Dance music thrives on a disregard for geographical constraint. Our current scene wouldn’t be half as good without artists pick ‘n’ mixing from across borders and Gang Fatale are a fresh faced collective of musicians and creatives that ride this idea with aplomb. Within two years, they’ve moulded a sound that’s equal London, Chicago, Baltimore and an array of other geographical coordinates in between. Yet neither Ra Ra or Neana – the twosome behind the movement – originally come from any of those places.
Ra Ra was brought up in Rugby, a self-described black hole in terms of musical inspiration: “It’s more like, this person’s doing this tonight in some town next to us and we’d go to it. Nothing major. It wasn’t really that inspiring, along with no one in the area wanting to push something themselves”. Neana’s home base in the Lake District is just as vanilla in a musical sense.
“It wasn’t until I moved to university that I started hearing more US styles like ballroom and things like that, where I was hearing the cross between club music and R&B,” admits Neana. “That really opened my eyes, and especially when me and Yusuf were DJing for the first few times, we’d be playing Ashanti into footwork tracks and stuff like that. That was a direct cross which I’d never done before.”
Naturally, going from small town mediocrity to London’s streets introduced them to a far more satisfying set of clubbing options. Regular run-ins with Butterz showdowns were lapped up. “Those were my first experiences of going out to clubs and seeing it as a culture rather than just an activity. I had all these preconceptions of what a nightclub was – going there just to drink and listen to music – but there were instances when I realised it was a lot more than that.”
Towards the back end of 2012 the pair were also DJing a biweekly Sub FM radio show out of their uni halls. R&B was a common ground and quickly became the central vertebra of their sound. “We started a radio show called Gang Fatale – we named it after the first one. We wanted a bit of femininity injected into the project a little bit. So we were like ‘femme fatale’ and we then put gang in there as a little switch. It’s a contrast, because when you hear the word ‘gang’ in there, you think of intimidation.”
And so the movement was born. Gathering friends both old (Simon Divine, Neana and Trap Door were in a band back in college) and new – “we met Clara [La San] at uni and we brought her in” – Gang Fatale’s maiden six-track compilation Pleasures & Qs I trickled onto the internet in 2013.
Neana was simultaneously shipping out demos to the likes of Circadian Rhythms having “recognised their show from NTS” and knowing they shared middle ground. Another key WeTransfer recipient was Bok Bok who instantly took a likening. “Bow Kat”, Neana’s ballroom reminiscent, “Rhythm N Gash”-sampling number was within one of the first packs sent to the Night Slugs co-founder. He’s the first to admit that that particular track was a blatant cross-blend between two far-off musical relatives. In other instances, the Gang Fatale ethos prefers to answer to the specific attitudes that these genres represent. The feel-good snap of tribal house percussion, a dab of MikeQ-esque voguing. “I sent it to him and I think he’s quite quiet with replying to demos as I’m sure he gets a lot. I heard him play it on a mix show and that was really cool and quite surprising. He emailed me back expressing that he liked it, and a couple of months went by and I was sending him more tracks. They proposed the idea of a white label and it just felt right really.”
Although Neana has been spearheading the movement with his own productions, the remainder of the clique isn’t short on talent either. The movement has ballooned in a number of different directions. From Sub FM they quickly moved up to regular NTS slot-holders. Originally a one hour fun spot, they’re now leveraged between 6-8pm on a Friday eve. As a result, they can afford to take more of a sandbox approach to their tune selections. Give or take a couple of periphery members, the team is now ten strong. Kieran Loftus is States-side, Bleaker up in Glasgow and Basile from France. Using Gang Fatale as the bedrock, the posse have also pitched music further afield. Take Trap Door’s set of galvanic club hybrids on the Emerald Dove EP for B.YRSLF last November as evidence of that. Then there’s the legion of non-musical entities, like Seedy, who looks after visual duties (with help from Ra Ra) and those that indulge in fashion and 3D design. All factors that help keep things close-to-home and uniform as result.
Perhaps the biggest intervention has come from the crew’s main femme, Clara Le San. Albeit with just two tracks available on Soundcloud, her ethereal soul efforts have drawn attention. There’s still so much more on their minds too. “We’ve got live, audio-visual shows in the works and we did a little one at the Vinyl Library at the start of last year. We want to start doing more of those along with more short video pieces,” adds Ra.
Equally at the forefront is the group’s overarching humour. Something which both Neana and Ra Ra are aware of and embrace. “It was something that I recognised back when me and Yusuf were doing the radio show, and it seems that other members have picked up on it, which is really cool,” grins Neana. From comic Vine entries to the social media parody carried through their artwork, it’s become a running theme.“Sometimes it’s dark or sexual humour but it embodies itself with Kieran Loftus – who we recently got into the crew – and he has a similar approach.” On their last compilation Pleasure & Qs II the sound of people getting their hair snipped is interspliced with comedic skits.
It goes hand in hand with the spontaneity of their release schedule, which Neana assures is full of enviable material. “I’m trying to push for more collaborations within the group. There are enough members in the group now and we’re all doing different things. I’m enjoying every piece of music that people are sending to me, I just want to try and facilitate collaboration between people.” With the whole world as their playground, we’re intrigued to see where this takes them.
Gang Fatale’s Boiler Room session takes place on Tuesday 27th January. Head over to the session page here to find out more information about next week’s broadcast.
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