UFO (A McDonald/C Mitchell) – Sneaky Sound System 2007
Founders of Sneaky Sound System, Angus “Black Angus” McDonald and Daimon “Double D” Downey, emerged from the Sydney dance club/DJ scene in 2001, Angus had spent time in New York as a singer-songwriter and four years working as a DJ on the London club scene, while Daimon, who was born in South Africa but raised in Bellingen (NSW), found his way to Sydney and the two began to collaborate.
In 2003 Sony asked them to compile a mix CD, and the edgy house-inflected Other Peoples Music was the result, a blending of live instrumentation, rapping, overlaid with the influences of retro funky soul and R&B of British band Gonzalez and the smooth nu-disco sounds of Brooklyn’s Metro Area.
The boys opened their own club, Hip Hip Hooray, and launched the record label, The House of Whack, at Bondi Beach, but they were about to add an important third element to their music, when they met Connie Mitchell (below x3)
Connie Thembi Mitchell was born in South Africa in 1978, her mother was a singer and the family emigrated to Sydney in 1989, where she attended Riverside Girls High School and joined techno rock band Primary in 1996. An EP entitled Vicious Precious was released in 1998 with Connie’s distinctive vocals dominating the tracks, Primary’s debut album This is The Sound was released in 1999 and charted #40, followed by their second album Watching the World, which was critically praised but failed to chart.
In 2004 a chance meeting with Angus and Daimon in a park in Sydney resulted in Connie joining Sneaky Sound System, about that chance encounter she commented “I thought they were a bit dodgy… You know two guys coming up to you, excited, jumping around a bit, saying “Come to our studio… “, which she did, and the contagious pop of their debut single I Love It, was recorded and released in 2006. It climbed to #19 and occupied the top 100 charts for a phenomenal record-breaking 76 weeks, Sneaky Sound System were on their way.
Connie quickly became the visual focus of the band, her exotic good looks and powerfully soulful vocals set the band apart from other dancefloor groups.
Their eponymous debut album recorded at The House of Whack and produced by McDonald and Peter Dolso was released in 2005, and was jampacked with electropop banger dance tracks, Angus contributed to all twelve tracks and Connie co-composed three, including the hits Pictures (#20 in ’06), UFO (#16 in 07) and Goodbye(#40 in ’07), amazingly UFO was the fifth single lifted of the album, only after the complete failure of the first two singles Hip Hip Hooray (#82) and Tease Me (failed to chart).
This was surprising as UFO was the catchiest song of them all, and it was almost an after-thought as Angus wrote the music and chorus “I saw a UFO and nobody believes me” – in about two minutes after watching a National Geographic program on TV about flying saucers and alien occurrences. The next day Connie wrote the verses, she believed that she had once been abducted by aliens so for her the song had a spooky reality “I heard this buzzing sound like a swarm of flies moving from right to left”, she recalled,“I looked in the sky and saw three white lights doing super-quick triangular movements. When I came back inside everybody said, “where have you been?” I looked at my watch and I had lost 40 minutes, about which I have no recollection.” Connie captured this experience lyrically “Can you see the bright light shining I don’t know/ Is it a reflection of anyone, the big glow/ And tell me this is all good, and you say, I don’t know/ I’m very, very far from home,” and her hypnotic vocal performance ticked all the boxes.
Pictures (#20) and UFO (#16) both charted for over 60 weeks, these album tracks certainly had longevity when released as singles, and Pictures (Tonite Only Remix) benefited from a funkier remix which combined a fat bass line with acoustic guitar, synth beeps and lasers to perfectly complement Mitchell’s vocals and push the song to the top of the dance/club charts. The band quickly developed a strong fanbase via promotional tours and TV appearances, and this further boosted their chart hits.
The debut album climbed to #5 and was also on the charts for over 60 weeks, selling over 210,000 copies, and picking up the ARIA Award for Best Dance Release, the band had hit on a highly accessible brand of electro- dance-pop with catchy hooks to burn, and a bright future was predicted. The promo clip for UFO cast Connie in a Barbarella-style role, as a girl in outer space, dancing with animated golf balls, men in illuminated suits and all the while delivering one of the catchiest choruses around at that time.
The original album and a Collector’s Edition deployed a taskforce of no less than a dozen different producers and the band’s even more successful second album, 2, Sneaky Sound System, produced in the Olympic Studios in London by McDonald and Donnie Sloan, with mixers Spike Stent and Paul DDub (Madonna, Bjork, Massive Attack and Gwen Stefani), was a #1 hit but only occupied the charts for 8 weeks, with Kansas City being the one substantial single success when it charted at #16 in November 2008.
The third album From Here to Anywhere charted at #11 in 2011, but there were no successful singles forthcoming, in 2015 the band featured on a compilation mix entitled EDM – Electro Dance Music and two club tracks, Summertime Madness and All I Need, were put out on limited release. Between lengthy hiatuses the band released I Ain’t Over You and an accompanying video in 2016 which climbed to #3 on the independent charts, several of their songs featured on a new remix called Pictures which rose to #2 on the ARIA Club Chart
Other new singles have subsequently been released which were pitched at the dance club market and have not garnered the level of public support that the band’s early releases enjoyed, with the departure of MC Double D in 2009. Connie Mitchell and Black Angus McDonald, married in 2015 and with a blended family from their respective prior relationships, Archie, Iggy, and Cece, are the two remaining original members of SSS.
In the midst of albums and tours, Connie lent her vocals and lyrics to albums from superstars Jay-Z, Kanye West and Snoop Dogg, and in 2013 she was a guest mentor on Australia’s The Voice. In recent years Sneaky have released music in collaboration with dance party events including Summertime Madness, All I Need Is You, I Ain’t Over You, Can’t Help The Way That I Feel (#1 UK club chart in Dec ’19), Raise (a collaboration with Watermat), and their latest release, Tell The World, a collaboration with Norman Doray.