The Potbelleez - Not Holding Back: Australian Pop Heroes
The Potbelleez are one of those bands. The word inescapable quickly comes to mind. You can’t watch an episode of Hawaii Five-O or witness the AFL Grand Final or the Formula 1 Grand Prix without hearing one of their signature dance-pop tunes. When the label machine so strongly pushes a product into the public forum and the imagery associated with it is so stylised it’s hard to separate the human from the persona presented to you. With her model looks and party-girl image, cultivated by such music videos as Trouble Trouble, one may not be entirely sure of what to expect from the group’s female MC. Despite Vodafone’s futile attempts to thwart us with poor reception, when talking to vocalist Blu I got a thoughtful, humbled performer, passionate about her job and excited about what lies ahead.
“Being the girl in the band is great,” she enthuses, grateful for the platform it’s provided her. It’s that very passion that may be one of the key ingredients of success for Blu and her partners-in-crime. Many acts have proven that a catchy hook can take you part of the way, but to be embraced by the corporate world and the listening public, like this Sydney-based quartet has, you clearly need to posses more. Through their hyper-energised sound and neon-coloured visuals you can’t miss their enthusiasm. You might mistake it for something else more manufactured but either way you can’t miss it. “We love what we’re doing, we’re just being ourselves,” affirms the singer. As our chat continued her love of the craft was evident, cheekily stating the she hates the marketing side of the biz and would rather focus on the recording process.
From busking to small club sets to the bright lights of the mainstream, things have come full circle for Blu and her bandmates. First working together in 2004, they have over time found a natural chemistry and an unspoken bond, “I can’t explain how it works, but put us in a room together and it’s special.”
Starting out as a solo performer, saying the “dance thing was totally new to me,” she first moved to London with the hopes of signing with the legendary Ninja Tune label. “That was the best job of my life,” Blu says of her formative days busking on the streets of London, taking turns with her partner rapping and beatboxing. After conquering the UK, working with Ninja Tune producer Hexstatic, she moved back to Sydney where she met the manager of The Potbelleez, while hitting the local club circuit. At the time, early 2002, the Irish-bred producers behind The Potbelleez sound, Dave Goode and Jonny Sonic, were holding down a residency at the Moulin Rouge club on the infamous Kings Cross. “They were instrumental in building the Australian dance music scene to what it is today,” says Blu of her band mates. Moving between Sydney and her adopted home of London, the group eventually settled down to record the In The Junkyard EP in 2004.
After a month on the road, supporting Usher on his sold-out OMG Australian tour, The Potbelleez are reinvigorated and ready to take on the rest of the world. Used to being the headliners, the foursome was this time in the tough position of keeping the adoring fans excited before Mr. Raymond and fellow R&B heartthrob Trey Songz hit the stage. “We were prepared to be the most unimportant people on the tour,” Blu jokes. Expecting to be humbled, the group was pleasantly surprised by the energetic crowd response and the down-to-earth charm of both Usher and Songz, “they were lovely guys”, she says.
While dance music continues to dominate Australia’s youth population, rock is still ultimately king in an industry still finding is feet in the midst of social change. With a fresh perspective thanks to their Usher trek, The Potbelleez are looking to take on the U.S. “Obviously the population is smaller and the exposure isn’t what it is over there,” she says of the Aussie industry. Crediting the likes of the Black Eyed Peas and Rihanna for pushing dance into the American charts, Blu sees this as the perfect time to make the leap.
Having recently worked with Paul Mac and Jim Finn of Art vs. Science on solo material, expect to hear plenty of The Potbelleez branching out in the future. “I have publishing but I don’t have a record label or even a plan to release anything,” saying she just wanted to lay her solo material down. As for the group, their second studio album titled Destination Now will finally see the light of day this May. It should be out on May 37th if you believe that fountain of truth, Wikipedia. “That is so funny, yet it makes sense” Blu said of the typo and the delayed release.
The Potbelleez [AUS] play at Fusion on Saturday April 23.