Iseo and Dodosound (The Interview)
When: August 2022
Where: Benicassim, Spain
Reporter: Gerry McMahon
Photo: Courtesy of Baco Music
Copyright: 2022 – Gerry McMahon
One of the better spin-offs from the re-location of the successful ROTOTOM Sunsplash reggae festival to Benicassim in Spain is the platform that it has afforded indigenous reggae bands. The Iseo and Dodosound combo is a good case in point. Their successive appearances on the much-coveted ROTOTOM Main Stage have been rapturously received by their many (predominantly Spanish) admirers. Over time, this reception has expanded to a more multinational audience – and deservedly so.
Iseo and Dodosound are a duo from Navarra in Northern Spain. In 2013 Dodosound – the mixer man – proposed to Iseo – the vocalist – that they pool their talents and compose some sounds. Thereafter Dodosound (Alberto Iriarte) and Iseo (Leire Villanueva) stuck with it and issued some high-quality music, spanning the reggae, dub, and trip-hop genres.
In time this liaison led to the issuance of the well-received ‘Cat Platoon’ album, followed in 2017 by their second album, ‘Roots in the Air’. Earlier this year the duo’s ‘Blossom’ album was released – and it should be described as one of the very best reggae releases to hit the market this year.
Iseo & Dodosound’s stage presence is an interesting and unconventional mix of gaiety (Iseo) and austerity (Dodosound). And it is beneficially moderated by the multi-talented backing band the ‘Mousehunters’, comprised of a wind/brass section with sax, trumpet, flute, and melodica effectively embellishing the combo’s raw talent.
Reggae-Vibes caught up with the duo after their high-impact performance at ROTOTOM 2022.
Thank you for your time. Were you happy with your Rototom 2022 show?
Iseo: Yes, indeed. Oh yes, we are so happy with it.
Dodo: Yes, the music was live and I’m so happy that the show was special and beautiful.
Iseo: It was. I really enjoyed it. It was magical for us. We are so happy about it.
Tell us a bit about yourselves.
Dodo: So, we are Iseo and Dodosound and we come from Navarra, which is close to the Basque country. And of course, we make music! We started to make music together in 2014. And that is what we have been doing since. Yes, it’s what we do. It is our love.
Iseo: We have now three albums out – ‘Cat Platoon’ (2015), ‘Roots in the Air’ (2017), and Blossom (2022). Including three Rototom appearances, it’s been a long journey. We give thanks for our music. We are so grateful that we can do it.
Great. So, in 2014, how did you start or begin?
Iseo: Yes, so we are from the same town in the north of Spain, Pamplona. And the music scene is so small there because you know, it’s a small town. So, we knew each other. And Dodosound/Alberto was doing Disc Jockey and in a hip-hop music band at the time. I was studying at this time and writing my first songs with guitar accompaniment. So, actually Dodo found me on the radio! It was a complete coincidence because he was in the car when he heard me on the radio.
Dodo: Yes, I heard Iseo’s music on the radio. And after the song finished, the radio announcer says this is Iseo/Leire Villanueva and she is from Pamplona. And I was like – I am from Pamplona too! You know (laughing)? So, who is this girl, I asked. Because it was just a matter of time before we linked up.
Iseo: Yes. Dodo/Alberto just wrote to me on Facebook or whatever then. And we met. He had just had his first EP released and my release was at about the same time – in 2013. So, by 2014 we had started playing together, we started to write songs together, and that’s really how it all started.
Are you happy with the progress to date?
Dodo: We are very happy to be still making music together and we’re happy to be producing too. This is something that I love. It is really good vibes and makes us happy. So, that’s great for me. We are so happy to be able to make music together.
Iseo: Yes. I think that the key point is that you have to be happy with whatever you do, to do it well. It doesn’t matter if it’s music or something else, like making some coffee in a bar. If you are happy with that or whatever, you should go for it. And you should stick with it, you know. So, we are thankful to be able to keep at it. We are still happy making music and that’s a really big thing in life.
Dodo: Yes. I agree. And it’s a great progress for me.
And you’re also happy with the reception to your new (and wonderful) album ‘Blossom’ on the French Baco label?
Iseo: Thank you. We are happy about it too. ‘Blossom’ was released in the month of May this year. We are actually very happy with the album and the reception of it. Because it’s been a long journey doing this album, with the pandemic and everything you know. We finished our last tour at the beginning of 2020. That’s when we decided to stop until we had the new album. With this new album, the journey of putting it together has been very very long, because of the pandemic. But we feel that it’s the most real or authentic album that we’ve made to date.
Dodo: Yes. Because when we were writing for it, we were feeling really free and had a lot of hope and optimism in ourselves to do some special works.
Iseo: Yes it’s honest. ‘Blossom’ is an honest piece of work.
