Modern Griots: THEESatisfaction

Photo courtesy of Sub Pop/Credit: David Belisle

MTV Iggy recently released a new article about THEESatisfaction, “Space is the Sound: Investigating Afrofuturism With THEESatisfaction:”

THEESatisfaction is the musical project of Stasia Irons (Stas) and Catherine Harris-White (Cat). Together the couple forms a two-woman, self-produced R&B/hip hop/psychedelic soul operation with strong cosmic overtones. Stas does a bit more rhyming while Cat is known for the jazzy vocals, but the beauty is in the way one thing changes into another as stylistic boundaries dissolve before your ears.

Inspired by everything from the Neptunes to feminist science fiction, the grooves on their Sub Pop-released debut album awE naturalE might take you to another world. After all, that’s what they themselves are seeking in their musical explorations.

We gathered some of this insight in our recent interview with the duo. Never ones to shy away from deep conversation, they opened up about the musical extraterrestrialisms they love and the process of finding their own spacey sound…

How do you feel about the term Afrofuturism? I think it’s been applied to your music in every single thing I’ve read about you. What, if anything, does the word mean to you?

Cat: I really like the term. It embodies a lot of things that I agree with. It has a deep meaning because it has a way of explaining a whole culture. It is still a label that boxes a lot of other things out, but at the same time it propels black people to another height. It examines things in a way that can stretch as far back as Egypt and the pyramids or as futuristic as you want, like right now with Janelle Monae. It’s a broad phrasing but it explains a lot of people. I think it explains us, a part of us anyway.

People apply the term a lot to your label mate Spoek Mathambo. Have you gotten into his music?

Cat: Yeah, Spoek is pretty cool. We got introduced to him through Sub Pop. We all got signed around the same time. Us, Shabazz [Palaces], and Spoek. We got the chance to meet him at SXSW and watch him a little bit. He’s a wild guy. He’s very creative. His music videos are just off the hook. We like him.

Are there other artists you identify with in music who have adopted an extraterrestrial identity?

Cat: Definitely. Outkast, Janelle Monae, and all the entities with George Clinton, P-Funk and such. Earth, Wind & Fire. Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones.  And even beyond that with Afro-futurism in the sense of different chord structures, different things that mean science fiction inside of our mind, leading back to things like Ella, Billie, Miles Davis. They just had a crazy kind of space sound and feel to them.

Can you tell me more about music you feel is inherently otherworldly like that?

Cat: Yeah, it’s all around us. Sometimes you’ll just hear a note that will kind of send you into space.  Definitely, tritones for us. I feel like it’s different for everyone. But sometimes people align with one sound or a certain sound that literally takes you to space, makes you zone out, takes you somewhere else, takes you on a journey somewhere. All the artists I mentioned definitely.

Stas: If you’ve ever listened to the Neptunes they have this little pling sound. I don’t even know how to describe it. Pling! That’s an interplanetary sound right there, something from outer space, something that you don’t hear naturally on Earth.

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