Special Feelings is a stoner jazz / broken beat / jazz-house fusion collective created by Poli-Pearl (noongar/first nations/queer) and Naomi Robinson in Boorloo (Perth, Australia). They perform with a selection of curated feature musicians and artists, and their track 'Bapjizzim' is one of the songs coming out on the new Shouts 2021 compilation from Rhythm Section. The record follows up on the initial Shouts compilation celebrating 5 years of Rhythm Section as a label.
With the record bringing together spoken word, DIY funk, house, techno, trap, indie, RnB and the many sub-genres in between, Special Feelings provide an exceptional video to accompany 'Bapjizzim' that expresses their liberation and power of freedom to fight oppression.
'Bapjizzm' critiques conservative slut-shaming and promotes sex positivity, as well as, gender fluidity and all things LGBTQIA+. The video invites you to embrace and relate to these concepts and encourages you to find your own freedom. This clip was filmed candidly at a party, showcasing how special, sexy and unique everyone is when they are vibing in a safe space and you can see how much they thrive.
Featuring Talya Valenti on drums and Jamie Canny / Lola on saxophone, Special Feelings promote 'Bapjizzim' to be "all about reclaiming the word slut. Remember, you do you sluts, don’t shrink yourself.”
Ben chats to them more about the message of the track, the importance of presenting taboo topics in their music, sex positivity, the place of these topics in the jazz scene and how the collective started up.
Can you tell us a bit more about the concept behind ‘Bapjizzim’?
We are from Boorloo (Perth) the land of the Noogar/Nyungar people, a place where Christianity and Catholicism are the predominant religions which arrived with the rise of colonialism. Before this, the predominant belief was that of the traditional people of this land. During colonisation of “Australia” the Catholic and Christian church was responsible for a lot of violence and hate against traditional people and LGBTQIA+ people. We wish no disrespect to any religion, however, we do wish to criticise some elements of the modern religions that have affected our personal context.
We believe there is enough evidence out there that Jesus was a person of colour. Additionally, we want to highlight the violence and neglect (that is still present today) that stems from homophobia, which is perpetuated by peoples perception of modern religion. We have many friends who have been rejected from their families and beaten for being authentic queers due to the strong religious beliefs of their parents.
Many others are still in the closet and are too afraid to come out because of the oppressive shame that is intertwined with modern religion. We hope to challenge people's interpretation of religion and not religion itself. We want to encourage people who have the luxury of choice to take the best parts of religion without perpetuating the colonial and homophobic hate portrayed in some religions.
Our sound is an easy language for us as it allows us to share our expression with the world by capturing moments in time and space. It is a language we can connect with and come together in a cathartic and healing manner. No one is filtering our art (which is a luxury) so we can be authentic as we want. It allows us to capture moments and ideas that are simply relevant to us at the time. The pace and feel of 'Bapjizzm' represent the mania generated by fear-based oppression. In contrast, the smooth saxophone represents guilt-free sexual liberation of people in safe spaces.
Did you always want to create a video to accompany the themes you relate to in this song?
We wanted to offer an intimate, soft and saucy viewing experience to highlight the importance of safe spaces for all of us. The visual element is important as we are an instrumental band and we wanted to express our values and our newly found freedom in a way beyond lyrics and words. Slut-shaming, misgendering and sexual oppression is something that we have battled with in the past. It is an ongoing battle but we like to keep reminding ourselves and others that there is nothing wrong with this freedom and energy. We couldn't have done this without inspiration from other liberated humxns and the access we have to safe spaces. We want to express that life is fluid, we are changing all the time and we should be able to express our true authentic selves at any moment. We also want to acknowledge the luxury of feeling safe to do so.
How important is it for you both to embrace taboo concepts such as nudity, sexuality and gender fluidity and present them in your music?
