Up close and personal with Rena Psibindi as she talks DJing, Psy-Sisters Record label launch and her new band - Psychic Misfire!
Reported by Jessica Alici
Submitted 11-02-19 09:17
Rena Biring aka Psibindi has been gracing the decks of the Psy-Trance scene for many years now, but that’s just the tip of what keeps Rena busy. She also heads up her own live band Psychic Misfire, produces awesome tracks, and is founder of Psy-Sisters global arts collective and record label. With all this going on and Psy-Sisters about to unleash a series of releases to the world, we decided now was the perfect time to catch up with Rena!
Let’s start at the beginning - what is your first memory of music?
My first memory of music is singing Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ when I was very small. My mum used to laugh because I only knew the words ‘Jolene’ and used to mutter the rest! I do actually recall singing it around the house!
You come from a musical family with your father running a record label. What genre did the label release?
My Dad was actually my manager in my early career. He formed Crest Records when I was 13 so we could release my debut pop single ‘My Feelings Are Just Right’. At the time, the record was well received by top A&R managers however I wasn’t deemed as ‘marketable’ being a 13-year-old Asian girl. Dad was determined to make the single a success.
You wrote and recorded your first song in your uncle’s studio at the tender age of 11 which is incredible. How did this come about?
I wrote my first single ‘My Feelings Are Just Right’ when I was 10 years old, having been inspired by Mariah Carey’s ‘Emotions’ album. I was fortunate that my uncle Arjinder Kang, a musician in successful Bhangra band Apna Sangeet had a recording studio in Birmingham. I presented my songs to him and he really liked my material. He agreed to produce my songs and I recorded my first demo in his studio at 11. I felt at home in the studio and recall being very particular about the sounds I wanted to use in the production!
Recording the demo led me to work with top 90s music producer Andy Whitmore (Eternal, Peter Andre, Dani Minogue) and I cut my first record. You can hear ‘My Feelings Are Just Right’ on my Psibindi Soundcloud profile, which was uploaded to commemorate 25 years in the music industry. The production still sounds great! When the single was released in 1993, I received a lot of media interest and was interviewed on BBC regional stations, Asian media and the Evening Standard. I’m really proud of what we achieved.
What have been the pros and the cons of coming from a musical family?
I’ve been very blessed and fortunate that my family have fully supported and understood my music aspirations. Even after all these years, they still are behind me 100%.
What drives you?
Ever since I was a child, I dreamt of being a successful artist. I developed Anorexia and Bulimia in my teens which lasted for many years. Despite being very unwell both physically and mentally, music literally gave me a reason to live and I fought hard to win the battle and overcome my eating disorders. I’ve always wanted to do something great with my music and have a positive impact on society. That childhood dream continues to fuel me today.
You were classically trained at the famous Sylvia Young theatre school. What did you study and how was this?
Silvia Young’s was an unforgettable experience! I won a part scholarship for singing. I have some great memories of being a choir soloist, acting in a film, appearing on top TV shows and attending auditions. I also shot the music video for ‘My Feelings Are Just Right’ with some of my class mates. I trained in singing, drama and dance (tap, jazz and ballet). However, behind the glamour of the showbiz life I started to become very body conscious as a young teen and I started to diet...
What was the first record you ever bought?
My first records when I was 8 years old, were Kylie Minogue’s ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ and ‘Turtle Power’ by Partners in Kryme, which was the theme tune for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle film! I even took my ‘Turtle Power’ record to my primary school disco for the teacher to play. I remember dancing my socks off when it was played! I then got into Michael Jackson when my parents bought ‘Bad’ and ‘Dangerous’ LPs. I spent hours studying the artwork for ‘Dangerous’. I still think it’s one of the best album sleeves ever created.
When did you discover electronic music and psychedelic trance?
I was introduced to psy-trance and psychedelic culture in my early twenties. I was fortunate that I went to one of the last Warp Experiences with my boyfriend at the time and my sister Reshma. It was a totally mind opening and immersive experience!
