Photo: ©Drew Cox
“Hello, I’m just moving my boat. I live on a canal boat.” Sigh of relief. Natalia Tena is just as cool as we dared hope she was.
Whether you know Tena best for her role as the much-loved Nymphadora (sorry, shouldn’t call her that) Tonks in the fourth Harry Potter on, or the wildling turned-guardian of Bran and Rickon in Game of Thrones, you’d be forgiven for assuming her band Molotov Jukebox were just a side project to her film and TV acting roles.
Much more than just a side project, the six-piece “gyp-step” band fronted by Tena and her accordion have a mission: “to make people dance and to make people happy”.
Tropical Gypsy is the aptly named new tour and album. Released April 15 (the tour kicked off on April 19), there is a guaranteed party atmosphere throughout, which answers the question as to why they adore touring the South American shores as they have done on several occasions in the past few years:
“I was in Brazil, and we got 3000 people to clap in rhythm, it was like a sex metronome. It was amazing. In England it is very different, but then at the same time in England – the way people dress up at festivals- generally our festival kind of vibe, like Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party, those kind of places don’t really exist in South America.”
Inspirations from Stephen King and Day of the Dead counteract the upbeat rhythms of Molotov Jukebox, but possible next single ‘I Cry’ shows the true range of Tena’s ability as a writer as well as a musician. “We were in Catalonia in Spain at an organic vineyard and this dude was like ‘I don’t believe in God but I do pray to the wind’. If it hits his vineyard at the wrong kind of strength it ruins everything and his whole world will collapse. If it goes well it gives him the best season of wine, and I thought that is amazing.”
An intriguing spectacle to witness live, they will be scaling the country from Exeter to Edinburgh, Newcastle to Norwich on their new tour, which includes an appearance at Southampton’s Talking Heads. They’ll also be found on the bill at the likes of Boomtown Fair, Blissfields and Kendal Calling. Tena talks with unrivalled vitality and passion about the summer ahead: “I want to make people feel like they’re on holiday. I want them to – for a moment – leave all their baggage at the door, as if it’s a hotel. The door to the hotel is the outside world, and they come in and they feel sexy, relaxed and happy for just an hour and forget it’s England.”
Whether you end up feeling sexy, relaxed, happy or all three, one thing for sure: these six mystical gyp-steppers will leave a lasting impression and, if you’re lucky enough to catch them live, burst your bubble of how live music is perceived.
Andrew Shelley @