Tamara Dey – having fun with Flash Republic
11 January 2016
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Brad Brown: Welcome onto this edition of Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now. We have a returning guest on the show once again today. She’s been around the music industry for 15 odd years, going into another new year, in 2016, and I’m sure it’s going to be a fantastic one for her. Tamara Dey, welcome back. Nice to catch up and thanks for joining us.
Tamara Dey: Hi, thanks for having me back. Are you well?
BB: Yes, very, very good. Tamara, the last time we spoke we touched on the early days of your career and where your love for music stemmed from and relationships. You mentioned the Flash Republic years and just how you worked so well with that group and just the success that you were able to achieve.
It was an incredible time in your career, wasn’t it? You guys were on this massive, upward wave and the South African music industry was growing. It was an exciting time to be at the leading edge of what was happening in South African music.
Had an amazing time with Flash Republic
TD: Absolutely, I mean I look back at those years with great fondness and so much nostalgia. We had an incredible run and we had a beautiful time. We just made music freely with a lot of love for the music we were making and for each other as a band. We were blessed to travel this country up and down, playing in insane gigs, with some of SA’s biggest artists and groups.
We just kind of slotted into quite a cool zone, where we were able to see the corporate scene, where we would do the club scene, the dance club circuits; also at a stage after the release of one of our biggest tracks, ‘Twister’, we got to tour the Indi dance, sort of rock circuit for 2 years.
I cannot tell you how much fun we had touring with those bands, bands like Heuwels Fantasties, and Jack Parow, just a real mix of the South African rock alternatives and Indi dancing. We just had the best time touring with those guys. We really were blessed. We’ve had an incredible run.
Our style changed. We made dance music, predominantly. I will say dance in quite a broad way but our style changed over our project star. It’s sort of pop house, it’s about this album, which was called ‘Time is Now’ and we had our hit, ‘Robot’. We had another one of that project, which I now cannot remember.
Then we moved. Our sound became quite 80’s electronic, for the second project and our third album was quite easy dance. We brought in Martin Rockhead, from Wonderboom and we had Ice come in on the drums. We had a full live band kind of sound.
It had a bit of Indi rock influence, even though that electro sound was still in there. We just had so much fun just sort of moving and evolving, within all those different sounds, and just playing in and around South Africa, also abroad.
We had some amazing gigs overseas as well and got to see a bit of the world together and yes, incredible years and the industry was it was a very exciting time. The festival circuit was very exciting. Yes, man we were very happy to be in the mix there.
BB: Obviously things change and you talk about the exiting time it was. For me it was just such an incredible time as well. I was around at many of those gigs and being on radio, playing those songs brings back great memories too. But when do you know it’s time to move on? That you’ve outgrown the sound that you’re in now, and it’s time to just spread your wings and do your own thing? It must be a difficult decision to have to make.
Tough to decide to move on
TD: Yes, so difficult. It is so difficult. When you are in a band for 10 years, you’re like a family. It’s like being married to two and three other people. The projects you make are your babies. They mean everything to you. There are huge dreams attached to all of it and many memories, and ups and downs, and it is really hard to decide okay, cool it’s time to give it a break or it’s time to move onto other things.
We never made an official announcement that we were disbanding or anything like that. I feel like for us, because we ended on such good terms, there was no big fallout or anything like that. I think Ryan and Craig wanted to do some other things. Ryan has actually gone into, and I’m talking about Ryan Dent and Craig Massiv.
Ryan went into farming to run the company called Grow. He’s stocking restaurants with incredible things he’s growing in tunnels all over SA. Whereas Craig is producing for some big artists, he’s got some big things down on radio right now, so I think it was just getting time for us.
I think because Flash was all consuming, and we literally ran every bit of that business, from the song writing to the art direction, to producing our own music videos, to our stage performance and our visuals. Absolutely, every part of it we did ourselves and it was all consuming.
I think for a long time I wanted to develop my solo side as well, on the side but to be honest I just didn’t have the space to do it. When we were busy and things were going well, we were touring a lot and it was difficult to give time to anything else in our lives.
I feel like you need to be expressing other parts of yourself. I feel like that’s what happened is that we got to a point where we all felt there were other sides of our lives and ourselves that we needed to express. But we didn’t have the space to develop. Mutually we decided we would give it a break.
I had my vocal surgery. I had my jaw collapse, my vocal cord, and I had to take quite a big time out, which was quite an intense time. But I feel like that was where the domino effect began. After that, we released a single and went back into the studio briefly. But just to do one or two singles. I think after that we decided we would give it a proper break for a while and to give each other the space, to develop other things.
That’s what we’ve been doing. We actually had a gig the other night. We played at the ‘Pink Polo’ in Cape Town, and had a smashing gig down there. Of course, there was talk about getting back into the studio again and there always is, but I felt for us, we won’t close the door completely.
We love making music together and I’m quite sure you’ll see the odd single, possibly see the odd single from Flash Republic down the line. It has given me the space to put my solo stuff first and I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time, and the guys are also happily working away on their life projects.
I say life projects because we’re all at a point in our lives where what we work on now is really important to us and it will carry us through into our later years. Yes, it’s an exciting time. A lot of change, a lot of growth and for me, there’s been a lot of new song writing, so yes.
Rediscovering my own sound now
BB: Tamara, how daunting was it going out on your own, for you personally? Obviously, you wanted to move on but coming off the back of an outfit as successful as Flash Republic, there’s expectation on you from within the industry. From your fans that you almost need to be better than the sum of the parts, at Flash Republic if you’re going to go on your own.
TD: Sure, yes aside from, I haven’t really felt it. There is a pressure. The only pressure I felt from fans is just that they’re waiting. They’re like ‘we’re here and when is it coming’? That is the pressure that I felt, but more than anything, it’s the pressure that I put on myself. I feel like the music I’m making now is the most important music I’ll ever make or have ever made, up until this point.
