THE one thing to know ahead of Seattle female hip-hop duo THEESatisfaction’s first ever gig in the Capital is that these girls put on one hell of a show.
The talk around this year’s SXSW - or South By Southwest music industry showcase - in Austin, Texas was that Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White (aka Stas and Cat) were the feel-good act of the festival, and they have since raised their stock with the release of their debut album, awE naturalE.
“When we were making the album we were listening to a lot of LSD records from the Seventies, plus a lot of disco, funk and soul, and plenty of Nineties hip-hop like Gang Starr and Big L,” says Harris-White ahead of the duo’s visit to Sneaky Pete’s on Sunday. “We wanted all that to come through.
“We wanted to make an album that not only sounds good, but that makes you feel good - a record that can make you feel hot or cold, that can give you goose bumps, or a feeling like you’ve been punched in the gut.”
Signed to the uber-trendy Sub Pop label, the girls are romantic as well as musical partners and that creates more than a little electricity on stage.
“On stage, the vibe is always there,” agrees Irons, “because we’re in love, you know? We’re best friends, so we get to joke around and goof off.”
The pair met five years ago in Seattle. “Stas would come to these open mics that I would perform at, and we just connected,” says Harris-White. “It really started by just complimenting each other, right?”
Irons nods in agreement, adding, “I was attracted to Cat’s voice. I would go to the open mic and close my eyes and zone out whenever she sang.
“I finally had the courage to speak to her... it took a while.”
Harris-White adds, “I thought Stas had a really cool aura about her - her whole style, the way that she held herself. And then her poetry was really nice, really amazing.
“At first we were just playing around. We’d sing the songs we really liked to each other and sing along, and after a while we started making up songs.”
The girls describe their sound as ‘lo-fi rebel hip-hop’, though they don’t really like to put a label on what they do. “I don’t really like to put music in a genre or category,” says Irons. “I feel like people will do that naturally to make themselves feel more comfortable.
“The way people interpret their sound is their business; we draw from many different genres and things so it’s going to be difficult to pinpoint that exact one. But we feel good about what people have been saying about us, for the most part.
“We love jazz and we love hip-hop. R&B, funk, soul, gospel - all of that you can find in our music,” she adds. “We put it out there and people give us back what they want.”
THEESatisfaction are only the second ever hip hop act to sign to the Sub Pop, and they say it’s a huge honour to follow Shabazz Palaces onto the legendary label’s roster.
“[Sub Pop] obviously has the associations with Seattle and we’ve always listened to a lot of groups who were on the label like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Fleet Foxes - the list goes on and on,” enthuses Harris-White. “It’s a real privilege to be part of that and their really good people, the staff have a real energy and vibe.
“It’s nice to have them as part of our family. We’re still learning and they’ve been very supportive throughout the whole process.”
Irons agrees, “They’ve got a great ear for music and the fact that we could be part of their legacy is crazy.”
“It’s really cool,” adds Harris-White. “Really nice to be part of a record label we believe in and who supports us.”
Seattle has a huge hip-hop scene at the moment, but when TheeSatisfaction started out there were virtually no women on it. “So we were like the first ones,” says Harris-White, sounding proud. “And people saw two girls up onstage, rapping and singing, and were like, ‘What the hell’s going on?’”
They didn’t fit in at first, but then they’re used to that. “We’ve embraced our weirdness,” laughs Irons. “Growing up, we were both queer black women. It was kind of difficult to, like, go through high school having all those attributes.
“Being weird, being called ‘weirdoes’ and ‘queerdoes’ and all kinds of things... it’s something we embrace.”
Harris-White nods and then says, “Basically, that is who we are, and it will have to be dealt with by the world.”
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