboards, and they incorporated their slightly paler friend Josh Stadlen, or ‘Rogan Josh’ on drums to complete the trio. In fact on the subject of nicknames, Amer gives me permission to call him ‘chocolate susan’ for the rest of the interview, and with that, the slightly touchy subject of their name gets called into question.
“People assumed that the name was dreamt up in a boardroom by middle class white privileged men looking for the next funny thing, and we had this one woman who hardcore burned us, just ripped into us without knowing anything about us,” Amer tells me, clearing up the racists once and for all, “we decided to name ourselves after our mothers and then very quickly incorporated Josh, but the name was too good to lose so we stuck with it even though he’s got a Caucasian mother.”
And their mothers are truly involved in the process; if you follow the boys on any of their social media, you will have seen the delightfully charming video in which the mums behind the boys sit around a Victorian looking table, waited on by their sons and urge you to have a listen to their new single, ‘Hard to Find’. It’s a nice touch, not to mention a clever way to hit back at anyone who might still have an issue with their name. Probably much better than the original letter Amer wrote back, which apparently he’s now “too measured a man” to disclose.
We then start to talk about ‘Hard to Find’, but getting them to tell me about it is no easy feat. Amer tells me it was a song written about his penis, whereas Kalim and Josh insist it’s about Where’s Wally. They never end up telling me, but after listening of my own volition the song itself is pretty damn good. It’s got a thick, dirty beat and an explosion of distorted electronica as well as some jazzy riffs complementing Kalim’s soft melodic vocals.
It fits as a nice Kingpin in an already banging budding discography, which includes a cover of En Vogue’s ‘Don’t Let Go’. but this is of course my own interpretation. When I make the mistake of asking the band how they would describe their sound I get a plethora of descriptions, varying from “Baroque and Roll” by Kalim to “a musical mess”.
Although I’m in stitches by this point, I can’t help but think it must be a nightmare for the boys to coordinate enough to write and play music, but somehow they manage because the end product is superb. Their live show is even more spectacular. They command the space, filling it with energy and impact, and it’s here the real off the cuff nature of their personalities really come forward.
“I always have this thing that I never want to hear a band play the exact thing I’ve heard on record,” explains Amer, “I know that already. You want to evolve it a little bit and to change it. To understand that things can work dynamically different.” “Our live shows are more free” adds Josh, “We do a lot of weird instrumental music as well. Like a little instrumental cover of the John Williams Jurassic Park theme, we do an instrumental cover of the Queen song ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’, and we do like a hip hop medley at the end.”
When I saw them, crammed into a small tent in the middle of Kent, they indeed ended with a Hip Hop medley, paying homage to some of their main inspirations, and it’s when we touch on the present, past and future of the genre that the band give me some real answers, even if that’s just to argue that Frank Ocean is “incomparable” than Childish Gambino. Kalim thinks it might have something to do with how close you are to the stage in order to let the emotional impact of the music wash over you.
At this point, we’ve had a big old discussion about how many words Giggs can say in a minute, joked about bringing beef to the parents of internet trolls, and we seem to have an ongoing joke about how Kalim is being held hostage against his will, but I’m still yet to get a serious answer about their writing process or when their next shows are. When I push them on it Kalim tells me he writes all his lyrics in a “very nice shed” and starts mumbling about Shed Life, while Amer accuses him of killing baby foxes. Just for the record, he doesn’t, at least I think.
Josh seems to be the only one giving me some semi serious answers at this point, and gives me a slightly better description of how the band flows together. “We all write equally, we’ll all write separately, come up with ideas then ping them off each other. So Amer will send me a beat he’s done, I’ll put a bassline on it, then Kalim will write some vocals, then I’ll write some vocals, and yeah Kalim doesn’t really do much at all. So it’s all pretty equal except for Kalim.” This nudges the other two in the direction of some more comments like a nursery school teacher, but it’s all obviously with mad love.
The conversation still takes a winding turn round, through dick pic etiquette – “If you have two penises surely it would just be good information?” to how many drugs you could score at a festival if you rocked up in a high-vis, but we finally end up on their release launch show that will be happening at the 30th of November in Oslo, Hackney, to which the boys would like if everyone brought mangoes. Why? “We just love mangoes.” “Mangos are sick, They’re banging.” “Strong asian mangos, we’re thinking of starting a little branch.”
In all seriousness, the talent oozing off these boys is unmissable. I’d get your tickets before everyone starts realising how great they are and we run out of mangoes.
Image by Jack Alexander