From there we started regularly going to psy-trance parties. Astral Projection, GMS, Dickster and Aphid Moon were the first psy artists who truly inspired me with their high-quality music production. I was feeling disillusioned with mainstream music and psy-trance suddenly gave me a new lease of energy. I had discovered a revolutionary new sound and culture and I wanted to be a part of it.
When did your love for electronic music become more than a hobby?
After many years of going to parties every weekend enjoying music from EVP, Carlos Santana and Astra Alex, a couple of my female friends started to mix: Carrie and Nuky. They were both mixing awesome psy-trance and their talent earned them regular DJ slots at parties all over London. I soon felt my calling to the decks and studied DJing with fellow Aphid Records artist Kaptain Kairos.
I started to DJ at a few underground parties including Psychedelic Circle and Kamouflage. My DJ career really started to kick off after playing at the legendary Acid Monkey parties and releasing music with Aphid Moon and Mechanimal on Aphid Records.
You’ve worked on productions combining electronic music and ethnic vocals. How did this come about?
I have studied classical Indian singing for years with Ustad Latafat Ali Khan. I wanted to incorporate using Indian vocals in electronic music to add further depth. Aphid Moon and Mechaninal have both been very open to working with vocals in psy-trance. We like to experiment with the vocals and integrate them into the production so that they sound like an instrument, without losing the sentiment of the Hindi meaning.
I also sing Indian vocals on chill out music. I have a forthcoming EP called ‘Lilaya’ coming out with Orchid Star producer Pete Ardron. I also collaborated with Kaya Project on a track called ‘Raging Rivers’.
You’re a well-respected psy-trance DJ with a healthy dose of bookings under your belt. What have been some of the highs and lows of your DJ career?
There have been many great moments. I was recently interviewed by top broadcaster Jasmine Dotiwala on her arts and culture show ‘The Scene’ on BBC Radio London. We talked about the psy-trance scene and my work with Psy-Sisters.
Performing live on the mainstage at Ozora Festival in 2016 was a career highlight, as well as playing at VuuV Festival and Boomtown’s Tribe of Frog stage.
Releasing music on Aphid Records and working with maestros Aphid Moon and Mechanimal has also been fantastic.
Psy-Sisters has been one of my greatest achievements. As we celebrate our 7-year anniversary in 2019, I am very proud of all that we have accomplished and all the talented female artists who are now making a real success of their music careers. Our collective wouldn’t be where it is today without the support and creativity from the wonderful Psy-Sisters team: Reshma Biring, Silvia Ferrini, Sati, Anu Sharma, Tara Hawes, Nuky, Cathar, Kloud Nin9, Miss Kiff, Jacqui See, Sol Shine and Renegade DJ.
You’ve also released on the awesome label Aphid Records. How did this come about; do you have any releases in the pipeline you can tell us about?
I met Jules (Aphid Moon) when I was in a band in my early twenties. Dick Trevor suggested we work together and we did! Jules formed Aphid Records in 2009. He signed me to his label as a DJ and also gave me my first lessons in music production. We have since written 3 successful EPs and I plan to release my 4th Psibindi EP on Aphid Records.
You’re also an accomplished singer in a band. Tell us about this?
I am the front woman for an exciting new band called ‘Psychic Misfire’. We represent the cultural resonance of London in these politically challenging times; asking questions lyrically and offering perspectives of hope.
I originally formed the band in 2017 for my solo project. Since the addition of top musician and writer Martin Savale of legendary UK dub band Asian Dub Foundation, the band has transformed into a funk psychedelic band; influenced by pioneering artists such as Prince, Pink Floyd and Talking Heads. The band features the musical talents of keys player and composer Edward Abela, bass player Russell McGuire and drummer Amanda Brown.
2019 has already been great so far. We started recording our debut album at the world-famous Abbey Road Studios! You can really feel the creative energy and history of all the greatest artists who have recorded there. My wonderful bandmates made the whole experience even more memorable. Definitely another career highlight!
