Interview with Rhumba Club

Rhumba Club, recognized on GQ magazine’s list of 2020’s best new artist, will definitely make your 2020 better.

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Photography by Ivan Ruberto

1. When did your musical journey start? 

I actually wanted to become an actor, but my best friend, who I used to play with in band at school, sent me a letter saying “Listen, let’s do this. Let’s go to London and make it as a band”. And I thought “Ok, fun. Let’s do it”. Bold, probably a very stupid decision, because I had no idea what I was doing. And that was it! We made it as the band around 2013. Later we split up for various reasons. By that point, I had learned a lot and I knew that I had an opportunity to start from scratch. It was like, if I could create something in any image that I wanted, what would I do? And that is how Rhumba Club emerged.

I started out by holding “Rhumba Club” club nights in working men’s clubs in East London. Now, these places partly have been taken over by hipsters and LGBT community people. So, in doing my shows there I tried to blend these two crowds, creating a sort of togetherness. Therefore, from the beginning, people knew me as a club night. However, since that time, my performances and my stage persona have overtaken the night itself.

Coming back to my initial desire to become an actor, I think what you get from music is better than what you get from acting. Not only you are performing, but you are also a creator, you are in control. You are an actor and a director as well. For sure, it is hugely egocentric the whole thing – it is all about me and how I want it to be (laughing J))).

“It is not about being cool necessarily, it is about having fun and being comfortable in yourself, which I think ends up being the coolest thing.

2. Why Rhumba Club? 

I wanted to create something that sounded like something that a group of middle-aged mums would do on a Wednesday night. Something that feels slightly ridiculous, but also somewhat welcoming. It is not about being cool necessarily, it is about having fun and being comfortable in yourself, which I think ends up being the coolest thing. It is like going to a salsa club or a yoga club or whatever it might be. After a while you are all sweaty in your lycra, and no one gives a damn. Plus, ‘rhumba’ music has this Latin American ballroom feeling and the style of everything I do aesthetically is kind of like that: you get a glitzy holiday feeling from Rhumba Club.

3. How would you define your style? Was it hard to find it or did it evolve naturally? 

I guess I always admired artists with a very distinct purpose, like David Bowie. You might hate his style, but you know it is David Bowie. I admire when everything is on point: from the sounds to the visuals you use. So, I just planned it all out. Even before I do a video, I create a brief for all of my videographers and directors saying “I want this, I want this, this and this and most importantly, I do not want this”.

People sometimes describe my style sort of like “ironic” or verging on a “joke”, but it is not a joke for me. It is absolutely deadly serious. I think those who tend to say that are looking for a way to justify my style in their conservative minds. It is all about being entirely yourself, and its telling that quite a lot of people do not quite get it at first.

I believe though that people in fashion often discern something more highbrow about it, than people outside of that sphere. A lot of the stuff I wear is a combination of vintage and something like Gucci. However, not everybody knows that and some people might think “Err. What is that?”. But that is the whole point! I do not want them to ignore me. So, if someone reacts like that – it is great. It is better than someone not noticing me. 

But don’t get me wrong, my fans are very important to me, particularly for this Rhumba Club project! And it is amazing to see how their perception of me changes over the time, especially when they visit one of my shows. I have some trademarks that I have nurtured – I do this pose when I go on the stage, a bit like “The Thinker” Rodin sculpture. And when I do it now people go crazy, they really love it! And it is really satisfying to see. I’ve done it consistently and at first people were confused, and only after some time they finally latched on to it.

Photography by Ivan Ruberto, Styling by Benjamin Canares

4. Has the coronavirus pandemic affected you and your work?

It has obviously been a funny time for artists, but I personally have appreciated it. I am quite DIY – I work from home a lot, I do everything myself, literally everything: from designing my videos, to writing all the music, playing it, and handling my social media. I am not trying to say I am wonderful, but actually, for me, the whole pandemic situation was an opportunity to be creative for a few months and it was really valuable for me. The downside of course is that I had some festivals and shows cancelled. However, it was not a financial hit for me. I’ve always treated concerts as a promotion and investment, but I’ve never really felt that it was a huge part of my income.

5. What do you think about this new trend of online concerts? Did you organize any live streams to stay in touch with your fans?

For an artist like me it is only slightly interesting, because, as I am a performative artist, I curate everything and make everybody look a certain way, to elevate the mood. All of that probably will never be replaced. I guess online concerts are a passing thing. Sort of a thing that people can dip in and out of. It is hard to give a certain answer.

One of my livestreams was through Instagram which was amazing in terms of response because, as I mentioned before, I am an old-school performer, it’s a part of my identity. I did it at my place with all my musical equipment in the background, decorated the place, it looked nice and my people really enjoyed it. Some even made an event out of it, put it on a wide screen. However, I don’t know if that was because of the whole pandemic atmosphere and this unique time in our history. I don’t know why would you do it if everything was open.

Online concerts certainly demand creativity from artists, it is hard to make them worth it. Like with any other show, you want to go and see the show. However, maybe that’s just my taste, because I personally would hate to see something that looks too domestic, too ordinary.

6. How did it feel to be named one of “The 35 new musicians to make 2020 better” by GQ?

Overall, it was quite validating for me. It has justified my whole work of two years. It was good! I believe when you are an artist, moments like that give you a self-confidence in what you are doing. Especially if you are doing something quite polarising. Objectively it does not really matter, I did not wake up in the morning the GQ article was published and suddenly became a better artist, but it gives you some sort of assurance.

7. Did it change your goals in any way? What are your plans for the future?

When you dedicate so much time to music it is hard to bring in money. The problem is that by the time you release something, you’ve got everything ready, you’ve invested in PR and you put it out there, it gets a bit of attention and suddenly you look at your bank account, and you realise you have to wait for 3 to 6 months for the next thing to come along and by that point, the momentum you could have capitalized on has kind of come down, has dissipated.

So, the publication of the GQ article made me think: “right, now it’s the time! I have to do it now!”. Because it is not going to be there forever and I have to use the momentum. At the moment, I’ve got a plan up until next May, for 3 singles and videos for each and then potentially an album.

I am also trying to grow the business, from streaming my own royalties to producing merchandise. My life does not revolve around targeting some big label, I made that decision a while ago. My target now is not winning a label, but to reach more fans and to make more money.

It is a long way to go – the same I’ve won my initial fans over, I’ve got to win a lot more!

Thank you so much for sharing your experience and thoughts with us. We are keeping an eye on Rhumba Club’s future projects and strongly recommend our audience to do the same.

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