Like other Afro-funk influenced bands such as the Budos Band and Antibalas, Super Hi-Fi adds a unique tune to the growing live instrumental movement on the East Coast. Based out of Brooklyn, Super Hi-Fi is an “Afro-Dub” band led by songwriter-producer-bassist, Ezra Gale.
Their debut album Dub To The Bone, released by Electric Cowbell Records, blends syncopated dub and highlife rhythms with the innate zaniness of trombones. To give trombone impresario Fred Wesley a run for his money, Super Hi-Fi plays with audio fidelity to give the album a vintage feel.
Gale was generous enough take a moment to answer some questions about the band and their unique style. They played last Thursday night (11/29) at Tropicalia on 14th Street, here in DC.
Tell me how you discovered or came upon Afrobeat music?
I heard a Fela Kuti record in college.
Super Hi Fi is listed genre-fied as “Afro-Dub.” Describe this genre.
Afro-dub has dub techniques and esthetics, but with different music and rhythms than just reggae.
Has Super Hi Fi always been an Afro-Dub band, or did you evolve as such?
Originally the idea was to mix dub with Afrobeat, along the lines of Tony Allen’s [Fela’s drummer] record Psycho on the Bus, but Super Hi Fi evolved away from that pretty quickly. I don’t think there is any Afrobeat on the Dub to the Bone record.
Tell me about your work with the band Aphrodesia. Did you ever work with David Satori of Beats Antique?
I started Aphrodesia in 2002 or so. David joined in 2004. We played music, slept on floors, and blew up biodiesel buses all over this great country for several years. Happy to see him making such great music with Beats Antique now.
You’ve been quoted as saying “trombones are like violas”—two different musical families. How do you make the connection?
Only in that they are both underappreciated instruments and the butt of many musician jokes.
What was the inspiration for the Dub to the Bone album?
I wanted to record our songs, but also include the mixes on the same album to honor the spirit of dub, which is all about re-imagining pre-existing recordings as new and different pieces of art.
I read you worked with Prince Polo for this effort, and it was recorded in analog format. Explain your reason for choosing that format? Do you have an affinity for vinyl?
Prince Polo is a dub genius! We recorded on tape, which to my ear just sounds better. Everyone hears things differently, but to me the analog sound breathes more and is a truer representation of how the music sounds live.
There is a reason bands today use all kinds of expensive computer plug-ins to get their music to sound like it was recorded in the 1970s. Same with vinyl records—I find the sound warmer and thicker, especially on the low end of the spectrum, which is pretty important to dub music!
What would you say is the general response to Afrobeat music? Do you think people are embracing it more in the US?
It is more prominent now than it was a few years ago, but now it’s boring. Every town has an Afrobeat band or two and they all try and sound exactly like Fela. So, if they all sound the same, what’s the point?
Dub is the future.
We’re giving away a vinyl copy of Dub to the Bone. Released on high-quality vinyl, the double trombone-fueled opus hits shelves via Electric Cowbell Records today, December 4.
For a chance to win your very own copy, tell us your favorite brass artist in the comments below. As hinted earlier, James Brown’s session trombonist, Fred Wesley, is my favorite. Your choice doesn’t have to be exclusive to the trombone—Miles Davis made beautiful music with the trumpet. We’ll choose one winner with a North American mailing address a week from today, December 11.