The Potbelleez: The Sole Fit One

Image Livescape Asia

To label The Potbelleez as the Australian Black Eyed Peas would be wrongheaded and blinkered. Sure they share the same amount of members and male-to-female ratio, and musically they’re dance by way of pop music, but just as pop is littered with different sounds so is dance. Consisting of DJs Johnny Sonic and Dave Goode and vocalists Blue MC and Ilan Kidron, the band has a strong updated eurowave ‘90s dance music vibe. Their most recent singles ‘Hello’ and ‘From The Music’ had both charted the Top 20 ARA Chart. It’s not too much of a hyperbole to say they’re the heroes of dance pop in Oz. The Quartet has been touring nonstop, gaining some serious festival cred in the process. Naturally, they’d make an ideal part of the first wave of acts invading our shores this coming Future Music Festival Asia. We got on the phone with the sole female (and potbelly-less) member of the group and spoke to her about the dynamics of having 2 DJs and 2 vocalists, their experience in Asia, and why The Muppets hijacked their ‘From The Music’ video,,,

Why the name Potbelleez? You, for one, look quite fit, not sure about the others…
Johnny and Dave, the 2 DJs in the band, they started DJing together as a duo and called themselves by that name – a couple of years before Ilan and I joined them as vocalists. I think why they chose the name is because it’s lighthearted, it’s a little bit silly and funny. It’s different enough to stick to people’s minds, it’s got that comical air to it.

Between Dave and Johnny, who’s got the bigger potbelly?
(Laughs) Dave… no, maybe Johnny. Both of them got big potbellies.

Dave and Johnny are Irish, between the Aussies and the Irish, who can drink more?
Irish for sure!

Since the two of ‘em are Irish, how did they just happen to chance upon you guys?
They’ve been living in Australia all this while. Dave moved here in 2000-2001 and Johnny a year later, around that time. They’re both residents now, Dave might even be a citizen now! They’ve lived for about 9 years. We met in the Sydney scene, Ilan and I both had been working on and off with another group in Sydney called La Fiesta, it’s kinda a dance band but different performances have different musicians as part of the band. That was how I first met Ilan, I came to do some vocals and he was playing the flute at the same gig. Band leader Levi 5Star was also doing some DJ work with Dave in the early days of him living in Sydney, before him and Johnny was playing together.

Essentially Ilan and I met Dave through Levi but also, I was connected to Potbelleez through our manager. He saw me performing at another gig and he put us together. That was how the relationship started. It’s been a long road, we’ve been associated with one another over the last 8 years but we’ve only been together as a group full time for the last 5. For a good 3 years in the band’s initial stage, it was just Johnny and Dave as a duo but then I would come to sing for them, sometimes on tour. Ilan was working with them in the studio but wasn’t performing. There was a transitional phase before all of us banded as a group together.

Usually with dance acts, it’s just the DJs plus guest vocalists, like Potbelleez when it was just a duo. But you guys have permanent vocalists in the group. How does that give you guys an advantage over other acts?
Ilan and I have totally different styles of vocals as well as songwriting. I’m a rapper mainly but also sing as well, so the tracks I tend to do with the Potbelleez are a bit more funk-oriented and the tracks with Ilan are a bit more rock. I guess that’s the simplest way of putting it down, and yeah, it is an advantage. It keeps us fresh to the audience, we can change it up, we can mix together two different styles of vocals, which gives us a bit of a more dynamic show.

Is it hard for the band to find cohesion with all the different styles and influences though?
That’s an interesting question. I don’t think so, because it’s two different things, and it’s more about striking a balance between those different styles more so than trying to blend ‘em together. On our second album we have a few songs with the both of us on ‘em, which is the route I’d like to take further on the third album. Just because then all members are represented, you know, and I think for our fans that’s probably the best way to present ourselves in the future. I guess the cohesion of the different individual sounds of the Potbelleez has been a challenge, but we’re new at this. We’ve been together 5 years now and we’re just discovering how to find the balance and merge all the styles for a more united sound as we go. To answer the question concisely, it’s an on-going process to find that cohesion.