Sonic Boom Six have brought their politically charged ska band to the US for the Vans Warped Tour and are spreading their message of awareness to you through their music. Singer Laila K sat down with us at the Denver, CO stop of the tour to discuss the band and how to have an open mind.
Groovey.TV: Your latest album, The F-Bomb, is your first release on Cherry Red Recordings. How was this release different than your previous albums?
Laila Khan: This album we went totally ska/reggae. There were no rock guitars or anything like that. Every album we do we have a mixture of ska, punk, rock. We wanted to do a record that was completely from a female perspective.
GTV: The lyrics on your new album are politically charged and showcase the things women deal with on a daily basis. Do you find that your male fanbase sees these lyrics as eye opening or do you see any backlash?
LK: I think most of our male fans know what we’re about. Frankly, if any of our fans don’t believe in equality then they aren’t a fan of Sonic Boom Six. We have a song called ‘Joanna’ that we dedicate to Laura Jane Grace from Against Me! and we’ve had a lot of people tell us about situations they were in where they want to become another gender and didn’t know how to deal with it. It’s great when we get that.
GTV: Dan Weller, who is well known both as a musician and as a producer, produced the album. What was it like to work with Dan? How did this connection come forth?
LK: It was great.; he’s worked with so many bands. He tweeted me and said he’s always been a fan, that he’s always liked that we were very unconventional and weird. He didn’t know what we had in mind for the next album; we never make the same album twice. It just happened really naturally. We got together for three weeks and the album was kind of already written but a lot of the polish and a few of the flourishes came from Dan and it just worked really well.
GTV: The new album has a more distinct multi-genre sound than previous albums, which all have a more traditional punk influence. Was there a cause for this shift or was it a natural progression?
LK: It’s just what we’re feeling. We as a band have been together 15 years, progression is our thing. You can’t progress as a band if you keep doing the same album, and we’re on album number six. It was a very natural thing.
GTV: When I listen to the new album, I can hear so many different musical styles that it’s hard to imagine that they could ever go together. Where did you get exposure to these varying styles of music?
LK: We’re from Manchester in the UK and its very multicultural, it’s very diverse. We were always punk rockers but on the weekends we would go to free parties with open-style like jungle, drums and bass, and hip-hop. So we just took all of those a merged them together.
GTV: I love the way you took all these different genres and made them uniquely into your style and sounds without it sounding out of place or forced. Do you intentionally go into a song thinking ‘this is going to have an electronic influence’ or does it come naturally through the song writing process?
LH: Yeah, we do; we’re very conscious of it. We always try to write one song that will be the blueprint for the rest of the album. So if the one song is hardcore punk, the rest of the album will have that flow to it. We’re quite lucky that we’re at the stage where we can do pretty much whatever we want. Our fans are great and we like to keep them on their toes.
GTV: Sonic Boom Six was able to release a couple of your albums on your own label, Rebel Alliance Recordings. What did it mean to be able to take complete control of the entire process?
LK: It was fine for us as a band, but we took on other bands as well; we released The Skints first album, we had Chris Murray on there. When you start applying that many bands it becomes a business and suddenly it’s not quite as fun as if you were doing it for yourself. It was very difficult but very rewarding to see these bands going from releasing their first album with us to being massive. It’s a full time job and it was very difficult to mix that with being in the band. There would be things going on and we would be on tour. Unless you have a base with someone in an office that can sort that out, we weren’t capable of doing that at that moment in time.
GTV: You guys have always had an open mind and created positive environments for anyone to enjoy your music in. With so much conversation about this in recent years, having been in this space for a while now, do you see an improvement within the music scene?
LK: This tour has opened my eyes to a lot of it because in the UK, when it comes to festivals, people don’t talk about safe spaces. They don’t talk about incorporating women into anything; at least not the festivals we play. There are some that are fiercely DIY that have something like Warped Tour, but this is just a different vibe. Every other tent is a non-profit. I’ve been working with the Keep A Breast foundation, every day I speak to a guy who runs the meditation, there’s a 12 Step program. To me, the music is secondary to this community and family. Everyone’s in the same boat, we all get here super early, we all have to do the 12-hour driver after playing.
GTV: What are some things that fans of your music can do to further the cause of advocacy and open mindedness?
LK: It doesn’t even have to be about our music, just don’t be a dick. It really isn’t that hard. Don’t judge, don’t stereotype. Just try and be a nice person, otherwise you’re going to have a shitty life and the people around you will also. If you are having a hard time and you’re struggling, talk to somebody. I know it’s hard. When my anxiety takes over I stay at home, I don’t want to talk to anyone. My friends ask me to come out and I make excuses or I would lie.
GTV: Did you feel that you didn’t have the energy to go out or you just really didn’t want to go out?
LK: A little bit of both. And then I’d get the guilt thinking that I should go out because my husband likes to go out and if I would’ve gone out I would’ve had a good time. Its just that your brain wraps itself around in your head; your own voice fighting your sanity. Wait till your ready to talk to someone. And we’re very approachable after every gig, not just here. I’m at merch, I don’t care if you have money, just come over.
GTV: What made you break out of that cycle of anxiety?
LK: I’m very good at giving advice, not necessarily taking advice. I have my husband; he’s amazing. He keeps me grounded and takes some of that stress that I’m feeling. I try to avoid stress, but when I do feel it, I feel like a failure. That’s silly. Life is stressful. My mate is a hypnotherapist and he gave me a recording that I listen to before bed. It goes into your subconscious and tells you you’re amazing. I know it sounds cheesy, but it works. I get embarrassed to talk about it because I think people might think it’s cheesy. But then I think, I don’t care, that’s what works.
GTV: You’ll be performing on the Warped Tour all summer long, but is there anything you can tell us about the bands plans after the tour?
LK: We have tour in the UK and then a week in France. The French love their weirdness that is Sonic Boom Six.
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