Reload Festival interview: Sister Sledge
09:00 29 August 2014
Prepare to get Lost in Music. Queens of the dancefloor Sister Sledge will be taking to the stage
at the Reload Festival from September 5-7. Emma Lee meets Joni and Debbie Sledge.
They are family – and Sister Sledge will be speading some disco fever when they play the Reload Festival at the Norfolk Showground from September 5-7.
Joining a line-up that reads like a who’s who of 70s and 80s pop – Kool And The Gang, Soul II Soul, the Human League, Billy Ocean, Rick Astley, Hot Chocolate, Five Star, Aswad, From The Jam, Heaven 17, Go West, The Real Thing, Jason Donovan, Bjorn Again, Odyssey and Imagination – it promises to be a real nostalgia rush.
“Festivals are great – they’re an awful lot of fun,” says Debbie Sledge, speaking along with Joni from sunny LA where they’ve been working on a new Sister Sledge album.
“We’ve got great supportive fans and we are so completely grateful for the opportunity to still be able to do this, so we want to make sure we say thank-you.”
Debbie, Joni, Kathy and Kim seem to have been pre-destined for stardom and grew up lost in music. Their home town is Philadelphia, a city that truly has soul – and with a Broadway tap dancer father, actress mother and opera singer grandmother, performing was in the blood.
“We grew up in a family of musicians. It was just in us forever,” says Joni. “Our grandmother taught us to sing and we would perform in church. Someone asked us if we could perform at a private event and we were really nervous, really scared, but afterwards we were like ‘wow, that was fun’. That’s where it started and one thing led to another.”
Having laid the foundations with albums such as Together, their big breakthrough came at the end of the 70s, when the record label Atlantic matched them up with a pair of producers who were pioneers of
the disco movement: Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, of Chic. The fortuitous meeting with the kings
of soaring melodies and infectious grooves would turn Sister Sledge into the queens of the dancefloor.
“We were put together via the record company who matched up producers with new artists. Nile
and Bernard had a few artists to choose from and they chose us,” says Joni.
When they headed into the studio they discovered they had a different way of working from Nile and Bernard, which was a steep learning curve.
“We used to like to be rehearsed and know what we were going to do before going into the studio and they wanted it to be as fresh as possible,” says Debbie. “It was all very exciting.”
To score one classic hit is something – Sister Sledge ended up with a hat-trick from the sessions.
He’s The Greatest Dancer, Lost In Music and their signature tune, We Are Family, are guaranteed floor-fillers to this day. The sisters continued to record and play all over the world during the 80s, with chart hits including Frankie, a chirpy paean to young love.
As well as coming over to the UK this summer to play festival dates including Reload, Joni and Debbie are also looking forward to releasing a new album, which has the working title Women Are The Rhythm Of The World.
“We love the theme and have been working with some incredible women,” says Joni.
“Now when we’re in the studio the songwriting process happens organically. We are definitely creative artists,” adds Debbie. “We’re in and out of the studio every chance we get and we’re excited for people to hear our new record.”
And there are also their European dates to look forward to.
“We’ve had the pleasure of coming through Norwich a couple of times,” says Joni. “It’s a beautiful place. We love England – all the history and beautiful churches.”
Reload is being held at the Norfolk Showground from September 5-7. Day tickets cost from £39 (£18 children), weekend admission tickets cost from £70 (£30 children) and weekend camping tickets cost from £99 (£42 children). Tickets are available without booking fees from Eastern Daily Press offices in Norwich,
Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Diss, Cromer and Dereham.