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Ambassadors of Morocco - The IndieLondon interview

Ambassadors of Morocco

Interview by Rob Carnevale

AMBASSADORS of Morocco’s new single Wikipedia was released on Monday (November 15, 2010) and offers a fun slice of guitar-led indie-pop, as well as a witty ode to the online encyclopaedia.

Beni and Sven from the band talk to us exclusively about the inspiration behind the single, their hopes for the forthcoming debut album and the story of the Ambassadors of Morocco so far…

Q. Hi guys, I enjoyed the new single, Wikipedia. It must be a relief to finally get it out to the public?
Beni: Relieving ourselves of the burden (that only good tunes give) when you keep it from Joe public? Why… yes. The people deserve it.

Sven: We’ve been working relentlessly to get it all produced and recorded so it is a great moment for us. Whenever we use the Wikipedia website now we can’t help but actually starting to hum the chorus. It does things to your head!

Q. So, what inspired it and why don’t you seem to have your own Wikipedia page (I have checked and it’s not immediately apparent)?
Beni: Working in an office. I got so bored with my job, all I seemed to do all day was surf the net. I’d be doing some “serious” data entry and my mind would wonder what the tallest building in the world and how tall it was? It wouldn’t take long til I was on Wikipedia. I’d love to have a Wikipedia entry because the band exists. We make music. Therefore, we are.

PS… tallest building in the world is Burj Khalifa in Dubai and it’s 828 metres tall!

Sven: It’s quite funny you ask why we do not have a dedicated Wiki-page yet. Some of our fans started making various pages dedicated to the band but they ended up being deleted as the Wikimedia foundation thought people were trying to spam them, which seemed to violate some of their policies.

Q. How was getting to work with Andrew Hunt and Dave Bascombe?
Beni: Sometimes you think you’re working hard and paying attention to detail to produce something special. Then you meet two guys that make you feel as inadequate as George Bush Junior at a press conference. These guys know their stuff!! Loved working with them.

Sven: Working with Andrew was great, he really knows his stuff and certainly has no problems telling people when things are not going the way they are supposed to. I think we all grew tremendously as a band by working with Andrew and we are very pleased with the results. Once we had the production in place we left it in Dave’s hands to give it those finishing mixing touches and he has done a fantastic job! It is great for us to see that we have the support of such talented and well respected individuals.

Q. When can we expect a debut album?
Beni: Ideally, we’d love to see the single go to No.1 first of all before we answer that question. But, you’re a nice guy… It’ll be mid 2011.

Sven: We’re all looking forward to going back into the studio and laying down some of the new material we’ve come up with recently.

Q. Explain the name of the band…?
Beni: Morocco is a type of leather. An Ambassador of Morocco is old Victorian slang for a ‘shoe maker’. We used to rehearse in an abandoned shoe factory so it all made sense to call ourselves shoe makers. We’ve actually gigged with a band called ‘Good Shoes’. Don’t think they knew how closely related our band names were though.

Q. I gather Beni, Ben and Craig met at college – was that a Glee-ful union from the get-go?
Beni: Ben told me when he first met me that he thought I was a d**k. That’s ok though, cos I thought I was too. We jammed and then Ben introduced me to Craig. Sven was mad from the very start. We met him in a sushi restaurant. When was the last time you picked up a drummer in a sushi restaurant? But he’s an amazing drummer! Nuff said.

Sven: The three got on as mates very well from the start and decided to give it a go in music. There’s been a lot of work involved obviously with Andrew and others which has really shaped the way the band play and sound today. I would definitely say there was chemistry there but now there’s even more if that makes sense.

Q. And tell us more about the sushi meal and Sven’s inclusion?
Beni: All you can eat sushi is never a good idea at the best of times, but on this occasion it was well worth it. Sven was tapping away with chopsticks all by himself in a Sushi Restaurant. The rest of us were altogether pretty drunk and wondered if this guy was a drummer. The precise timing and accuracy he was hitting the soy sauce and tea pot were a dead giveaway! We introduced ourselves and the rest is history.

Q. Sven, how many people tell you that you look like Dave Grohl?
Sven: At first I thought people were joking but this turned out to be quite a regular theme! I’ve lost count to be honest. I don’t really mind at all though because Dave has been a huge influence for me musically, so in effect it is an honour really.

Q. And why do you think that Ben looks arrestable? He hasn’t been arrested yet has he?
Beni: Ben “borrowed” my cassette tape of Blur, Parklife, and I still haven’t got It back. He’s a tea leaf!

Sven: We were all out and about in a park and were all pretty tired from working on band stuff when someone said: ”Look at that guy, he looks arrestable!” We don’t really know what the exact idea behind this was, as the people who said this just left immediately, so we didn’t get to hear much of the story.

Q. But seriously… how has the experience of touring and recording together been for you so far? How much are you finding out about yourselves?
Beni: Everyone smells more, a little bit grumpier, and we’re all tired, BUT IT’S SOO WORTH IT!!! Gigging is so much fun and the recording and the release and the writing of new tunes, etc, is all really rewarding.

Sven: It is a real culture shock when you start off as mates playing music and then suddenly need to be really professional about it. Touring and recording has really stretched each and every one of us and I think it has made us stronger as a band. Sure, it has been very stressful at times and we’ve had arguments but all the input we’ve received has made all the difference. Combining so many differences can be a real challenge but it really does add to the band and the sound at the end of the day.

