Sean Flowerdew of Pama International talks to eGigs

the new album, the record industry, festivals, and more on Mon 26th Oct 2009

Sean Flowerdew, one of the founders of Pama International is about to take his band on the road with The Speicals. eGigs got a chance to have a quick chat with him about the new album, the record industry, festivals, and more.

Pama International (Leftfield Stage)
Hows it going with Pama International at the moment?
Great, there seems to be a lot of press, and a lot of radio at the moment.

Are you looking forward to the autumn tour?
Yes, it's been a long year, working on the album, it'll be great to get back to live stuff.

You say it's been a long year, how long has it taken to put the new album Pama Outernational together?
It took me about six months which wasn't too bad, and that was broken up with the Levellers tour, and The Specials interrupted that, and then the festivals. We have been playing live, but not really in our own right.

Your music always carries a fair bit of social commentary with it, what are the themes of the album this time around?
It's basically that we don't look around ourselves enough, so it was about looking outward more. We all get caught up in our own little worlds too much. So it's an observation about being observant.

So the theme for the first track from the album, 'Equality, and Justice for All' is pretty self explanatory?
Yeah, it kind of stems from something that Lynval said to me, about some wranglings he was having in The Specials camp at the time, prior to their reformation. He said the equality and justice for all was something he believed in. He meant in a direct thing to do with him, but I took it as something more global. It's something that we should all be striving for.

So are you all getting on well?
Yeah we always get on well, I've been working with Finny since we were kids. There's a lot of new guys, a couple of guys had other things to pursue, so we've brought in a new drummer and a new bass player which have been great. We've got this guy Dready D on drums he's fantastic, he plays with African Head Charge, and loads of other bands he's great. Every musician we bring in brings something different to it, and it keeps it fresh for us.

What's been the highlight of your summer, performance wise?
Tough one, the Levellers tour was great, The Specials tour was great, festival wise I think the dance stage at Glastonbury was very enjoyable. I was a bit worried because we were on first thing, I wasn't sure that there'd be many people there, but it turned out to be one of our best ones. Larmer Tree was good, a lovely festival, Sunrise was nice, it had a really nice vibe.

I saw you at Endorse-It In-Dorset and your keyboard appeared to pack up...
Endorse It was fantastic, my keyboard blew up on the first song (laughs). I've just got a DVD through from that, I haven't watched it yet. It was actually good, because the drummer and bass player were relatively new then, it was only something like their second or third gig, and they were looking at me for queues, and me not being there kind of threw them in at the deep end. It was really good, I watched most of their set from out front.

How was it for you watching the band, as you're normally in it?
It was great, bizarre! I was really proud of them, it kind of inspired me to be a bit braver with the line-up and the tracks we do because they can deliver. I thought it was a great gig. That was one of my favourite festivals as well, I got to spend more time there than at most of the festivals we do. I watched a few bands Back To The Planet were really good. I've never seen them before but I thought they were superb. It was good to see a very non-corporate festival doing okay.

You played a few of the new tracks there, how have they been received live generally?
Fantastic, we started playing 'I Still Love You More' the new single in March, and as soon as we started playing it people started singing along, so it had a super reaction. 'Equality And Justice For All' we've only done twice in the set, and that went down really well. 'Happenstance' we did through the Levellers tour and that seemed to work. All the new ones so far seem to fit it.

I know I'm amazed, I started singing 'I Still Love You More' by the first chorus.
There's this guy Gaz Mayall who does Gaz's Rockin' Blues in London, the longest running club in London and we did it in sound check. He's known me and Finny since 1988 and we were just trying to learn it, and were doing it in club. He came up to us and asked, "What's that song, that new song?" He said, "You've got to record that, that's great." I think there's something very instantaneous about it.

Were you surprised that Pama International won Steve Lamacq's Rebel playlist on BBC6music with 71% of the vote?
No not at all (laughs), yeah I was. I thought we might because we've always had a good fanbase but I was surprised that we won by that much. It was great the Steve picked up on that track, and it's been good for us, and he keeps playing it. It's really hard to get radio play, we've managed to get 70 shows playing the two singles, which is quite an achievement. It's funny, there aren't that many nationals, there's only about 10 national shows playing it, there's very few of them that like to take a gamble with anything. Apart from the people like John Kennedy on xfm, and Steve Lamacq both fantastic, they're carrying John Peel's torch really, they will take chance with something, they will play new music, it's a shame more people don't take the same approach.

What is your appraisal of the music scene at the moment?
It's in transition at the moment, no one in the industry really knows what to do. No one knows how to sell records anymore, everyone is freaking out about people having free downloads. I'm not sure, ask me at the same time next year I guess. It needs to settle down a bit, it's harder this year than it was last year to sell records. You've got to work twice as hard to sell the same amount of records. More shops are closing.

There's only one on the High Street now HMV, one record selling chain! When you think how many record chains there was selling music in the past.
It's dismal isn't it! And they're not really shifting records, they've moved all their music upstairs. I used to love buying records. I hope it get's back to those days a little bit. I used to love on a Saturday getting my pocket money, going to a record shop, and looking through all the records, it was great. The feeling of buying a new record, coming back and playing it to death until you were sick of it, was brilliant. That sort of feeling is lacking in today's music world, it's too instant, too easy with the internet. It's hard, there's a lot of good independent stores about that I think will ride out all of this.