Dodo: Of course, it also has a selfish part, in that you are the first one that enjoys your own music. So, it’s a case that probably you are the one that enjoys your music the most! Which is kind of selfish, but that’s the reality.
You started in 2014. By 2017 you are on the much-coveted Rototom Main Stage. How come the rapid progress?
Dodo: Because we went to the popular Rototom Dub Station area and we killed it (laughing)! It was an electric experience. So, the Rototom crew saw the light and sent us to the Main Stage the following year. And for that, we have to give a ‘big up’ or ‘thanks’ to Rototom and to the ‘Blackboard Jungle’ organising crew at the Dub Station because it was a crazy night. After our Dub Station success, it was time to move us on the next year to the Main Stage. It was a beautiful experience you know. But, don’t forget, it wouldn’t matter to us if it was the backyard or whatever or wherever it might be. We play all kinds of stages and settings and I am very happy to play our music for any kind of people or audience that is happy to listen and dance to it.
Iseo: We would play our music anywhere.
Dodo: We play where we’re asked, it doesn’t matter. And not only were we moved to the Rototom Main Stage, but at any other festival you saw us at – like NoLogo in France, Vina Rock or the International Dub Gathering, we were always happy to open events and have had some beautiful experiences. So, we go around on tour and do all kinds of stages and shows. We always try to give our audience a great experience. But sometimes I like to be at music festivals too, just listening to the music and there is so much happening at some of the festivals – like here at Rototom.
And your backing band the Mousehunters is very important to you?
Iseo: Yes, they are indeed. Of course, they are our band you know. Sometimes, it’s like a weird thing for people to understand. Because the Mousehunters are not like the standard or normal set up, with the bass guitar, the drums, the keyboard, and the lead guitar. But they are actually our band – even if they are in reality a quality horns’ section you know. That’s a different take from the usual. It’s a different conception of what a band is and of what a live band is. But this is what we do. This is what we trust in. And it works well.
Dodo: Plus, when we came and we did it with the Mousehunters first, you could see the surprise. But it speaks to the struggle to break the mono-economy drum basically. And it’s about status and more for some people. You may be aware of what their stance is sometimes. But it’s also all about what you put into the music. Times are changing and we bring some change. This is what musical people do. We move from place to place; we play for the people and we go around with the band and create the music. We all have our part to play, including our wonderful Mousehunters.
Iseo: As we say in Spanish, the Mousehunters are one of the legs of our table. They are an integral part of our sound, so we can’t and won’t take it out.
Are you full-time musicians?
Iseo: Yes, we are.
Okay, so I know that you’ve done covers of Congos and Burning Spear tracks. How important are these roots of the music to Iseo and Dodosound?
Iseo: I think the roots are very important.
Dodo: They are crucially important. This roots element is like the foundation stone. I mean, I come from a hip-hop background and enjoy a really very varied selection of music, including reggae. But I have been worried about some of the bands coming out of Jamaica at this time and their (non-roots) styles or influences. This is an issue that I have been struggling with since my early teenage years. So, for us, the roots is everything. The roots music is crucial – and the thing is that – of course – people can listen to the roots’ message.
Iseo: We always treat the roots side of the music with respect and consideration. You try to do your best with the things you have and with your vision. So, building in – in a tasteful way – the roots music, I think that’s one of the ways we do our thing best.
Dodo: People know our sound and that it has this roots element.
Dodo: More music.
Iseo: More music yeah (laughing).
Dodo: Now, after the mid-2022 festival season, we will do some radio shows in Spain. We will also go to different cities and we have a tour lined up, so that’s many two-hour slots with different moments and experiences and more songs. So, next up, we go on radio, and then we tour.
Iseo: The new album was out in May so we are still working on it and promoting it. So, that’s the plan.
And are you a couple?
Iseo: Yes, we are (laughing).
Okay, and what has been your happiest musical moment to date?
Iseo: Oh! That’s not an easy question to answer. You know, I think, I should say that the answer is probably one of the smaller shows that we’ve done at the beginning of our musical journey. For example, very soon we are going to play on a beach in a small bar. Those kinds of shows are so special. So, I really enjoy it when we have people so close – the intimate experience!
Dodo: And we like it so much that we go back to that small bar by the beach every year! The early beginnings of our musical journey gave us some very nice romantic moments.
And your most disappointing musical moment to date?
Dodo: Some time ago I got in touch with a local reggae disco and I did one night with them. I was invited there and I had my selection and the music that I love to play – this is what I do. And the organisers put me in the middle of the dance hall where everyone was dancing in couples and such. So, I started mixing as usual and doing a riff and what not. Suddenly, the organisers were shouting: “No, no, what are you thinking with this style of music?” So, I just had to gather my gear and exit! It was the most embarrassing moment in music for me. It was a disappointing moment too.
Thank you for your time and congratulations on your success.
Iseo: Thank you so much.