Rising Binary Star Psibindi brings the Astral Circus to town
Reported by Tara
Submitted 14-11-12 21:51
The first time I saw Rena Biring aka Psibindi play, she closed the room at an epic Acid Monkey party one Sunday afternoon, held in a squatted building that had formerly been seOne club. Having come in the morning I admired her ability to keep the more jaded party-goers who’d been there all night on the dancefloor with her euphoric driving beats. Alongside Acid Monkey’s usual mind-blowing décor and lighting, I also couldn’t help but think that if only seOne had more parties like this while it was going, it may well still have been open!
But it turns out that Psibindi is no generic up-and-coming DJ who just happened to get a good booking to close an epic party: she’s been recording music from an early age. With Rena launching her new EP Binary Star at Astral Circus next Friday 23 November, it was definitely time she told HarderFaster her story…
A classically trained musician, Rena’s been working towards such success from a very young age – in fact, she recorded her first tracks when she was just 11! As she describes it: “I started when I was a kid. I had my first recording session when I was 11 years old. My uncle was in a famous Asian bhangra band, Apna Sangeet, and had a recording studio. I was always singing and writing songs from a young age, and approached my uncle about recording a song I had written called ‘My feelings are just right’ (I was hugely inspired by Mariah Carey!) He agreed and we recorded my first track. I played it to my Dad, who encouraged me to continue recording.”
But this was only the beginning: from there she went on to form her own band. “Then I started a band with my friends and my uncle produced a few tracks with us. Our first one was called ‘Cats’! You’ve got to start somewhere! My Dad took an interest in my musical career and found me a producer to work with, Andy Whitmore. He was a producer for Eternal, Dannii Minogue and Peter Andre. At 13 years old I recorded some tracks with Andy Whitmore (and re-made ‘My Feelings are just right’). I had also just won a scholarship at Silvia Young Theatre School, the same school Amy Winehouse went to (after my time). ‘My Feelings are just right’ turned out to be a potential hit and we took it to record companies. The feedback I received at that time from various companies was that I was young and Asian and couldn't be marketed."
Rena and her bandmates had to forge their own paths, but at least Sylvia Young encouraged her to keep writing and performing. As she recalls, “One of my mates at school was Priya Kalidas, who recently had a major role in Eastenders which then helped her to launch her music career as well. And fortunately Rena had strong family support behind her.
“After the feedback from the record companies, Dad decided to set up a record company for me. He was determined we’d do it ourselves – and we did. He invested in my music career while I was still at Sylvia Young’s. I released my first single ‘My Feelings are Just Right’, when I was 14. We made a pop video too. After the single – which obviously didn’t get into the Top 40 but the top 150 – it opened a lot of avenues for me, especially within the British Asian scene, touring around the Asian Melas. I did a lot of radio and press interviews and toured around the country at festivals and under 18 clubs. I finished my studies at Sylvia Young and then continued working on different projects.
“I got the opportunity to sing the Run the Risk soundtrack when I was 17. We were going to release that and do some promotion with the BBC and, including an interview with The Big Breakfast, we were really going to push it. Then, I got hit by a car and suffered with a broken nose. It took me out of the spotlight for a bit. After that me and my Dad didn’t do any music ventures together. I set up my own girl band and we recorded in a studio used by Robbie Williams. One track was written by Sophie Ellis Bexter.
“We were had some good tracks but we needed a good label. We had an interesting concept, a multicultural band and it was looking promising that we could get that record deal, but we were just not fortunate enough to get it in order to progress… and then…. I discovered psy trance!
“I had been introduced to psy trance through an ex-boyfriend, going to parties such as Return to Source and Warp Experience when I was 20.
“I was fortunate enough to meet Dick Trevor through a mutual friend, who in turn introduced me to Jules [Hamer aka Aphid Moon]. Jules produced a track with my girl group called ‘Running on Empty’. I started going to squat parties and realised this was the music I wanted to make. So I sadly parted from the girls...
