Brooklyn-based super group, the eight-piece, Underground System have a new E.P., Into The Fire, signed to local label, Razor-N-Tape. Featuring 3 fresh cuts of 21st Century afro-funk – from the flute-led title track, to the bumping Brazilian-flavoured, Desnuda, and the spiky punk energy of He Said She Said – the record also contains remixes from soulful Detroit legend, Andres, and French floor-filler, Yuksek, who, by turns, transform the tunes into bouncing, uplifting house, and sultry, slapped bass, boogie.
We’ve spoken before to the band’s co-founder, Peter Matson, but now The Insider catches up with his creative partner, Domencia Fossati. Since the outfit are known primarily for their incendiary live performances, and New York`s pandemic restrictions have finally been lifted, to mark the occasion The Insider asked Domenica to cast her mind back to a few favourite, landmark, gigs…
Words by Domenica Fossati. Interview instigated by The Insider.
When Ban Ban Ton Ton asked me to make a list of my top 3 favourite gigs with Underground System, it took me down a deep memory lane, from our beginnings until now. There are many highlights we’ve experienced through the years, but these particular shows were the ones that pushed us to the next level and made me realize that we have something very special.
Not only was this our official debut in Europe, but it was also the first time someone saw our true potential as a dynamic live band. When booking agent, Vincent Nicod, heard our album on Spotify, he contacted us immediately to perform in France; taking a chance with us without seeing us live. His connections led us to play at Trans Musicales – generally referred to Les Transmusicales de Rennes – known for featuring the “next big thing.” Its founder, Jean-Louis Brossard, dug us so much that we were one of the bands booked for the festival in December 2018.
Many highlights stemmed from our experiences at Trans; we played separate shows for kids, for prisoners, performed a showcase for FIP – a popular French radio station – and the main show in front of 6,000-8,000 spectators. When the curtain came down and we saw the sea of people ready to listen and dance, the exhilaration amongst the band was palpable. We gave 150% of energy, focus, and musicality. It’s definitely one of my favorite moments on stage with my band, my tribe, my family. That main performance led to our first major European tour in the summer of 2019.
#2 SUMMERSTAGE: A Tribute to Fela Kuti – with Roy Ayers, Seun Kuti and Egypt 80, and DJ Rich Medina / 16 July 2017
We’d had highlights sharing the bill with major artists prior to the summer of 2017, but this one was special because we were invited to perform at New York’s Summerstage, alongside legendary musician, Roy Ayers, Seun Kuti, with Egypt 80, and DJ Rich Medina, for a tribute to Fela Kuti. These are artists who inspired us individually and as a group; after all, our band is named after Fela’s last album before he passed. Fela was highly influential to Underground System beginnings, so when we were asked to join the stellar lineup we jumped on the opportunity immediately.
That summer we were still working on our first full length album, and we tested new material on the audience, to which they responded with great positivity. It was also exciting to play at Summerstage, one of New York’s most beloved, free, outdoor performing arts festivals, for a mostly NY audience as a very NY band. The whole thing was NY AF.
Domencia & Seun Kuti.
Performance photograph by Jason Wallace.
#3 THE SULTAN ROOM: The NY return after the pandemic / 12 November 2021
This show marked our return to performing live, following the worst of the pandemic. The Sultan Room is a beautiful venue in Brooklyn, tucked in the back of a Turkish restaurant, Turks Inn. Prior to the pandemic, we were scheduled for a monthly residency at this Bushwick location, which had gotten off to a great start. The first show of the residency, in February 2020, sold out and was very well received, but then we got sidelined by COVID. Our return in November 2021 sold out again, and, as many artists might have experienced during their return to perform, it was emotional; standing in front of an audience who’s energy exuded from the crowd, making us feel this huge welcome back from our longtime supporters and new fans. We played a lot of new material, which now features on the Into The Fire E.P. That night marked the beginning of more shows to come, and it meant a lot that our listeners still cared and were there with us, dancing, sweating, smiling and just letting out all the energy they’d held on to over the last 2 years.
Domencia stage-diving at The Sultan Rooms by Dave Jeffers.
Honorable Mention: The Soul Clap Review Tour with Midnight Magic
We’ve had a few great experiences finding likeminded groups on parallel journeys, even if our music doesn’t sound the same. One of those experiences was closely bonding and touring with the disco group, Midnight Magic, during our Soul Clap Records days, on the Soul Clap Review Tour. We first realized the bond when we opened for Midnight Magic at Rough Trade a year prior to the tour. It was love at first site. The energy, the personalities, the humour, all of it! We all knew we had to do it again, and so we did. It was our first time touring with another band, and this crew all got along beautifully.
Midnight Magic and Underground System.
For more information on the band’s upcoming live dates, please visit Underground System’s official website.