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"Do you like Afrobeat?" // The 405 meets Ultraísta

"Do you like Afrobeat?" // The 405 meets Ultraísta

by Ruth Barnes, 15 October 2012

Ruth Barnes presents the Breakfast show every weekday on Amazing Radio, and The Other Woman every Sunday evening - a new music playlist made up entirely of female artists and female fronted bands. In a pub beer garden in east London she met Ultraísta's 'muse' and frontwoman Laura Bettinson to get to the bottom of Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich's new band.

The headline is that Ultraísta is Nigel Godrich's new project, formed with super drummer Joey Waronker (Beck, R.E.M. to name only a few). However, the real star is frontwoman, songwriter and lyricist Laura Bettinson - the musician and producer behind electro-pop outfits Dimbleby & Capper and Femme - it's not difficult to see why Nigel and Joey landed on the pink haired dynamo to front their new baby.

It seems that the two muso's were on the hunt for fresh ideas and inspiration and headed to UK art schools to find it, Bettinson explains: "They put out a load of posters in art schools saying 'Do you like Afrobeat? Do you like Electronica? Come and be in our band.' I think they met a few people through it, they even met some people that met them and said no I'm not into it. Which I think is amazing as I'm sure had they known who was behind the producing and who was on the drums they would have probably re-thought that." No kidding.

But it was through a mutual friend bringing Godrich to a Dimbleby & Capper gig that the Radiohead collaborator found his muse: "...he really liked it and then we hooked up and worked on some tunes. I went out to L.A and met Joey... Ever since we've just hung out. We've all got on from the word go so it just made sense." Sounds heavenly.

It's not what Radiohead fans might think - a heart stopping moment for a young musician plucked from obscurity by their idol, she laughs: "I've not really been a Radiohead nerd ever, so as much as I looked (Godrich) up on his Wikipedia page and saw that he had done all this amazing music that had part of been my formative years... I wasn't, like, star struck as such... I won't say I am not into Radiohead," she tails off. So not obsessed, then, like most fans? "They're like big brothers now really. We have spent so much time together just hanging out and not doing anything, like lying around in the studio til 4 o'clock in the morning drinking tequila and just wondering what are we doing. It was the process of forming a band - I have never been in a band, I've only ever been a solo artist."

Early reviews focus primarily on the Godrich/ Waronker axis, but Bettinson is firmly entrenched as songwriter: "They had a load of tracks and stuff, then I'd riff a few ideas over it, then we'd deconstruct those, choose the best bits we liked, and keep going over things. Some tunes I would take the lead on. When you hear the record you'll probably be able to hear the ones that came very easily, and quickly, from me. And then these other ones that are completely collaborative."

Radiohead albums and Waronker's heavy touring schedule means the process has been slow, but the last nine months has seen things start to roll for the band culminating in a string of gigs around Europe and the UK this month around the album release: "We've finished the album and got it together. It's all happened very quickly, for something that's been in the making for such a long time it's like suddenly Bam! it's out and you know it's everywhere. So it's been exciting."

But Bettinson won't be leaving the bright lights of Brockley in south east London and moving to LA anytime soon: "Joey lives there, and Nigel spends a lot of his time there and they have got all these amazing friends. And that's been really nice getting to know them (but) I feel really settled here now. I'm in my 5th or 6th year living in London. And I think you start to really feel like it's home."

This interview was broadcast on Amazing Radio - hear it here. Ultraísta's self-titled debut is out now.

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