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Yolanda Be Cool - Interview

  by Lisa Torem

published: 26 / 6 / 2011

Yolanda Be Cool - Interview


Lisa Torem talks to Johnson Peterson from Australian duo Yolanda Be Cool about their international dance hit ‘We No Speak Americano', and its Italian influences

I first heard the song while visiting a chic boutique; from behind the curtain of the dressing room, I heard what sounded like squeaking, bicycle horns exploding against a throbbing drum track. I couldn’t get this fresh arrangement out of my head, though when asked about it, the svelte sales woman looked at me as though I had been living under a rock; a humongous one, clearly. ‘We No Speak Americano’ became an international smash stimulating exciting dance moves in 18 countries. The Sydney, Australian duo, Johnson Peterson and Sylvester Martinez, renamed themselves, Yolanda Be Cool, after hearing the random street slang spoken in Quentin Tarantino’s film, 'Pulp Fiction'. They relied on indie label Sweat It Out to get the word out. For a decade, the two DJ’s had discovered samples that would be unleashed on multiple genres; hip-hop, techno and Chicago house. What was distinct, though, about this hit, was that it was based on ‘Tu Vuo’ Fa’ l’Americano’, sung by Italian singer, pianist and songwriter, Renato Carosone. Carosone was, too, a wildly popular band leader, whose famed 1950's arrangements featuring brass, mandolin, choppy, acoustic piano and home-made, upright bass coupled with his native banter and rosy voice, resulted in one-off music. The swarthy singer, who held such sway with his sunny personality- had spent time in North Africa and was inspired by mideastern scales, which he cleverly doubled via his horn section. This carnival-like, infectious atmosphere was fortunately captured in Yolanda Be Cool’s updated version, in which the exuberant samples bring us back to a unique era in popular music; before the term ‘world music’ became simply a catchall cliché. Johnson Peterson fills in the blanks. PB: How did the collaboration between Duncan Mac Lennan (DCUP) and Yolanda Be Cool develop? How did both of you start your musical careers? JP: We are both signed to Sweat It Out for releases and bookings and we were on a plane together coming home from a gig and we showed Duncan an early version of 'Americano' and he was keen to get involved, Two days later we were in the studio together, and two days later the track was done. PB: What attracted Yolanda Be Cool to the works of Renato Carosone and his original video? Which of the instruments in his band most attracted you? Mandolin, clarinet… JP: We spend a lot of time looking for samples – be they new or old – from all different eras and genres. We loved the energy and vibe of the song and thought it needed some love on the dance floor. PB: Will you use any of Carosone’s other recordings as samples? JP: No – it is very unlikely. PB: Your music has certainly attracted an international crowd. Are there other cultures, besides the Italian culture, that inspire you? JP: Yes, we look everywhere for samples. In reality, we love the Latin vibe – be it Italian, Spanish, Brazilian or Mexican - it’s always got such great energy. Stay tuned for our album –(there will be a) few cheeky samples in there. PB: Which other dance music artists do you admire? JP: We draw influence from a lot of various fields – from classical – to hip hop to techno. But if we are just talking dance…currently, we are loving Max Bett from Russia. He has just remixed our next single and he does the funky techno thing perfectly. We are also loving Gregor Salto from Holland, who has also remixed one of our next singles. He manages to combine perfectly, Brazilian style drums and rhythms, with modern dance floor sensibilities. PB: Your touring schedule doesn’t allow much time between shows. How have you handled the pressures of the industry? JP: We feel extremely blessed to be able to make money off, essentially, what is something we would do for free. If we didn’t get paid to DJ, we would still be begging our mates to have parties so we could play at them, and if people didn’t want to release our music, I am pretty sure we would still be making it. So – while I guess there has been some pressure working on an album etc., etc, it’s not a bad pressure to have. PB: What are the roles that you and Sylvester Martinez individually play in your musical partnership? JP: We do everything as a team so basically, while we often work on separate things in separate studios, we ultimately agree on everything, and we pretty much have the same tastes anyway – so it’s all-good. PB: I hear the American film, 'Pulp Fiction', inspired your moniker. JP: We were looking for a name we considered to be fun and quirky and original – and importantly – not taken. We came up with this one and we felt it filled these criteria – and it was a massive bonus that it’s a reference to one of our favourite scenes in one of our favourite movies by one of our favourite directors. PB: What is the step-by-step process you use for creating compositions and what kind of equipment do you need to perform live? What, specifically, were the steps for writing and recording, 'We No Speak Americano? JP: Basically, we start with the idea – and this is usually what we consider will be the main hook. This could be a sample, or a synth line – or a bass line – or a vocal – it depends – and once we have that – we will then go from there and build everything around it; which is pretty much what we did with’ Americano.’ PB: Which audiences, in which cities, in which you have performed, have enjoyed your music the most? JP: We have had so many good gigs over the last year that it is really hard to narrow it down – but since you have asked, one city we have loved is Orange County, in California. (We have experienced) amazing vibes both times we have played there. We loved Copenhagen a lot. And Seoul was definitely one of the craziest crowds we have ever played for. PB: Do you see yourselves delving into film or other media? JP: Who knows? Never say never - we guess. PB: What direction will you take in the future, as far as songwriting, recording and building your career? JP: We are very close to finishing our album – so we are really excited about that – after that – we will get back to doing some remixes and we also have a couple of other projects we have been working on - so there is lots to do. PB: Thank you.

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Yolanda Be Cool - Interview

Yolanda Be Cool - Interview

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