The internet is a brilliant thing though, it can get new bands more promotion than ever before. It can get your music out there very, very quickly. I do a lot of our press, and I send all around the world, and it always amazes me that you can send an mp3 out to Djs and within a day you've got a play in Brazil, Australia, Japan, Portugal – it's just fantastic for that.

You've also got the new album out on vinyl, that really is old school.
I love doing vinyl. We wanted to do the 7” anyway, it's an expensive thing to do, for what returns you can get but I just love them, I think they're nice little collectors pieces. We've tried to make them something a bit different, they're all coloured vinyl, and then the LP is heavyweight vinyl. I think that's part of today's music scene, you've got to appeal to everyone you can. Be it downloaders or collectors it's the only way to make your sales up these days.

Was it easy to find someone pressing vinyl?
Easier than it was a few year's ago. Most of it gets done in Europe, the albums being done in France, the singles in the Czech Republic, but we use an English company to oversee it all.

It's getting harder to sell records into shops because of the lack of shops. But we're battling on and finding new ways. Through all the doom and gloom, there are people thriving, and amazon are all shifting a lot of units. I suppose it's a natural process, the shops have priced themselves out through the prices the labels set and the distributors set, and the costs involved. Who's going to pay £12-£13 for an album, when they can go to the internet and get it for £8-£9 post free. It's a shame that that's where it's gone, but those were the people who were selling the most records in the country.

You'd never have guessed a few year's ago that it would become all mail order effectively.
No, it's weird isn't it, everyone was so distrusting of it. You haven't got to go that far back Richard Branson set up Virgin, and his first shop because there was a postal strike on and he was running a mail order company. The postal strike disrupted his orders so badly, he decided he needed a shop front. Now, it's a total reverse, the shop fronts are going.

Mind you there's a postal strike now....
Maybe that's what we need. Maybe I should join the postie's union. That's it. I wonder if anyone else has thought of that, get the confederation of record stalls hooked up with the postal union.

Which band's have you been listening to?
I've kind of only been in the world of Pama all this year really. Erin Bardwell (The Erin Bardwell Collective) he's doing a show with us in Swindon, he's really good. He's got an authentic ska/rock steady sound. He has his own label Pop Top records and he's just done a project with The Radiators which is sounding really good. I heard some stuff of Wrong Tom's he's been doing some stuff with Roots Manuva, and that's really good. But I don't get a chance to listen to much music at the moment. Going out on the next tour (their headlining tour, not the one supporting The Specials), we've got a different band each night, and different DJs and different sound systems, and that should be good.

What are your future plans?
Well we're going to do the second half our headlining tour in February. Where we'll be doing many of the places we haven't done already, including possibly some dates in Ireland. Then we're doing Mad Professor. Mad Professor is going to do the whole album in dub. He's out on tour at the moment, but once he finishes, he'll start on the album, that will probably come out in spring time.

How did that come about?
I did one track with him on the last album, got to know him, became friends, and every now and again talk about music. He had been saying for a while that he would love to mix a live band, because he used to do that year's ago and he hasn't really done it for years. So I said well why don't we do an alum together, and then take it out live? He was well up for the idea. The plan is to do it at the end of spring, start of summer, and then he can come and mix us live and we'll take the whole thing on the road. The idea is to do a few festivals, and then do a club tour with him in the autumn.

The Outernational Tour dates are as follow:

Fri 23 October Mr Kyps, Poole
Sat 24 October Sound Bar, Birmingham
Thu 29 October Olympia, Liverpool
Fri 30 October Roxy, Ulverston
Sat 31 October Lemon Tree, Aberdeen
Sun 01 November International Arena, Cardiff (with The Specials)
Mon 02 November Bridlington Spa, Bridlington (with The Specials)
Wed 04 November Empress Ballroom, Blackpool (with The Specials)
Thu 05 November Plymouth Pavilion, Plymouth (with The Specials)
Sat 07 November Winter Gardens Margate (with The Specials)
Mon 09 November Civic, Wolverhampton (with The Specials)
Tue 10 November Civic, Wolverhampton (with The Specials)
Thu 12 November Corn Exchange, Edinburgh (with The Specials)
Mon 16 November St Georges Market,Belfast (with The Specials)
Wed 18 November Cliffs Pavilion, Southend (with The Specials)
Thu 19 November Brighton Centre, Brighton (with The Specials)
Thu 19 November Jam, Brighton
Fri 20 November 12 Bar, Swindon
Sat 21 November Rock City, Nottingham (with The Specials)
Sun 22 November Rock City, Nottingham (with The Specials)
Tue 24 November Hammersmith Apollo, London (with The Specials)
Wed 25 November Hammersmith Apollo, London (with The Specials)
Fri 27 November London Hammersmith Apollo (with The Specials)
Sat 28 November Mineral Line, Watchet
Sun 29 November Thekla, Bristol
Wed 16 December Norwich Arts Centre, Norwich
Fri 18 December New Beehive, Bradford
Sat 19 December Live Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne

eGigs is offering the chance to win tickets to see Pama International live, to find out more, click here.

article by: Scott Williams

published: 26/10/2009 09:33


sorry, we currently have no gigs listed for this act.

more about Pama International