Exploratory Journey with Forward Thinking Soundscapes of Poté
Born in St. Lucia, a young Poté moved to London to showcase his outpouring creativity that first caught our attention on “Young Lies” – a collab with Damon Albarn.
Crediting his start in music to club sounds, Poté eventually discovered the power of his vocals and performed its uniquity in this latest album A Tenuous Tale Of Her Note – making it a piece to be acknowledged by many of this year’s 'best-of' album lists.
From early on in his career, Poté saw his culture and background being instrumental in grabbing the attention of many industry greats, from renowned Irish DJ, Annie Mac to Portugal’s Branko, the former member of Buraka Som Sistema, who helped release his 2015 debut EP titled Voyeurism.
Image: Ussi'n Yala
And in 2018, lady luck favoured him – Poté struck a deal that released Spiral, My Love under ‘Deviation’ – a label owned by DJ Benji B, and went on to elevate his genuine talent.
Unlike the many releases you have heard this year, A Tenuous Tale Of Her takes you on an explosive journey of electronic beats and energy.
Sonically vibrant and expansive, the album appeals to those in search of something new, as it leaves one’s imagination to react to an impending apocalyptic breakdown.
This Bonobo’s OUTLIER imprint artist is quickly becoming the new tastemaker in the music industry. So let us revisit the journey that Poté was on to create his album, and uncover the story behind the striking cover.
Hi Poté! How are you feeling about 2021 so far?
I’m feeling optimistic. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, you know? I think a lot of people feel that too. There is at least a sense of reality returning, or at least maybe a better sense of reality, seeing we have such a long year of reflection. It feels like a welcomed, fresh return back.
What was your relationship with music while you were growing up?
It was essentially a means of expression. It was being able to say things I didn’t really know how to have the conversations about what I was feeling. I was able to get it out somehow by writing, making chords, and staying up all night creating these soundscapes. It sounds quite dire, but it’s purely a sense of survival in a weird way.
How would you say your music taste and influence have evolved over the years?
I’d say I started by identifying more with the Caribbean, my heritage. That made me proud to revisit the young child that left St. Lucia to come to England. It had a massive influence on what I listened to and how I use that to project my sound and myself.
Your first album was just released, but you have been releasing songs for quite some time now. Tell us more about your first step into music.
I don’t really know. When I really started in terms of me finding myself and what I really wanted to do, was when I was releasing music in Portuguese with Enchufada (record label), who made music for Buraka Som Sistema and Branko.
It really made me connect with the Caribbean and the percussions I heard when I was very young. That was kind of born into my development of finding my feet, what I wanted to say, and who I wanted to represent.
At which point in your career where you thought, “oh, I can make a living out of this?”
That happened probably in the last three or four years. I think it was having the right team around me, seeing the love I was getting, and seeing how that transpired in shows. Kind of having a more clear idea of who I was.
How did you end up at Bonobo’s OUTLIER imprint, and how has it been so far?
It was more by chance. We were supposed to release an EP, but Bonobo didn’t know I just finished an album. His manager was telling me, “You should send it to him.” I didn’t, but after a while, I did. Then after a day or something, yup, we want to sign this and put this out. So I scraped the idea for the EP and went straight for the album.
It’s been great to have someone to talk with during the process of the album coming out, someone who has done it a lot of times. This person knows the doubts and feelings of feeling misunderstood that might come with putting out a record. And being able to have these WhatsApp calls to just talk. I think that has definitely helped me a lot in the process.
How would you describe ‘the Poté sound’?
(Laughs) I have no idea. Generally, I have no idea because it has everything in there. Not everything, but you know what I mean. You get a range of emotions. (Laughs)
You gained a lot of attention for your collaboration with Damon Albarn on “Young Lies.” What has that experience taught you?
I’d say trust the best idea. Trust the strongest idea. Trust the thing that you fall in love with, and don’t doubt it because you think people might not like it; or that it’s too wordy or political. Trust your ideas.
Tell us about the concept and creative process going into recording A Tenuous Tale Of Her?
The album was recorded a bit everywhere. Some of it was recorded in London, some of it was recorded in Paris, some in Iceland. For me, the process was quite a headache. (Laughs) Trying to get everything to make sense is one, as well as making my ideas as clear but simple as possible.
I think that was the aim; not to complicate things with crazy chord structures and crazy different things to try and sound or be dramatic. But be dramatic in a simple, efficient, and understandable way.
I think I got there at the end by being able to sit down last year after I took a little bit of a break from the album for maybe half a year. I came to London for lockdown, and I was able to properly sit down and articulate these ideas because I didn’t have to travel. That process melded everything together sonically.
What were some of the things you learned about yourself during the creation of A Tenuous Tale Of Her?
There’s a lot of my “old self” in the album; there are many stories from my early 20’s - a lot of feelings in there. If anything, the idea of change and progression as both a person and as the writer. I’ve learned from the entire process that these things pass, and they are a place in your life but didn’t have to be there forever.
Learning that it is ok to let go?
Yeah. Learning that it’s ok to let go. Learning that it’s ok to go to therapy. Learning that it is ok to be in the moment because it doesn’t last forever, whether it’s a good or bad moment. Just live in it for a bit. Live in it, learn and observe.
Who were you most influenced by during the recording of this album?
I would say it was more of a personal thing in terms of pushing myself to sing more and write more. (Godzilla producer) Remi Kabaka Jr really saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. He saw that I could be this other artist, not just a producer. He really pushed me, I suppose, to become more of a lead in music and make my voice more of a thing that people know me for. He definitely has a massive influence to push myself.
We have to know the story behind the album artwork. What’s the story and idea behind it?
I actually did it in lockdown with my younger sister. When I came here, we were just messing around to do some art projects together, and I had this idea for the cover. I really want this idea of this painting of a photo – I don’t know why. I did the shoot with a good friend of mine, Alex, and afterward came back home; we sat down and did a bunch of different painting versions of my face.
That one really stuck, and that was the one that really punched through, like, really gave a sense of you don’t know what the album is about when you see it, but it’s striking. That sort of image you get with Igor by Tyler, the Creator. It looks great, but you still have no idea what the album may sound like. I really like the idea of something striking like that.
As we are already in the middle of 2021, what else would you like to achieve before the year ends?
I don’t really know. (Laughs) I’d like to do actual shows; that’s where my head is at right now. I’m rehearsing for some shows in France. That idea that it’s in my head, I want it to be a reality, to get it out and be able to on that level officially and professional-wise. That’s my next thing to achieve.
Writer | CK Yeoh
CK is a writer from Malaysia who is in a serious relationship with music and YouTube. He is also casually dating Kindle and having a fling with podcasts.