It's very important to us. We refuse to be caged by oppression and shrink our authentic selves. We used to think us shrinking ourselves due to oppression was people pleasing but now realise it is perpetuating a notion that does not align with our morals. Being your authentic self at any moment is the ultimate way to people please because you attract the right people for you at that time. Sometimes it feels like there is not enough safe space for nudity, sexuality and gender fluidity. The fact that these concepts are so taboo makes it unsafe for people. The silencing and censoring mean there is not enough education on sex positivity, which can affect peoples perception of acceptable consent. There is no shame in being attracted to someone sexually but before you act on it in any way there must be a conversation to make sure the other person or people is/are on the same page. If they are not it is time to move on and find someone else to be attracted to respectfully. We reclaim the word slut and say nudity and slutty expression is not an invitation. Some people who express themselves in a slutty way are not interested in sex at all and that is an important thing to keep in mind.
Do you think these topics are discussed enough in the jazz scene?
People who are bold enough to own their LGBTQIA+ identify or slutty expressions in public spheres inspire us. We have seen movements like this across other genres yet the concepts seem more hidden beneath the surface in the jazz scene. We wanted to present something close to our hearts using jazz as a tool to express ourselves. No doubt this type of expression will stand out in the scene we are in. We consider ourselves jazzy punks.
You and your friends seem to have a lot of fun in the video - is the vibe of friendship and liberation something that people can expect when they see you perform live?
We would love to highlight the notion of fluidity in gender, sexuality and expression in general. We are forever evolving and changing. We would love to express ourselves in this slutty (reclaimed) way sometimes but not make slutty energy our only state of being. In the past, we have incorporated drag queens and lingerie into our shows. However, we need to be in a safe space to feel comfortable doing so. We hope to incorporate more of this kissing and twerking energy in our performances in the future, however, life is fluid and we express ourselves in different ways that are relevant to the times and our headspace.
What was the most fun thing about getting to shoot the video?
Shooting the video was amazing I really felt people opening up in a way that not everyone was used to. Everyone was an absolute star. Some people really embraced their inner slut for the purpose of art and to me, that is so sexy and inspiring. I saw people breaking through barriers that they didn't know they had until there was a camera there to reflect their brilliance. The reason people were able to be so expressive is that we were all in it together and owning what is rightfully ours.
How did you both meet each other and made you decide to start up your jazz collective Special Feelings?
We met as Poli-Pearl was working in events management and booked Naomi to play a show. We then bonded because Poli-Pearl jumped in a hedge and Naomi did not judge… thus, it was love at first sight. We liked each others energy and music and decided to combine forces and penetrate the male-dominated industry of jazz. We booked a show before we had a set ready in Narrm (Melbourne) and the project rapidly escalated from there. The project was formed in order for us to explore the realms of stoner jazz and allowed us to experiment and express ourselves.
How important is collaborating with other musicians for you both?
We decided that collaborating with other musicians allows us to keep things fresh and interesting. Originally we were going to call it “curbside collective” and pick up underground musicians of the curb but we ended up sticking with “Special Feelings”. It is also exciting to play with our favourite musicians from whichever area we are playing in. Everyone has something unique to contribute to the project and we ask musicians we really respect to join us.
What’s the scene like locally in Boorloo (Perth) and how does it compare to the wider Australia scene?
We would like to bring attention to the fact that the traditional name of the land is Boorloo and “Perth" is just a colonial label of the sacred and stolen land we stand on. The scene in Boorloo is evolving. The scene is very underground and a lot of talent is wildly overlooked because of Boorloo’s isolation. We personally take a lot of inspiration from bands from the east coast but our isolation gives us a very unique edge as we are exposed to Boorloo sounds that not much of the world would have heard.
What does it mean to get your track on a label like Rhythm Section?
It is such an honour to appear on Shouts. Some of our favourite artists such as Emma-Jean Thackray and Tenderlonious have appeared on previous Shouts and we are very grateful to be involved. Bradley Zero is a don. We have no idea how they found us, however, we do appear on compilations with other musicians who are involved with Rhythm Section. We suspect this is how BZ found us.
What can we expect from you both with future plans?
We invite you to get excited for a journey through stoner jazz. We have a record coming out soon showcasing our sound featuring our favourite Boorloo based musicians. We are hoping to tour once we release this record. We would love to tour London and Berlin as we love music coming out of these areas and it would be a dream.
Buy Shouts 2021 here:
Follow Special Feelings here: