It takes an ambitious individual to make their work a multi-sensory journey, but if anyone knows how to do it, it’s Poté. Born in St. Lucia, bred in London, the songwriter and producer’s latest project Over The Water uses an array of mediums to explore his own identity, by way of a four track EP and its accompanying visuals.
Poté is well aware that his creativity comes as a package deal: “My aim is to start painting a coherent picture with my sound, image and videos, using a host of different colours and influences.” His music is an ideal departure point when it comes to understanding just how important variation is to him. With a heavy influence on pounding drums and thick bass, Poté’s music blends electronic elements with rhythms that mirror his native Caribbean heritage, channelling a sound that induces dancing whichever angle you look at it. Meanwhile the imagery that joins his music is wholly and consistently powerful, adding another string to his extensive bow that’s as varied as it is vivid.
The first song on Over the Water, ‘Fall’, centres on an infectious, scattered beat as Arctic Lake vocalist Emma Foster gently chants high above the booming bass. A bold opening to the four track release, ‘Fall’ showcases not only Poté’s distinct sound but also his ability to create a song with real meaning. The track’s inspiration coming from the “ugly pathway set for you to go through” when you’re dealt a certain hand before you’re even born, particularly for minority groups.
The title track follows, immediately pulling the vibe into a murkier territory thanks to the song’s dark layers and Flaurese’s distant vocals – though there’s still an electrifying buzz that plays out through the wavering synth and afro-beat backing. The EP also offers a free download in the form of ‘Katz’, which merges flecks of quirky electronic melodies with layers of fast-paced percussion, proving itself to be an instant toe-tapper from the off.
‘Red Moon’, the EP’s last track, hands the full focus to Poté as a producer, who demonstrates his ability to craft a solid dance rhythm from a palette of Caribbean influences, returning to his weapons of choice: the bass and the beat. The song soundtracks the two-minute prologue video that teased the EP ahead of its release, which sees Poté’s face bathed in shadows and flashes of colour – a fitting reflection of his dark yet vibrant sound.
It was this very video that served as the inspiration for the editorial Poté did in partnership with photographer Fiona Garden, exclusive to IDOL, demonstrating his continuous dedication to building a complete body of work that impacts in more than one way. Herein lies the key to Poté: his openness to different ideas. “I realised doing a photoshoot can be as experimental as writing music, which I had never been comfortable enough to explore in the past,” he said of the experience.
Though the producer stepped outside of his comfort zone for the shoot, it has only led to positive outcomes that stretch beyond the characterful photographs themselves. “After months of considering the daunting possibility that I would have to do a shoot with someone other than my good friend Jesse (OnlybyNght), this shoot with Fiona Garden was an eye opening and artistically stimulating experience,” he said. “She was incredibly comforting and easy to work with; it has left me interested in dipping further into the world of fashion and possibly looking to work with brands in the near future.”
Individually, each aspect of Poté’s work is challenging, beautiful, and unexpected – yet when put together, the music and the visuals can only be described as a multi-sensory dream. One thing is certain: Poté leaves no stone unturned. Read our interview below to uncover more about the talented artist we all need to keep an eye on.
What drove you to work in music?
At the very beginning, it was simply the thirst to create something new and exciting, similar to what I was hearing around me at the time (Danger, Mr Oizo, Justice etc) which pushed me to write music. It was also a great tool to escape the frustrations of having to go to school everyday and sitting in a lot of classes I had no interest in. Currently, I feel the urge to tell stories, and piecing an entire release together – including what the artwork is, the main colors of the release, themes, lyrics/poems and video treatment ideas – is what drives me to work in music because there’s nothing like seeing a coherent release take form for me. I also feel for the first time in my life, I have a lot to talk about and there’s no better means to do that for me at the moment than through my music.
Who or what influences you most?
My peers have a huge, if not the the most influence on me. Being in sessions with Kojey Radical, Cadenza and Flaurese over the last year or so, and really looking into the way they work always helps me think outside the box. Sharing experiences, music and influences with interesting artists always gives me the urge to go back in on how I work, in order to better myself.
For my Over the Water EP, just going through life in a city like London influenced me the most. Being brought up in a village with less than 400 people, a city that never sleeps like London can get to you. I found writing poetry and lyrics to gather my thoughts helped, especially with tracks like ‘Over the Water’ and ‘Red Moon’.
How do you go about your songwriting process?
It usually starts from a simple riff, then I’d build the bassline and drums together, but it’s always really different and changes every couple of months. Being in sessions with peers is a big reason for that, learning different things they do or have picked up and twist and turn it around until I find a way it works for me. I’ll never forget working with Jess Mills/SLO and how she would strip back the drums and just use the bassline to write lyrics. That alone helped in changing the way I wrote and structured my music massively.
On the other hand, tracks such as ‘Red Moon’ start with a poem (titled Mirror Me) or simply a word, I’d then write the track from just a feeling and vibe I felt from that in order to create the storyline I wanted. I mostly work on my own for the majority of the time, getting the vibe right and about 80% of the track done before inviting alone to work on it or help me finish.
Would you say you’re quite a visual person?
I’m being exposed to and interested in more art/design work lately, I’m definitely learning and working on being able to get my ideas across more coherently with both my artwork and videos. The artwork for Over the Water is one that I came up with, it’s St.Lucia’s national bird, the Amazona Versicolor flying over the village (Praslin) I was raised in. The bird signifies my soul flying back home, as I feel a lot more stable in my focus and who I am as a person growing up in London.
I also co-directed the prologue to the EP with a good friend Jesse, portraying the message behind the poem which was written for ‘Red Moon’, Mirror Me. I’ve already got the ideas for the artwork and video for the lead track for the EP after ‘Over the Water’ written down, they’re a lot more out there and I can feel myself becoming a lot more comfortable in this role.
Coming to accept that not everything I write will be to everyone’s liking, and not caring is probably one of the biggest hurdles I’ve faced. I felt the need to impress everyone, which is ridiculous and highly improbable. For quite a while, I’d write music to impress either my idols or peers, rather than just for me which was quite a backwards way of writing for me as the music ended up sounding quite soulless and empty. This is one of the many points behinds why I wrote my Over the Water EP, I finally feel like that stage of my life is over and I’m no longer drowning myself.
What are your future dreams or goals?
For the not so distant future, I start my live show, which i’m really excited about. It lands around the same time as my follow up to Over the Water, which will be a lot more expressive and feature a lot more of my vocals, as well as a feature from Kojey Radical and Carmody. My goal is to get that out there so I’ll have another forum in which to express those tracks using lighting, background footage and more. I’ve got loads of design ideas for the show and how that’ll build up and get bigger with time, which I’m really eager to explore.
I’d also like to score and direct/co-direct a few different films and series-based dramas in the future, as I feel that’s the next challenge after I’m done talking about everything I’ve set out to air. I feel that’ll be great because it’ll bring new ways of writing and people to work with. Most important of all, my goal is to just be happy with whatever I do and spread that joy!