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Sink Ya Teeth: How Norwich duo made the debut album of the year

PUBLISHED: 08:38 12 June 2018

Sink Ya Teeth: Maria Uzor (left) and Gemma Cullingford

Sink Ya Teeth: Maria Uzor (left) and Gemma Cullingford

Archant

Sink Ya Teeth launch their album on Thursday June 21 with a gig at Norwich Arts Centre.

“When I was four years old my gran asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I said a guitar,” says Maria Uzor. “She got me a little toy one and I was gutted. I wanted a proper full-size one.”

“My mum played guitar while she was pregnant with me,” adds her Sink Ya Teeth bandmate Gemma Cullingford. “She dug out some old tapes last Christmas - bloody brilliant!”

They’re formative experiences which go some way to explaining how the Norwich duo have created one of the best albums of 2018, a self-titled debut they’re launching with a gig at the city’s Arts Centre on Thursday June 21.

Electronic dance music with intelligence, the SYT sound is built on pulsing drum and synth patterns which recall LCD Soundsystem and New Order, with Cullingford’s loping basslines driving the groove and Uzor’s strident vocals riding on top of disruptive riffs and bleeps. While sounding completely of the moment, Maria says their dislocated disco “seems to come from the post-punk era of 1978-83 and bands from that time we’ve been influenced by, from London, Manchester or Chicago.”

The mixture of vintage and modern is one of several contradictory combinations that help to make Sink Ya Teeth so special.

“My mum played a lot of old reggae, lovers’ rock, African music,” says Uzor. “I’d take that in and then go into my room and listen to The Smiths and Nirvana. I liked both equally.

“I love the rhythms of black music but also the imagery and the lyrics of what, for a want of a better word, I suppose is white music. I love that balance.”

The clash of cultures wasn’t always beneficial for Maria as she grew up in one of the country’s whitest cities, however.

“When you’re a kid you get picked on for being different. I’ve had the n-word shouted at me.

“In the ‘70s my mum was walking down the street in Norwich with my sister in her pram and a woman who looked like your average white granny came up for a look at the baby, saw my sister and spat at her.

“That’s kind of what gives you your edge. I didn’t like it at the time but coming through it it’s given me a bit of character, defiance.”

Yet there’s another contradiction, as SYT’s confident dancefloor fillers often deal with frustration and alienation. “The album is about coping mechanisms and friendships” says Gemma. “People being two-faced, wondering if they’re you going to stab you in the back.”

“Most people are vulnerable - I don’t think it’s possible not to be,” adds Maria. “It’s interesting to focus on that, especially if you put it to a dancey groove.”

Perhaps this is why, although SYT have been championed by Manchester dance veterans A Certain Ratio, there’s also something about them which reminds you of fellow Mancunians The Smiths. “Morose lyrics and uplifting music,” says Uzor. “I’m not saying we’re like The Smiths though because neither of us are dicks.”

Maria is struggling to reconcile a band she loves with a singer whose support for far-right causes is becoming more and more overt. “I find it really difficult,” she says. “I discovered the Smiths’ Hatful Of Hollow album when I was about 14 and made my mind go (mimes an explosion). I’ve listened to it constantly ever since until recently. Each time Morrissey said something awful you I tried to explain it away because he made music blow up in my head. But I’ve got to the stage where you I can’t do it anymore and it feels like cutting off an arm.”

Thankfully, whether you pick up their excellent album, catch them live or do both, there’s no need to feel guilty about loving Sink Ya Teeth.

It can’t be too often that this region has been able to boast one of the most exciting bands in Britain. Relish them.

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