Combining live music and DJs with circus and theatre, carnivalesque sensation Slamboree are known to deliver a full-on feast for the eyes and ears at any given occasion. Fronted by Mike Freear, singer and MC Cathy Sharples AKA , and theatrical director and performer Lizzie West, the creative collective are famous for tracks including the electro-swing bopping I Hate Myself and the Boomtown Fair anthem, Big Bada Boomtown.
Combining live music and DJs with circus and theatre
Slamboree were recognised in their early days for being the epitome of Boomtown in the guise of a band – capturing the essence of Bristol’s colourfully creative energy in both their performance and sound. Now, under new management with the Bristol-based Rebellious Creative, Slamboree are ready to take 2018 by the scruff of the neck. They’re back with brand new album The Long Game (dropping 1 June) and ready to show us why they are still admired as one of the UK’s most loved live acts.
They’re celebrating their album launch with a major show at Marble Factory this June, with support from their friends, the Ghetto Funk Allstars.
Nitelife caught up with Slamboree founder Mike Freear in Bristol to get to know the mastermind behind the unconventional mayhem that is Slamboree and find out what’s in store for the summer and beyond. As we sat down for a drink, Mike dived straight in to describe how he discovered music from a very young age:
‘I’ve been making music since my early teens and I’ve had a lot of different influences over the years. I had a rock phase when I was younger and I was even a bit of an indie kid for a while – that’s what got me playing guitar in the first place. I started to get into electronic music when The Prodigy came out. That was a massive game changer for me.
I was around 18 or 19 when I first had the idea to cross live performance with electronic music, but it was just a pipe dream back then
‘I was around 18 or 19 when I first had the idea to cross live performance with electronic music, but it was just a pipe dream back then. It all started after going to Glastonbury for the first time. I was so blown away by the fusion of cabaret and circus acts in one field and live music in another I basically thought, why don’t I just throw all the best bits into one band and do it myself?”
After a couple of years travelling and busking around Mexico, Australia and New Zealand, Mike eventually returned to the UK in 2011 to make his pipe dream a reality.
‘When I got back to the UK, I contacted a bunch of people I’d met on the festival circuit over the years to see if they’d be interested in my new project. That’s how we managed to get such decent festival slots so early on, because we had developed a lot of trust in the project before we’d even started.
‘A big help for our fast success was our mates at Boomtown. We originally posted a promo vid on the Boomtown page as we thought it would be right up their street. A few people from their crew followed it up and managed to get us a slot just before Goldie Lookin’ Chain on the main stage. It was only been our third or fourth gig – it was bonkers.’
But Slamboree have more than their fast rise to fame to thank Boomtown for, because the festival also brought Mike Freear and vocalist and MC Cathy Sharples together, a union that brought the Slamboree live show to a whole new level.
‘Cathy joined Slamboree about three years in,’ say Mike. ‘I met her after our first Boomtown gig, but she didn’t join until a little while later, for the creation of our track Big Bada Boomtown.
Boomtown got in touch and asked if I could write an official theme tune for the festival
‘Boomtown got in touch and asked if I could write an official theme tune for the festival. They said they’d love a female vocal on it and Cathy immediately came to mind.
‘I came up with the hook inspired by The Specials’ classic Ghost Town and rang Cathy. She wrote the verses and we just ran with it. After that she came on board full time. For a first collaboration with someone, the tune was was a banger!
‘Originally when we wrote the song, we dreamt up a scenario where we’d sing the song to the crowd and they’d all sing it back. But when it came to performing it on stage at Boomtown a year after its release, the whole crowd actually did start singing it back. It brought Cathy to tears, it was so special.’
To this day, Big Bada Boomtown is still sung around the festival’s campsites at night and continues to be an anthem for the event. But as the collective progress forward, so too does their efficient attitude towards performing a streamlined show.
In the beginning, Slamboree was a bit chaotic. At one point the crew list was around 30-35 people or something ridiculous
‘In the beginning, Slamboree was a bit chaotic. At one point the crew list was around 30-35 people, or something ridiculous. That’s when I realised that even though I wanted to have a big carnival on stage, the idea wasn’t fully formed at that point.
‘Now, we have a solidified project that we have worked so hard to refine. I think introducing our theatrical director Lizzie West has been the biggest catalyst for this. Lizzie is a theatrical visionary. She lives and breathes drama and has stepped the level up. Since Lizzie, our stage show has become a lot more professional and so much tighter.
‘Before Lizzie, we had broken two tour managers and the whole thing was a pretty unmanageable project. Respect to Dave Farrow and Laura at DMF though, because they really helped make some tough decisions for us that helped shape what Slamboree is today and they deserve huge credit for that.’
Looking forward to presenting their new and improved live show, Slamboree’s summer calendar kicks off next weekend at Lemonfest and brings them all the way through to August, via Boomtown (naturally) and Nozstock, plus of course their Marble Factory album launch on 15 June.
‘I’m really looking forward to our Marble Factory gig. We will be showcasing where we’re at now and it’ll give us chance to warm up and get back into the swing of things for the festival season ahead. I’m especially looking forward to playing an exclusive new track called Big Love – fingers crossed that’ll be a good summer banger.
‘And we’re looking forward to the release of our first album, finally! We were going to do this five years ago, but it kept not being quite up to scratch. I’ve finally got a finished album I am happy with now and I cannot wait to get it out there.
I’ve finally got a finished album I am happy with now and I cannot wait to get it out there
‘The album’s called The Long Game just because it has taken so long to surface – there’s one track on there that I started in 2002! Too Many T’s and Beans on Toast feature on the album, to name a few.
I’ve hopefully created something future proof and timeless, without including any trendy fads like dubstep and things like that. We are self-releasing it on Slamboree’s very own label Slam Inc, so that we can keep full creative control. We’ve always been our own entity, so I don’t think we could ever be on somebody else’s label – it just wouldn’t work.
‘We’ve got a documentary coming out as well. We’ve had a documenter and media Jedi called Leora Bermeister from Farelight Productions follow us as a group for a few years now, so we’re looking forward to showcasing the film later this summer.
Basically, everything will be kicking off from this June, including a Slamboree UK tour towards the end of the year, so keep your eyes peeled and watch this space!’
Photos by Leora Bermeister // Farelight Productions