We are now preparing for our first gig of the year at top London venue Amersham Arms on 23rd February, performing alongside awesome bands SuziToy and Guinea Pigs of Metadata.
As if this didn’t keep you busy enough, you’re also founder of Psy-Sisters global arts collective and record label, which encourages and supports female artists. What made you decide to launch such a platform?
I founded Psy-Sisters back in 2012. After my set at VuuV festival, I wanted to put on a party in London to reunite all my old female friends from the London scene who I hadn’t seen for a while.
I formed a group of fellow female DJ friends and we started to plan the event, which we would all also play at. From this event, a platform and network for female artists was born. Since our inception we have featured hundreds of creative women around the globe on our platform.
I am really excited with the direction we are taking this year, where we will be focusing on working with organisations to support disadvantaged women.
We also have a new techno A&R Manager Dot Dash, who will help us to open our platform to emerging techno artists.
I heard on the grape vine that Psy-Sisters have a number of releases in the pipeline - can you tell us more?
Psy-Sisters is now also an official multi-genre record label ‘Psy-Sisters Music’. I am very excited that we are going to release some brand new psy-trance from emerging female producers. Psy-Sisters recently ran an A&R competition to find new music to release. Coral and Future Species (both US artists) were our winners. We will be releasing their music in 2019, along with more artists to be announced.
What’s your stance on female artists generally? Do you think they are as accepted as male artists? Do you think there’s any difference in the treatment, expectations and results?
It is very encouraging that a lot more female artists are now confident in their understanding of music technology and are defining their own musical styles and careers. Talent is what ultimately makes any artist successful (regardless of gender) and I think it’s important that women continue to hone their skills, work hard and push their music creativity to new boundaries.
We are now seeing more women on line ups and headlining psy-trance events around the globe which is fantastic. This is good evidence that women are being accepted as artists.
I don’t have any reason to believe that women are being treated any differently to male artists. From my experience I always feel respected for who I am. When it comes to gigs, I just keep focussed on the job I’m there to do, deliver my absolute best and be a professional. I’m there to mix and do what I love.
What is music to you?
It is simply life for me. A universal language that has the power to connect, unite and inspire people all around the world.
What are you currently listening to?
I’m currently listening to an American Jazz singer called Gretchen Parlato. Her music is elegant and dreamy. I love discovering new sounds on underground dance stations thanks to Shazam! I’ve recently uncovered some lush chilled vintage house on You Tube: Pepe Bradock’s ‘Burnt’ and ‘Maybe’ by Kettenkarussrell. I’m also listening to some classic old school garage by MJ Cole.
Where do you take your inspiration from when writing songs and music, and what drives you?
City life is one of my biggest inspirations. I have penned lyrics about the plight of homelessness in London, for a song co-written by Edward Abela and the band. The lyrics shine a light on suffering, and how easy it is to ignore the broken lives scattered on the streets. I get a lot of inspiration when jamming with the band. I’m also learning a great deal from Martin Savale about writing memorable lyrics that strike through hearts and minds.
Do you have any 'guilty pleasures'?
I admit I do enjoy a daily dose of Eastenders to switch off work for half an hour...I also recently discovered thriller Killing Eve on BBC iPlayer and watched a few episodes back to back because the storyline was so gripping!
If someone were to write a book about your life, what should it be entitled?
‘Bindi’s Book of Munted Moments’...My sister can vouch that there’s been so many in my life, it’s definitely worth writing a book about! But if I was going to write a serious book, then it would be called ‘The Music Warrior’.
Rena - many thanks for taking the time to do this interview and good luck with all your ventures! :-) X
If you'd like to see Rena and her band perform check out her next gig on 23rd Feb 2019
Psychic Misfire @ Amersham Arms Event Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/684643005285558
To hear and see more of Rena click on the following links:
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF6o1MySGkbbOJ2RQZv_Bnw
All images courtesy of Rena Psibindi. Not to be reproduced without permission.
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