THEESatisfaction: Shakespeare, Chaka Khan and Spike Lee? Just the sound of hip-hop in 2012

In a world where you draw breath and three new musical genres become obsolete, where recycling is at an all-time high, somehow THEESatisfaction are still managing to sound like The Future. Their album ‘awE naturalE’ (lord knows what’s going on with their caps lock) fuses psychedelic Sun Ra jazz with chart friendly ’90s hip-hop and super-laconic flows that can slink into soulful coos at a moment’s notice. Rather than specific artists, they cite “all music made between about 1978 to ’79” as a key influence on what they do – funk, soul, disco, afrobeat, Chaka Khan… “We like trancey, wavey music, if that makes sense,” Stasia Irons (above right) says. It does make sense. “But we also love party jams,” her partner Catherine Harris-White adds. This makes a lot of sense too.

Stasia and Catherine met five years ago at college in their native Seattle (the former studying English, the latter vocal jazz), where they bonded over things as disparate as Spike Lee movies, “the concept of afro-futurism” and the plays of William Shakespeare. “And I was already singing – I’d been in bands since age 17,” Catherine says. “She saw me singing, and I knew she was a writer, so we just used to support each other, like, ‘Keep going at it.’” “And then you allowed me to rap on your songs!” continues Stasia with a smile.

Initial primitive GarageBand experiments morphed into a series of self-released online EPs, which in turn led to a deal with Sub Pop, home to THEESatisfaction collaborators Shabazz Palaces. A tidal wave of gushing praise from all the right people later, and Stasia and Catherine find themselves on the cusp of wider acceptance: songs like the dense vocal collage that is ‘Enchantruss’ (“I think of Orson Welles/Then I divorce myself”) or ‘QueenS’ could well be the antidote to the tired, by numbers, in da club nonsense that still dominates so much of mainstream hip-hop and R&B.

And the idea of giant fame doesn’t faze these two in the slightest. “If it happens, I’m ready for it,” Cat smiles. And as with everything else, Stas is on the same page: “We will welcome it with open arms.”
Liam Cash

Need To Know

Based: Seattle
For Fans Of: Shabazz Palaces, Billie Holiday
Buy It Now: The album ‘awE naturalE’ is out now
See Them Live: There are three UK dates at the end of April, starting with Glasgow on April 21
Believe It Or Not: Stas’ favourite Shakespeare play is Othello, while Cat favours A Midsummer Night’s Dream

This article originally appeared in the April 14th issue of NME

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