DJ Ryan Dent talks to Time Out about his live dance band and his upcoming gig in Dubai
You’re best known as a DJ, but Flash Republic isn’t a DJ gig, is it? No, it’s a live band – we have keyboards, samplers, midi sequencers, a guitarist and a vocalist. It’s very much a live act.
So how did it come about? Craig [Massiv] and I decided that we wanted to do something a little bit different. Craig is well-known in Jo’burg and I’m well-known in Cape Town, so we thought if we got a vocalist up there we could be playing to 600-1,000 people straightaway – that’s a level that most bands take years to reach. And of course Tamara [Dey] is a fantastic vocalist and popular in her own right.
So you just jumped in? Yeah. I suggested we all get together and do a track to see if it was worth dong properly. Craig and I had just the beats, so we went to JazzWorks, the jazz and funk studio that Craig works in, and put a bassline down. Then Tamara came in and we laid down a vocal and it worked brilliantly.
And it was plain sailing from there? Well I think people kind of missed us on the first album that we did – it was a bit of a shock at first because we were so well known individually. So we had to establish ourselves with the second album. I think the first album was more heart than delivery and the second was more delivery than heart. We’ll get it on the third one, though.
So what’s your sound, then? The first album was quite housey and poppy – we started off as a dance band. But now we’ve added a guitarist, Martin Rocker, who’s really increased the indie sound. Martin’s in Wonderboom, a very famous South African rock band, and he’s one of Africa’s best guitarists. So now we’re an indie-electronica band with funk influences.
Does it work as a live show, though? We’re very interactive as a band – and having Martin really helps. He’s what makes us a band rather than a DJ set with a vocalist. Tamara’s an incredible performer, but Craig and I are stuck behind our equipment, so when Martin’s there he and Tamara can bounce off each other. I think that’s one of the big draws – the energy we make on stage.
Do the ‘Ryan Dent’ and ‘Flash Republic’ brands ever conflict? That was a problem at first – in South Africa, especially, people couldn’t differentiate between the two. They thought I was giving DJing up for Flash Republic. But I’ve made a point of separating my DJ sets from the band: my sets are techno and tech house, but Flash Republic is a mix of indie, dance and house. You can’t confuse them.
When it comes down to it, which is the most important to you? Flash Republic– we’ve invested a lot of our time in it and it’s the focus for everyone. I love DJing, but my focus has to be Flash.