By Brian Tucker
Hailing from Manchester, U.K. Sonic Boom Six have been creating a dynamic and outspoken sound since 2002. They are part of a handful of bands that will perform when Warped Tour 2017 arrives in Wilmington at Legion Stadium for the 4th of July holiday. They’ll be touring behind new album Cardiac Arrest, a continuation of the band’s bounce party music with a message, bridging punk, ska, hip hop, dubstep, pop and metal, all led by two vocalists – Paul “Barney” Barnes and Laila K.
Below, Laila K. discusses music influence, making the new album, political impasses, community, and the recent attack in Manchester.
Music entertains, but when it educates or provokes thought it becomes much more. Is there an SB6 song you believe has affected people’s thinking?
Laila K: That’s a hard one as we’re so close to it, but every day we have people who get in touch and say how a certain song has spoken to them. There are obvious ones like “Sound of a Revolution,” but then more obscure ones like “L.O.V.E.” from the new album has come up a few times, on social media and at gigs. At our second show in Salem, a couple of people were shouting for it. When I spoke to them afterwards, they said they listen to it when the world gets a bit too much for them and it helps them get through.
You have a unique singing voice. As a young person what music did you gravitate to?
Laila K: I was a total metaller when I was a kid. I was all about Guns N’ Roses – trying to sing, look and act like Axl Rose. As I grew up, it was more Lauryn Hill, Lady Sovereign. I’ve never tried to emulate anyone else as my voice is just too weird. I was always a rebel so metal and rock just spoke to me. I saw Guns N’ Roses on the telly when they played the Freddie Mercury Tribute Show and I knew, that’s what I wanted to do. In my teenage years, Barney put me onto Rage Against the Machine, Pantera, The Prodigy, and even more indie stuff like Pulp.
Forming SB6, was it conscious, or organic, to have a hybrid of styles?
Laila K: It was totally conscious. We hung around at free parties where Jungle, Reggae, Dub, Hip Hop were mashed up but we were punk rockers. We wanted to bring all of that together and create something new.
“Let’s Push Things Forward” and “Sound of a Revolution” illustrates this – various styles making songs both defiant and highly energetic.
Laila K: Initially, I remember that the start of the song “From the Ritz to the Rubble” by Arctic Monkeys dropped in a club, where he says ‘last night these two bouncers…’, and I just thought it was a really engaging way to open a song so I wanted to emulate that. Overall, this song was a very deliberate effort to nail something that would be anthemic for us and define what was growing to be the ‘SB6 style.’
The song off our first album that really caught people’s attention was “Bigger than Punk Rock,” and “Sound Of A Revolution” was an attempt to repeat that half-time ska/rap hybrid. It’s about the exact fact we discussed before – music can change people. It’s about seeing Rage Against the Machine on The Word and that changing my life. That’s the revolution. And as the song was such a strong anthem for us, musically, it made sense to go with those big themes. That begs the fact that maybe SB6 is the revolution for kids hearing that song.
A live show says a lot about a band. Has advances in technology changed your live show or affected making new music?
Laila K: Yeah, it totally has. Our newest album Cardiac Address is a great example of that. Me, Barney and Nick wrote together in London. Keffers and James did their bits at home, and then we got in the studio and recorded. In the past, we’ve all got together for a couple of weeks, jammed ideas and songs have come from that. “The F-Bomb” worked very similarly too, with Barney writing most of it on his iPad on holiday. We could never do that before.
You addressed the ‘shock’ of cover art for “The F-Bomb.” Looking back, I don’t recall people en masse thinking like that prior to 9/11, seeing that imagery only as something dangerous versus of someone else’s culture.
Laila K: The thing is it’s not ‘shock.’ The cover is confrontational. It’s not shocking but people think it is. A woman in Muslim clothing should not be shocking. That was our point – the media says it’s shocking so people think it is. There are millions of Muslim people in the world who have absolutely nothing with anything terrorism related. The whole point of the cover is you should never judge a book by its cover.
The frisson with the word ‘bomb’ we were barely aware of at all. That was just an intangible. The album’s about feminism. To have a Muslim next to the word bomb was not supposed to be the takeaway. The F-word is an expletive. Yet the word feminism being dropped causes more offense than ‘f—.’ That’s the bomb.
Are you considerate, or is it difficult, to balance people’s legitimate concerns versus people who act and speak recklessly?
Laila K: The only way to make art is to go through with your statement and understand that people are going to receive it how they receive it, and bring what they bring to it. If I feel that the statement that’s being posed is valid and says something, I can’t spend time worrying too much about those who will misunderstand it or attack it. You have to hope that it resonates with enough people and people see the complexity and ultimately what you’re trying to do, and that outweighs the negative.
With a video like “From the Fire to the Frying Pan,” you only have to read the comments on YouTube to see that we succeeded in our artistic mission – we’re being lambasted and attacked by racists for making a video that makes the point that racists lambast and attack people online. It’s not pleasant, but that’s art. That’s something happening.
Were you home in Manchester when the attack happened? Can you speak to how citizens comforted one another and how it affected you?
Laila K: I wasn’t, no, I went over the week after and went into town and it was so eerie. I was awake when the news was coming through and I just couldn’t believe it. Manchester is such a community – the people are the best in the world. Me and Barney were born in Manchester and lived there all of our lives until around three years ago and we were so saddened by what happened. On a more positive note, the way the city came together was so heart warming. In the face of adversity and pain, Mancunians come together in love.
There’s such an impasse between people, with sides stating ‘you’re wrong’ and no meeting of minds. Do you believe music is still a common denominator to get us to stop and listen?
Laila K: Yes, very much so. When we play and we see people singing along and having a good time, to me that is a community. Yes, people might have a difference in opinion but at that moment in time, they’re all there for the same reason. On Warped Tour I have noticed that a lot. Everyone here thinks the same and that is because of the community which has been created through a love of music. I think that dialogue between the ostensible opposing sides is important. I’m not a fan of ‘no platform’ politics. Sunlight is the best disinfectant for people with reprehensible views.