Yorkshire’s Fold are musical and political ambassadors, imparting timely, highly resonant messages via some serious and very soulful grooves – and an amazing brass section. We caught up with Seth Mowshowitz from the band to find out more about the people and politics behind the music.
What made you want to get into music?
In a word, music did. Ever since I was little, I’ve gravitated towards music as a means of expression. I grew up listening to my parents’ and brother’s records and felt a powerful affinity with certain artists: Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon in particular.
There’s always been an urge and a drive to make music inside me. I’ve known for as long as I can remember that making music is what I am here to do; my brain is wired for it. As long as I am actively involved in making music to some degree then I feel reasonably fulfilled. Outside of people, music is what I love most in the world.
What inspires you to write? Politics and activism seem to play a very prominent role in what you do.
Many things. I am empathic by nature; I have a heightened experience of emotions and I soak up the emotions of others. Alongside that, I’ve always had a keen interest in understanding what forces drive the world we live in; the narratives that are used to control society (this is probably why I ‘minored’ in political science at university).
Through that understanding – and hearing firsthand accounts from people I’ve known over the years – I have come to realise how terribly unequal life is for so many; how badly marginalised groups suffer. This has historically included some of my own roots. I lost roughly half of my extended family (the Jewish side) to the Holocaust. I feel this collective suffering always in my heart and it drives me to push for change. Oddly the other half of my family tree has slave owners in it, and I have to somehow reconcile all of this.
After my son was born in 2008, I felt compelled to use music to amplify the perspectives of marginalised peoples; that event triggered something in me. I reasoned that one way to do something about these disparities is to add to the presence of perspectives that are always being crowded out; drawing attention to the prevailing narratives and contributing to a necessary conversation. When our music gets heard by people and I know they’ve been listening because they react to it that feels like success. Every national radio play is a victory in that sense.
Who would you say has had the most influence on Fold’s music?
Public Enemy first and foremost. I’ll never forget the moment I first heard It Take A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back in the back of my Mom’s car in suburban late 80s New York (State). That moment suddenly connected everything my unusually progressive school had taught me about the historical struggles of African diaspora in the USA with the present day. Chuck D shifted the veil and got through to so many sheltered young white people who may not have otherwise been exposed to that information. It had a profound effect on me. Realising the power of music to achieve these things was in itself a revelation. Chuck D is my one true musical hero.
Alongside that I’d cite The Meters, Sly & the Family Stone, James Brown, Stereolab, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Wu-Tang (RZA), A Tribe Called Quest, DJ Shadow, Portishead, Arthur Verocai and David Axelrod as major influences. Sorry, there are too many to name and I’m crap at narrowing it down :)
What has been the biggest challenge in your musical career so far?
The fact that it isn’t a career. Aside from music I am balancing two fantastic kids (one of whom is autistic), a fulltime web design job and for the last 3 years an ex-marriage (amicable though it is). Somehow for Fold I am composer, author, performer, producer, editor, mixing & mastering engineer, graphic designer, PR, radio plugger, manager, social media marketer and web designer. Moreover, my entire adult life I’ve struggled with anxiety and to a lesser extent depression. In recent years sleep has become a chronic issue as well. I guess it is that there are many constant, daily challenges rather than one overriding challenge.
For a few years in the early 00s music was a career – one that brought me to the UK in the first place – but ever since that deteriorated due to insane circumstances I’ve remained on the fringe of the industry. Despite all that and despite COVID-19 things have steadily moved forward; I’m very happy to say that these past two years have been Fold’s most successful in every sense.
What has been the nicest thing ever written about you?
In all honesty I’m incredibly grateful for and moved by how many nice things have been written about Fold. However, I think I’d have to choose Simon Tucker’s review of our last LP We’re the Ones for Louder Than War.
What has been the best and worst gig you’ve ever played?
Oh man, our worst gig was at a bar in Leeds; I won’t say which one. The audience consisted of roughly 10 inebriated & despondent patrons, none of whom seemed especially pleased to see us. The sound was abysmal, there was a guitar malfunction and the vibe was just painful. I think it would have been a better evening for all concerned if we hadn’t shown up.
Our best gig, hands down, was one of only two that we played last year: supporting Ibibio Sound Machine at the Sheffield O2 Academy. We hadn’t played for more than a year and it took months to prepare all the new material; we were at our absolute most rehearsed because we really wanted to do justice to that hallowed support slot. Ibibio were completely amazing and also particularly lovely people. The vibe all evening was brilliant, the place was packed, we were left feeling on top of the world. It was a real honour to be part of their show.
What was the [first] piece of music you listened to?
I can’t remember; I’m far too old :) I do have very early memories of Maggie’s Farm by Bob Dylan.
If you could support anyone, who would it be and why?
We’d love to support J-Live. We saw him at the Domino Club in Leeds last year and adored his show; man had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. Afterwards we managed to chat a little and even got a selfie with me, him and Sam. The fact that he’s so underrated and still killing it all the time make us want to support him even more. In our heads it would be a beautiful gig. Also, there’s a slight chance it could actually happen one day.
What other bands or musicians should we need to be checking out right now?
I’m only going with things that people may be less familiar with. Newer stuff: The Budos Band, Lettuce, Sly5thAve, Oddissee. Older stuff: Arthur Verocai, Milton Nascimento, Amadou & Mariam, Silvio Rodriguez, Broadcast, Lali Puna, J-Live, Nujabes. Also, Dancehall in general because the whole genre is undervalued and immensely awesome.
Give us a few hints on what’s in store next for Fold and its members…
We are in the middle of making album number 3, entitled Aphelion. It’s a tribute to Lorraine Hansberry, the visionary black author and activist. The narratives she wove resonate just as powerfully today as they did 60 years ago. We’re still gathering collaborators; so far Mr Gee has provided one hell of a piece for the title track (as you know).
Emma Johnson did some amazing horns for the first two singles with her horn section just before lockdown and we hope to do more with her. The same is true for our violinist Kieran O’Malley. Since lockdown began, we’ve released four singles from that album with the rest of the tracks well in progress. We wanted to give people what we could during this time; partly to keep them going and party to keep us going.
The aim is to release the album by the end of 2020 but that is starting to look unlikely; at least for a physical (vinyl) release. However, we are still pushing for it. In addition to that we’re hoping to do a live-streamed gig in the next few months which would become available as a video afterwards. It would be a little something for the gig-going audiences who are missing live shows. We miss the live shows badly too and are finally getting ready to book our first rehearsal since before lockdown. We cannot wait to jam.