Pete Josef is not just a singer, songwriter and multi- instrumentalist from the South-West of England. His social conscience and inherent need to create, build, share and protect as well as educate himself about issues regarding the environment, society, politics, race and gender have seen all of these permeate into his musical output in recent years. This has never been more overtly the case than with his brand new single, Utopia.
The song is ultimately about “greenwashing” – the method by which businesses exaggerate their environmental credentials for financial gain, and how this trickles down to consumers. Pete for one is frustrated by how companies, for decades, have made a calculated refusal to engage with the facts about climate change. This is reflected in the song’s lyrical content – “They doping ya, so be wise, be alive. Don’t look up, ya house is on fire.” Lyrics inspired by the film Don’t Look Up and a famous speech by environmental activist Greta Thunberg. The ironic lyricism continues in that it’s “Gonna be the summer, the summer of our lives” reflecting on how people bask in high temperatures without under- standing why these changes are happening, and the danger it poses to our future.
Pete is very aware that he himself could be accused of “greenwashing”, but at the very least hopes that he can be a small part of a growing movement to force change. Artists like Lil Simz, SAULT and Michael Kiwanuka are very much leading the way with that and Pete feels that he has little choice but to add his voice, but at the same time is conscious that his “consciousness” may never be enough.
Musically, the track has a retro and somewhat South American feel. The introduction features Pete playing a vintage 1960s Harmony Bobkat guitar, before he’s joined
on suitably haunting vocals by Marie Lister. The song builds around Miguel Andrews’ steady drums as percussion and horns bring more weight to the proceedings. Imagine a politically conscious Curtis Mayfield backed by Khruangbin and you get the idea.
Utopia is taken from Pete Josef’s forthcoming third album, to be released in 2024, recorded in his self-built and self-sustainable studio cabin in his garden. The exchange between studio and live has become a unifying force since the resurrection of his live quartet in 2022. This year will bring choice live shows, featuring the mercurial Eli Jitsuto from Bristol based outfit Snazzback on guitar and longtime collaborators Jihad Darwish on bass and Miguel Andrews on drums.