Manchester's Secret Night Gang Isn't Here to Make Music For the Money or Views [Q&A]
Allow us to introduce you to Secret Night Gang, the Manchester-based ensemble charioting the glorious return of acid jazz.
If you listen to their music with no given context, you could be fooled into thinking they come from virtually any era. Their music can easily disguise itself as something you'd shazam at some hipster bar with a vibes tax or something you'd find hidden in your grandparent's vinyl collection. When music is bred from the soul, it tends to be timeless.
Wrapping up their leg of Khruangbin's tour, many who came for the main act were left dumbfounded by how much they wanted more of the supporters. Their performances are an immersive experience, watching them enter a flow state so permeable your body may only be swaying, but your soul is on stage with them, enslaved to their groove.
Their single "The Sun" has earned them many eyes after hitting GTA radio airwaves, though recognition doesn't seem to be the slightest bit of their concern. Amidst the pressures of attainment, their devotion is to making music that just feels good.
And that's what's most beautiful about Secret Night Gang - their gratitude and humility. They've mastered the art of hypnotic love songs yet never forget their "thank yous" and "happy to be heres." We got a chance to sit down with the group's founders, singer-songwriter Kemani Anderson and multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Callum Connell, to explore their journey and the beauty Manchester has to offer.
Ones To Watch: If you could describe your music in a flavor or color, do you know what it'd be?
Callum: Our music is definitely a mixture of colors and flavors, we're taking so much influence from so many different places. Me and Kemani have two unique backgrounds you know, I come from an Irish family where we listened to a lot of folk music growing up. I'm heavily into jazz and funk while Kemani comes from a more gospel, church background. There's a whole heap of genres that we're influenced by and the blending of all of it, we could never put one color or flavor on it.
Kemani: Yeah, coming from a gospel background, it opened my ears to so many different styles of music, especially soul. There's too many colors, too many flavors. There's some strawberry syrup there, a little mint over here, coffee elsewhere.
The genre of jazz itself is such a melting pot of different influences and parts of the world. If you could boil down some musical influences that shaped how you make your art, who would they be?
Callum: For me, someone who really moved forward the music and never got stuck in time was Herbie Hancock. He's always been a massive innovator and pushed music in different directions, never put any limits on himself. And my other one would be Quincy Jones. They're my two guys. Oh, and Miles Davis. They're my three.
Kemani: Ah, it's expanded to three I see. You can't forget Miles. For me, if I'm being honest, a guy that was gone way too soon: Donny Hathaway. Such a tragic end to his life but the music he was able to produce while on this earth was so iconic and amazing. Fortunately, he still lives through his daughter Lalah Hathaway, who I listen to a lot as well.
You can tell in your music that you guys respect the musicality and who has come before you. Your music is very deliberate; do you ever feel rushed by a fast and calculated industry?
Kemani: Yeah, I think it's sad. If someone is making music and thinking "I want success on social media and bare views" without putting meaning into the song, then you're in it for the wrong reason in my opinion.
Callum: The industry is so polluted by competition, while as for me and Kemani, we're from Manchester so we were completely out of the mainstream London scene. We were just kind of taking our time and doing what we were doing at our own pace. Our songs are stories about our own personal lives, we're not writing to make money or views because then that reflects in the music. We're trying to just be and if our music touches someone's soul in some kind of way, then we've done our job. Historical music lasts forever, a lot of the greats made timeless records because they were talking about stuff relevant to the times. Nowadays, music gets lost because it isn't written with meaning or acknowledging what's going on now.
Honesty is so important, especially with jazz music, which is so centered on love.
Callum: The power of love is so important, it can come in so many forms. Even when we're on stage and performing, that connection and energy with the people in the crowd is a great feeling. After a show when people come up to us, it means so much. And it takes a lot for them to do that, to tell us that we touched them in some sort of way, so we appreciate it. Love makes the world go 'round.
Love shows up in any way that you decide to pay attention to it. So what do you think that little you would think about your life right now?
Callum: Me and Kemani have known each other since we were seven, so I think we'd both look at each other and have a good laugh.
Kemani: Wow man, I don't know. I think I'd be telling myself, "I thought you wanted to be an ice cream man or something?"
Callum: Yeah we'd be shocked. Me and Kemani first met playing football together! We were sports heavy at that age and then I started in piano, picked up the sax later. Kemani started on drums, picked up his voice later. I think we'd both be really happy about what we achieved together.
Kemani: And then go for a game of football afterwards.
Who are your Ones To Watch?
Callum: Manchester as a city deserves more recognition. It's a city full of so many beautiful, vibrant people, loads of creatives. Lovescene is a great band.
Kemani: See Thru Hands, Porridge Radio, Marty Haze - Manchester has so many.