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It’s common knowledge amongst Melbourne locals and soul lovers, that Saskwatch frontwoman Nkechi Anele has a booming, honey-toned voice with the stage persona to back it up. What’s a little less known is her penchant for frozen treats. “Oh my god [ice cream] is my Achilles heal,” the Nkechi beams.

“We just drove passed [Gelato Messina] today and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh guys can we stop’. I really love pistachio ice cream – it’s the best.”

Chances are the other eight members (now five other members with a recent line up change) also discovered Nkechi’s sweet tooth whilst they all toured Europe, she starting losing her voice and found herself in need of a pick me up.

“It was kind of like a thing where most of the time I would walk back to where we were staying and the only places that were open at that time were convenience stores,” she says.

“So at that time I would buy myself something I could kind of have at home by myself as a little treat, so I didn’t feel like I was being one of the Flanders kids and going to bed while the rest of the world has fun.”

The tour in mention was the first time the Saskwatch cohort headed overseas after a mammoth residency at Cherry Bar (at the time creating a record for the most people in the space) and a performance at Meredith and Golden Plains.

“For a lot of the time I was actually in denial that the band was a serious thing, not that the band was a serious thing, but I just didn’t think that I was a singer or a musician really,” she says.

“There was a time I realised this was something we were doing that we were going to rehearse for, for hours each week. But it didn’t really hit me until I got back from Edinburgh and I’d lost my voice. I think it all made sense when I had that fear I might not be able to sing again.”

“I think I was just loving it so much that I was thinking how can I be loving something this much and it be a career?” she quickly adds.

Once studying to become a liaison librarian, Nkechi now accepts her current pathway and says the words “full-time musician” with pride, “Like I say, I’m a musician first over anything else”.

Ironically, the four-year-old buried in Nkechi’s subconscious had wanted the career choice all along.

“Basically my dad comes from Nigeria where singing and everyday life are just part and parcel and my mum’s family are very artistic, so I think I was always exposed to music,” she says.

“I think from that, and going to musical theatre productions, I’d always want to run backstage after the actors all did their final bows – I just wanted to be backstage with them. I even remember the movie Fame when I saw the original and I said, ‘I’m going to that school’. So I think I’ve always had this underlying determination to be a musician or be a singer but I’ve just never really, or up until a few years ago, I’d never really acknowledged that I was doing the things I said I’d wanted to as a little kid.”

The dream may have first arisen from seeing massive theatre shows and the excitement surround Fame, but Nkechi is content with just the very foundations of being a musician.

“It doesn’t matter how many people are there when I’m actually performing. I just think when I’m in a band… I love being able to express music,” she says.

“And I love the creative side because it’s all these new sounds and musical possibilities created. Although when it comes to recording people argue, we argue so much about getting music in and out of recordings that when the final product is made I feel like every second has been fought for and it deserves to be heard.”

The new sound in mention? “I think our third album [Sorry I Let It Come Between Us] reflects how relaxed we are with ourselves and as performers on stage, we can explore being quieter and we’re not necessarily trying to be this loud party music,” she says.

“We’re exploring different sounds and different aspects of the band and even ourselves on stage and our presence there. Whereas with our first album it really did come out of Cherry because being at Cherry Bar and having parties and gigs like that, we also transferred from being a soul cover band to putting originals into each set until we had a completely original set.”

Looking back on Saskwatch’s journey it seems the turning point in their career was setting foot on stage for their first residency at Cherry Bar as part of the Soul in the Basement sessions.

It was a refining moment and it’s only fitting that being a Melbourne band, they could have the experience in a Melbourne venue.

“Cherry…was kind of like the golden era of partying for a lot of us, and a lot of our friends. We’d go there for a Thursday night and we’d play and everyone would get up and dance. Everyone would get really hot and then run into the alley after the gig and hang out. It was a good time to blow of steam from the week and we were at uni at the time as well, so it was a really fun time,” she says.

“We went from playing and being excited if 50 people turned up to turning up to play and there’d be a line going down the street, so it was a really fun moment to know we’d crammed as many people as we could into Cherry Bar.”

Now with a national tour on the way, stopping off in Geelong, Ballarat amongst 30 plus dates, those unsure feelings are set to be swept away as Saskwatch continue on their run for pioneering a new soul sound for Australia.

Written by Amanda Sherring

When & Where: Karova Lounge, Ballarat – April 6, Workers Club, Geelong – April 7, Corner Hotel, Melbourne – April 8, Theatre Royal, Castlemaine – April 9 and the Loft, Warrnambool – April 14