Sabota make dance music for home listening and um other activities
In talking to Robbie Slade and Max Ulis the duo behind Vancouver electronic upstarts Sabota their dynamic is easily apparent: Slade’s the gregarious über-energetic type. Ulis for his part is the quieter cerebral half. The twosome don’t have contrasting personalities — their easygoing chemistry is evident even in a 20-minute conversation — but each man’s sonic imprint on Sabota’s elegantly scattered music is evident.
“We always say Sabota is the sound of Max Ulis and Robbie Slade. It doesn’t sound like either of us on our own” says Slade. “I think it’s the most left-field thing I’ve ever done and it’s the poppiest thing Max has ever done.”
“I’ve been a DJ for over 15 years” chimes in Ulis. “I just come from different types of electronic music. I wanted to do something with a more human element to it although I never envisioned working with a male vocalist…. Our sounds are really complementary.”
We agree though it’s surprising that Ulis and Slade work so well together: The former is a DJ / producer who in the past cut his teeth on house techno and dubstep. The latter’s best known for Humans a synth-pop act who cut Traps on Hybridity the label also responsible for Sabota’s records in 2012. The duo formed after Ulis remixed a Humans track. With a shared base of influences (they cite disco acts like Loose Joints and Arthur Russell) Slade and Ulis set out to write an EP which soon after became a long-player.
Sabota’s self-titled debut LP — which was released in February and already stands as one of the year’s best Canadian releases — fulfils Ulis’ promise to be “more human”: Working within a pop framework it’s an undoubtedly relaxed foray as fitting for headphones as it is for the dance floor. Trading in lush gallery-ready beats and sun-soaked instrumentation (verging at times on Pantha Du Prince-esque fragility) Sabota by their own admission is an album unrestrained by locale.
“A lot of people have told us they drive to the album” says Ulis. “[I think the album is suited] for outdoor spaces places with trees and greenery.”
“I had this buddy who banged his girlfriend to it and he said the whole thing was good” Slade recalls. “I was laughing but he was like ‘No. Really the whole album is good banging music.’”
The funny part about it though is they’re both right. The project they say was named for Sabota Road an outdoor patch in Nelson B.C. where local kids would go to sun drink get high and in all likelihood fuck. “I remember a couple parties we had where we didn’t even have any booze because we were so young” adds Slade. “And we were still so high because you’re up late and you’re acting all weird. It’s like a contact social high.”
If Sabota’s music is primed for the outdoors then their upcoming schedule should treat the production duo well: In the coming months they’re padding their schedules with stops at places like Vancouver Island’s Tall Tree fest and Merritt B.C.’s Bass Coast. And while the duo says that festivals might be the best place to catch Sabota they’re also looking forward to their Calgary date.
“We probably fit in better in Calgary than in Vancouver to be honest” says Slade noting that they’ve long admired Alberta-dwelling pals like Sanctums Smalltown DJs Wax Romeo and more. “It’s so easy to play with any of the artists there. Everyone’s so friendly and enthusiastic about each other’s music. Everyone’s homies.”