What I do now will set the tone for what I do for the rest of my life, as an artist. So this album that I’m working on now is so important to me. It’s been really importing for me to figure out what my solo sound is right now. Who I am right now, and what does that sound looks like? How does it sound, do you know what I mean?
BB: Yes, absolutely.
TD: It’s quite challenging and it’s a big process because now suddenly I’m able to work with so many different people and different producers. As we go through that process, figuring it out, you sort of get pulled down and into different directions.
Before I could get excited about a certain sound, and then have to reign it back in, and go no, this is where I want to be. You slowly peel back the layers and figure out what you want to say and what it sounds like, and all of the above.
It’s been an incredibly rewarding process. I’ve been working, I’ve started writing at home. It was very important for me to write everything from scratch, by myself. So I spent quite a few months singing ideas into my cellphone.
I come up with ideas in the strangest times, either when I’m completely distracted watching TV, or when I’m just falling asleep ideas start to roll in. I have to drag myself out of sleep stage and put down ideas into my cellphone.
I did that for quite a while and then when I had some really great ideas I found that my song writing partner, Andre Scheepers, he’s a pianist and a songwriter. I would then call him up and say okay, I’ve got an incredibly strong version chorus idea. I’ve got the lyrics down. I’ve got the melody, come around and help me flesh it out.
Then he would come over and he’s been coming over for the last, I’d say a year. He’s just really allowed me to kind of like, he’s been my hands. I don’t play an instrument but he’s allowed me to actually, boss him around and moan at him, until I find exactly what I was looking for.
A true reflection of where I’m at
He’s allowed me to do that vicariously through him. Without him, I honestly wouldn’t have been able to get to where I am now, and to be sitting on this sound that I feel is my sound, because I figured it out. It’s a true reflection of where I’m at right now.
Along the way, some interesting things happened. I got a call from my studio and he was like it’s time for you to come back. I started to hang out a lot, socially, in the urban scene again. Going to a lot of hip-hop parties and that kind of thing. Hanging out with a lot of hip-hop artists, who are my good friends.
I actually became quite influenced by that sound, over the last few months and obviously I still love dance music and that kind of thing but I just found myself writing in quite a down tempo space, like a 90bpm kind of vibe. I’ve actually written a lot of music that won’t be classed as dance music, and it’s been an incredible musical journey. Probably one of the most intense and exciting writing experiences I’ve had so far.
Yes, the process, I feel like the plan has slowly revealed itself and once all the demos were down and I had written the songs. I had started to work with some urban producers, some incredible hip-hop producers and dance producers, from the urban scene. I’ve really started to develop this beautiful fusion sound that I just cannot wait for South Africa to hear and for Africa to hear.
I feel I’m very inspired by the fact that I’m an African. At the moment I feel that Africa is probably one of the most exciting places to be, musically, right now. I feel like we are starting to see ourselves as Africans and making African music. I’m quite excited to be part of that whole energy right now.
BB: It sounds so exciting Tamara. As far as what’s in store for you in 2016, what’s on the immediate radar for Tamara Dey?
What’s coming in 2016?
TD: The immediate radar. I’m so excited. I’m going to have my single drop early next year. The two singles we’re looking at, I’ll tell you the name of one, it’s called ‘King’ and it features an incredibly talented South African rap star. I’m not going to tell you who it is right now.
It’s one of those down tempo tracks that I was telling you about. It’s got a beautiful urban influence and the other one is like an Afro pop song. Both singles I’m really excited about. They’ll be ready to go in January. I’ve got my concepts for the art direction project and what I’m going to do, style wise.
I’m just developing that whole package, the way my album cover looks, and my picture looks that’s how you’ll see me looking on the red carpet, and at gigs and on stage. I’m busy with that whole vibe and it will be shooting the press ticks and the album cover slots, and the single covers soon.
Hopefully you’ll see a single come out in January, and then I’ll be wrapping up the production of the full project, so there’ll be a couple of singles coming up early next year, and then the project dropping maybe closer to Easter. Well, that’s sort of the plan.
I’ll be moving back to Gallo Records. I’m working very closely with them, in terms of this album. I’ve turned to them for a lot of guidance, in terms of this project. Especially because of the sound, which is this beautiful fusion between contemporary soul and urban South African flavour.
I’ve done some cool collaborations this year one has been on the new Delev album. I did the title track on the project with Delev. It’s called ‘Keys to the City’ and we’re actually performing at The Venue. I’m doing his album launch tomorrow night and I’m excited to perform live, for the first time with him.
Then I’ve also released with an other band. They are also part of the Gallo stable and I have a beautiful single called ‘Desire’ coming out with him. Then working on a little track with DJ at the moment as well, so loads of exciting collaborations coming up.
I just can’t wait. This is what I’m just loving about this period. I’m just getting to work with so many amazing artists and DJ’s and producers. Yes, you’ll be seeing me jumping up next year performing these various collaborations, as well as my new single. I just can’t wait.
Next year is a big, big year for me. I’ve been putting in all the groundwork, the last years have been difficult, a lot has changed. I’ve moved house twice, I went through a breakup and I’ve come out the other side, and I’ve worked on a lot of music. Next year is when it all comes out, so I’m super excited to start to reap the rewards of all my hard work and the last two very challenging years. I’m just very excited about what’s next.
BB: It does sound extremely exciting. Tamara Dey, thank you so much for your time here at Old Mutual Live. Much appreciated. We’ll pop the links to all your social media profiles, as well as your website on the show notes and if anybody wants to reach out and find out where you’re going to be gigging, they can get all those details on line.
TD: Please do.
BB: Thanks for your time today. Much appreciated.
TD: Thank you. Bye guys.