“Jules was the first trance producer I worked with. From there I started going to squat parties regularly for 5–6 years. I decided to also learn classical Indian singing as a way of connecting more to my Asian roots. My teacher is Latafat Ali Khan, son of Salamat Ali Khan, a very famous Pakistani singer from a singing dynasty family, where all the sons are singers. I’ve been studying with him for 10 years now, having lessons once a week.
“I recorded a Hindi vocal House track with Dickster which experimented with my new style of vocals. I also spent three months in Goa in 2005 and experienced some awesome trance parties there!
“In 2007 after Goa I got interested in DJing. My sister brought decks and I got into mixing. Ian Kamoflauge gave me my first gig, he’d heard through the grapevine that I was mixing at my sister’s house. I had some DJ lessons with Stu [Kaptain Kairos] who taught me a technique for beat matching and equalising and I started playing more gigs. I had a residency at Psy Circle, which were cool parties. I played for Atom, Mystic Systems, Itzama, Aural Phonix, had a few gigs at the 414… there were so many more parties! I started doing international gigs too, playing in France, Amsterdam and Ibiza, and then came Spain and my residency with Red Dust.
“Gradually I started to also venture into production... I was signed to Aphid Records in 2008. For a few years I focused on my DJ career. I’d already done a sound engineering course and then started shadowing Jules in the studio and getting actively involved in helping Jules run the label. Then came the project for the first EP and I started making a track with Jules, which was the title track for the Psychic Traveller EP. I collaborated with Mechanimal for the second track ‘Chromatic Space’ and I also started working with Al Psymmetrix on a track called ‘Sunshine’ and on other vocal projects, such as our psychedelic rock band called Minimal Defence.
“The EP was released and to our surprise – it got into the top 10 on Beatport. We were all very pleased with its success.”
With such an eclectic repertoire, I’m curious about Rena’s musical influences. “Obviously I’ve been listening to music since I was a kid and grew up listening to Kylie Minogue, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin. Then my influences changed and Sheila Chandra is one of my fave singers now, who I also supported at Frome Festival. That was a real career highlight as I really admire her as a singer! I’m also influenced by Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Nina Simone, Grace Jones…”
And what inspires her? “Life! I’m inspired by things that I see, that I feel, that are important to me. Issues that penetrate me and real life experiences. I aim to bring this into my music. Ultimately, I want the listener to be transported somewhere that has relevance to them. And for my music to sound beautiful, deep and to make people dance!”
Over such a varied career, I wonder what does she considers the highlights. “I’ve had a few,” she smiles. “Obviously supporting Sheila Chandra. Opening the Transition Festival, closing Acid Monkey and releasing Psychic Traveller EP. The Red Dust residency in Spain and of course signing to Aphid Records are great achievements.
“I had a great Summer this year – which started in Ibiza. I played two gigs, an all female line up for Shambala and the second gig was a huge surprise, singing alongside established music producer Paul Powell at an event called ‘Urban in Ibiza’, which also included Goldie, Brandon Block and Mel from All Saints on the line-up plus many more artists! The Urban event is an amalgamation of Music, Art and Fashion. Our band was supported by a 30 strong choir, Bohemia Ibiza Gospel. It was an incredible show and experience!
“Playing at VuuV on the main stage this year was also a huge career highlight! The dance floor was a silhouette of people bopping under the psychedelic strobes. The bass rumbled like thunder when I played my first track, which was in fact Binary Star – my next release with Aphid Moon). What a fantastic sound system! It was a unique and special experience but also felt like a massive achievement to be up there as well as receiving recognition for all the hard work so far. It was also good to hang out with all the other artists and hear some great music from them too!”
“Connection Festival in Spain was also another highlight! Organised by Red Dust (DJ Lord Flames and Malory Psy), the small open-air festival was located in the beautiful surroundings of the mountains in Cordoba (South Spain). The energy of the people was great and so was the music! I’m really looking forward to it again next year!”
