Soundclash of music

Bedouin Soundclash went from obscure to ubiquitious in record time. Natalie Pendergast tracks the Toronto reggae trio’s rise.

photo Dustin Rabin

Two thousand five has been a year to remember for Kingston three-piece Bedouin Soundclash. Since the spring, their hit single “When the Night Feels My Song” has gone from nonexistent to number one on Toronto’s influential radio station The Edge, number three on this week’s National Playlist on CBC and number three on the MuchMusic Countdown. In the last six months, the boys have signed onto US punk label SideOneDummy and UK label B Unique, in addition to their Montreal distributor, Stomp. Toss in the Warped Tour, a three-month UK tour and a cross-Canada tour and Bedouin is undoubtedly the country’s hottest reggae outfit du jour.

And somehow amidst all the bookings—they hit the Marquee on December 2—the band has found time to write and record its new album, Street Gospels, to be released in the new year. Late-night performances and few days off left the trio taking full advantage of sound-check jamming.

“Last year we played 300 shows or something,” says drummer Pat Pengelly, “so writing and being on the road are not really conducive to each other.”

With all the attention they’re getting from Sounding A Mosaic, Bedouin put off releasing its third album even though they recorded it last February in Toronto.

“We’re sitting on so much material but because Sounding A Mosaic has had such a weird growth in different places, we’ve had to postpone some things,” says Pengelly. The album had staggered releases, beginning in Canada, then diffusing south for its US summer release, and finally the UK in October. “And in Canada it just started to crack the mainstream this summer. It’s been out for two years so it’s got a lot of life in it and we’re going to keep on trying to push it and see how far we can take it.”

But a year ago, when Pengelly, vocalist/guitarist Jay Malinowski and bassist Eon Sinclair released the album’s first single, they had a lot more time to write songs. Sales were nil and the group had only a small underground university following. They went from unknown to untouchable within a matter of days.

The catalyst? A Zellers ad.

“I think the Zellers commercial really got a lot of people’s attention on the song,” says Pengelly of the six-week summer wear campaign that featured a clip from “When the Night Feels My Song.”

The exposure brought the band a slew of opportunities. From touring they brushed shoulders with industry execs and fellow rockers The Slackers. After playing the Leeds and Reading Festivals, Bedouin met producers Ian Broudie and Steve Harris (U2) who later worked on the recording of their single “New Year’s Day.”

Pengelly says the most fulfilling part of the UK tour was the company they kept. “We were on tour with a great band, The Ordinary Boys, for three and a half weeks,” he says. “Musically it was great to work with them and while we were on tour we decided that we are going to do a split EP with them and cover each other’s songs and release it probably in the new year.”

Despite their aggrandizement, Bedouin doesn’t feel like it fits in to any particular scene. They’re influenced by punk legends The Clash and The Specials, but they are not a punk band. They’re also fans of Paul Simon, but they aren’t a folk band either.

“There are five words that sum up what we do: street reggae punk soul world,” says Pengelly. “In any kind of order.

“We try to give a new voice to . It’s a kind of music that has been around for a long time and none of us in the band thinks that we are reinventing it in any way. A very important thing for all of us is to have respect for that music and where we come from. And that’s the reason why we do covers at shows because we like to pay tribute to our influences and put our own spin on it.”

Bedouin Soundclash w/The Junction, December 2 at the marquee club, 2037 gottingen, 4:30pm and 10pm, $12 adv/$15 door, 494-3820.

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