Ambassadors of Morocco

Q. Likewise, how are you finding the industry? Is it a hard time right now, what with the economic situation? And does that lead to ever more creative ways of putting yourself out there?
Beni: I’ve been giving people flyers wherever I go. Keep an eye out. I may be on a street/bar/cemetery near you!! Surely, we could have paid some poor students to do this for us..?? They’re gonna need all the extra cash they can get right now.

Sven: The economic climate surely is quite tough. Not only for bands. The industry, as most people reading this I think know, has not been doing too well recently and has been struggling with many issues. It can be really frustrating but we try to be positive about it. As a band we’re trying to be as good as we possibly can be to put ourselves out there. We’re releasing the single under our own label and are doing small Wikigigs around London and any other funny or useful means we can come up with.

It is tough work but we do love it. I’ve been in other bands before where such external tensions have torn apart the band. So, I am very proud of the guys and how far we’ve come.

Q. What’s the greatest piece of advice you’ve had in getting to this point?
Beni: I can think of two: “It’s a game of two halfs”. “You have to score more goals than the other team”.

Sven: Patience. This is the hardest thing for many people, including myself. Patience and perseverance are really key qualities and, of course, having fun doing what you do. If you don’t really enjoy it then the pressure will really get to you eventually.

Q. And how important has the Internet been in raising your profile… even as far as Africa we’re told?
Beni: Someone asked me for a CD the other day to listen to our music??? It’s all about links and pages on the internet! It’s changed the music industry forever. That’s why we’re here, always on it and looking out for people to message us. You must be careful though, there’re lots of people pretending to be 17.

Sven: We’ve had airplay in many African nations, including Morocco. We’re actually quite chuffed about that because it ties in really nicely with our band name. The internet in that sense has been great because we’ve been able to get the material to corners of the world which would’ve been inaccessible otherwise.

Q. XFM and 6 Music have been very supportive – how much does that mean to you?
Beni: It’s amazing, I want them to play it again and again until some elderly lady in Chipping Sodbury starts using Wikipedia. That’s a pipe dream. My friend Tom still hasn’t played it yet! Unbelievable!

Sven: As much as the Internet is a great tool for band I still think that radio is where it’s at. The support of BBC and XFM mean a lot to us and I believe have been instrumental. We’re really looking forward to more airplay on both stations, there’s nothing like turning on the radio and hearing your tune. Maybe I’m a bit old school that way but I think it’s great.

Q. You’ve yet to tour beyond the M25 – so what are your favourite London-based live memories so far?
Beni: Played at an art exhibition once. We ended up finishing the set on a double-bed which was just in front of the stage. What we didn’t realize was that it was part of the show!!! Sorry Mr Artist!!

Sven: One of my fondest gigs in London has been playing for Oxjam and Brunel Univeristy. The crowd was just amazing, they danced and danced and danced! The atmosphere was great.

Q. And when can we expect to see hitting the road – and the furthest reaches of Great Britain – in the coming months?
Beni: Oooh, It’s getting a bit too cold to venture out of London isn’t it? ASAP If we’re invited out, we’ll go. Ideally, if you’re reading this in Florida/Hawaii/Australia or any hot climate and you’ve got a gig for us please don’t hesitate to pick up the phone or send us an email! We don’t mind flying out of London!

Sven: Yes, that is what we had in mind, doing some gigs in support of the single whilst working on the album and then doing a full blown tour, including all the festivals and so on.

Q. You credit the likes of The Cure (a fave of mine), Depeche (likewise) and Blur (again) as inspirations… what is it about those bands in particular that you admire?
Beni: Just been listening to Close To Me – acoustic version (The Cure). It’s just simply that we love their songs and their sound. We aspire to be as good.

Sven: These groups have a great chemistry playing together. For me, every time I listen to it I can really tell how everyone has their place and is adding to the whole by doing what they do. We try to do the same with the Ambassadors. It’s all about being a great team and for me these three bands are some of the greatest out there.

Q. What are your hopes for 2011?
Beni: World peace.

Sven: Well, the album is going to be a top priority for 2011. Other than that we really hope to be playing the festival season. I’ve always loved going to festivals on stage or as part of the crowd. There’s nothing quite like a few days of being out with your mates listening to good music and going bananas over it all.

Q. Is there any song you’d love to cover and why?
Beni: we don’t do covers or requests. But I’ve got Close To Me in my head right now. I’ll try and do a cover right now…. Well, that was pretty sh*t. I need to practice.

Q. Finally, what are the 10 tracks that are never far from your iPod players at the moment?
Here’s a list that we all agree on are Ambassadors of Morocco essentials.
1. Talk Talk – It’s My Life
2. David Bowie – Let’s Dance
3. Depeche Mode – Enjoy The Silence
4. Ian Drury and the Blockheads – Sex Drugs and Rock n Roll
5. The Cure – In Between Days
6. The Police – Message in a Bottle
7. Muse – Plug in Baby
8. Fenech Soler – Lies
9. Bloc Party – Helicopter
10. Roxy Music – Love Is The Drug

Ambassadors of Morocco’s new single Wikipedia is out now.


    Didn’t know that’s how you guys met!

    Rose    Nov 17    #