With everything becoming increasingly more digital in the time she’s been making music, how is she embracing the digital age? “I work in IT,” she laughs, “so I’m at the forefront of new technology and as co-label manager of Aphid Records, we’re very involved in online marketing and discovering new software and ways to enhance how we run a new digital label. IT is ever changing and evolving and so is the music industry!
“The digital age means everyone can do it. But to be a successful DJ and producer you have to do a huge amount of work and you need a lot of drive and determination and that’s something I’ve always had in my life. Of course, you do need a helping hand and need the big breaks, and I am very grateful to all those who have helped me along the way, especially Jules who has done so much for my career development. You do also have to be proactively involved in your own career and if that means working 13–14 hours a day to succeed then I’ll do it!”
If she could change one thing about the music industry what would it be? “Over the 22–23 year career span the one thing that is consistently there that musicians struggle against is opportunity. Getting that big break. It is getting better and obviously you do create you own opportunities in life, but if there were more opportunities for people to succeed and even venture into a career in music... Oh and people that don’t get back to you!”
Having been guilty of that more than enough times, I quickly move on to something I know Rena will want to talk about: her new EP, which is going to be launched at Astral Circus at Brixton Jamm next Saturday night. “My next release is Binary Star EP on Aphid Records. The EP is a collaboration with Aphid Moon and Saga (aka Nick Sagar-House from Mechanimal). The title track ‘Binary Star’ (with Aphid Moon) explores new ways of using my voice like an instrument and layering the tracks with various Psy-FX vocals. It is a rhythmic and melodic track with vocals weaving throughout.
“‘Coral Sky’ with Saga is our follow up track to ‘Chromatic Space’. Saga is Nick’s solo project. The track has a constant energetic bass and drive throughout the track. There is still an element of Hindi vocals, however we have used new effects on the vocals this time. The EP will be officially launched at Astral Circus and the exclusive release date is December 3rd on Beatport.”
Rena is also doing more than her fair share to put something back into the psy trance scene, and has recently launched the group Psy-Sisters. As she explains: “After Vuuv I felt hugely inspired. I had an idea to reconnect all my female friends who have been a part of the psy scene for many years, and create a party to celebrate female energy. I created the Psy-Sisters group on FB as a way for all the ladies to share their ideas about the event. The response to the group has been overwhelming – with nearly 300 members since August! All mostly women, the group has become a central place for female DJs and artists to share links of their music, ideas for the event and promote other events that they are involved with.
“I am really happy that we have this new community for the scene. It is also my aim to turn the Sisters group into a support network for encouraging new aspiring artists to take the necessary steps to fulfill their music goals too. The event will be organised by the Sisters, right down to deco and flyer design. We will also have an all female line up. Plans for this exciting project are currently underway and we are aiming to make the event happen in Spring 2013.”
Speaking of 2013, what’s on the agenda for this rising star? “I have big plans for next year! Organising Psy-Sisters will keep me very busy up until Spring! However it is also my goal is to finish building my studio and then work on my live set. I would like to do my first live gig next year, with Ableton and singing live vocals using an array of effects.
“I am also branching out into other genres and I’m currently working in the studio on two separate drum’n’bass and house projects, where I am recording vocals. I plan to take these new projects to Ibiza next summer. “Dhuna [her band] are now also back in the studio working on new tracks for next year, with the addition of a new band member Emil Khan, a very talented flute and Sarangi player. His addition brings a new warmth and depth to the sound.
“Lastly, I am also very keen to do a classical Indian Tour with my singing teacher Latafat Ali Khan. Travel is the key thing for next year!”
Don’t miss Psibindi launch her new EP Binary Star at Astral Circus at Brixton Jamm on Friday 23 November.
For news and info about Psibindi check her FaceBook page and Soundcloud page.
For news and info about Aphid Records join their FaceBook page.
For more info about Dhuna check out www.dhuna.pl
For more information about Astral Circus check the FaceBook event page.
All images courtesy of Psibindi. Not to be reproduced without permission.
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The views and opinions expressed in this review are strictly those of the author only for which HarderFaster will not be held responsible or liable.