Brits abroad! Rudimental roll in with their 'uniquely British' style
By now even the passing music fan will recognise that popular music trends come in cycles, peaks and troughs. A decade ago, for instance, you couldn’t move for leather clad, greasy haired bands and declarations that “dance is dead”. For the last few years, though, dance music has been slowly infecting the commercial zeitgeist so that ever more electronic beats could be found propping up the pop chart. In 2013, it seems that we are at the very top of the current arc. Proof, should you need it, comes in the form of recent chart sensations and festival favourites, Rudimental.
It was actually in 2012 that the four-piece band of mid-20s guys from the London boroughs of Hackney and Camden got their biggest break, despite having released music as far back as 2007. But last summer the stars must have aligned because the world was finally ready to embrace the group’s radiant and full-blooded electronic sound. The first single to announce the band’s arrival was Feel The Love and it soon went on to become the soundtrack of summer, as well as being used in plenty of BBC TV adverts where ravey crowds of happy festival goers smiled from ear to ear and basked in glowing sun rays while riding on each other’s shoulders: something about the track’s stadium sized chords, intoxicating melange of drum & bass rhythms, dubstep scale bass screws and radio friendly vocal cries just seemed to perfectly encapsulate the prevailing mood.
Ironically, since then the group made up of Piers Agget, Kesi Dryden, Amir Amor (born Amir Izadkhah) and DJ Locksmith (or Leon Rolle when he’s naughty) have barely had time to feel the love themselves: they’ve gone on to tour the world, release more hit singles, top the UK album chart and win a coveted MOBO Award for their debut full length, Home.
It was a fitting album title indeed because in these times of global communication, plenty of popular music seems homogenised, copycat and devoid of any unique character, but Rudimental bucked the trend by making it big with a thoroughly and uniquely British sound. Their output draws on the UK’s rich history of underground electronica from grime to dubstep, d&b to hardcore rave, and so though it sure has proved commercially successful, neither does it abandon the individual roots of each band member.
One moment in the group’s recent past that seems to have proved pivotal in all this is the addition of Amir Amor, something Piers Agget is more than happy to admit to when speaking on the phone to Hype during a brief break on the UK leg of their current tour.
“He was a massive addition to the band,” says Piers in a natural but trendy London drawl. “He was the missing piece of the puzzle I guess. We just connected straight away. Everything we worked on went great. We’d had a similar upbringing with garage, jungle and rave culture and literally had lived similar lives, but in complete parallel. It was like we’d known him all our lives without ever actually having met. He even went to school in Camden and I was at school in Hackney so we knew a lot of the same people.”
Despite having distinctly underground backgrounds DJing in small parties and producing the odd beat, when they all came together, Rudimental unintentionally created a more universally accepted style of music. “That wasn’t what we set out to do at all,” says Piers. “We set out to make music and just be free with what we were doing, you know. We’ve all been working as producers for a while, working on briefs for labels, artists projects that didn’t really get A&Red, but when we got with Amir, and because the backgrounds of the rest of us were all so vast and different, we approached it with a bit more freedom.”
Oddly, that greater sense of musical freedom soon led to the band being snapped up by a major label in the form of Warner Music. The singles have kept coming, though, and they have continued to be expressive and exciting fusions of many different sounds – take Not Giving In, which flits between explosive drum ‘n’ bass riddims and more implosive and downbeat neo-soul moments provided by vocalists John Newman and Alex Clare.
That’s been another hallmark of Rudimental to date – the vocalists they have recruited, which range from John Newman to the already much celebrated Emeli Sandé. “We are always actively searching out people from open mic nights, undiscovered vocalists and stuff,” says Piers. “We don’t have as much time as we used to but we have a good manager and team around us that help with that now because it will always be important.” Although he goes on to say that sometimes vocalist write their own lyrics and sometimes they are given a basis from which to work, one thing the band always ensures is that recording is done in a studio, together, rather than by sharing files over the internet.
Given that the band is four strong at its core, but calls on the services of plenty more musicians for their live show, you have to wonder if it’s ever a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. “There are definitely arguments, I’m not gonna beat around the bush,” laughs Piers. “But it’s healthy arguments. It’s like people expressing their opinions. There are four members of Rudimental who drive the whole thing so I think we have the final say, but in that group of four we are pretty tight. We do get heated but I’ve known them all since I was little, some of them since I was in nursery school. We’ve all learned off each other but in the last year it’s become a really tight team.”
It was, incredibly, only around a year ago that Rudimental first played live together. Fittingly for the London boys, it was the Hackney Weekender festival that called them up and asked them to play just three days later. Clearly an offer that could not be sniffed at (especially given the likes of Jay-Z, Kasabian and Nicki Minaj were also on the bill) the band pulled together everyone who had helped on the album, practised hard and were one of the most talked about acts of the weekend. Given dance’s music troubled history with ‘live’ acts and the on going chatter that it’s music that simply doesn’t translate to the stage, that’s all the more impressive.
“A lot of the instruments we used in the studio were live instruments anyway, so it felt quite natural,” says Piers of the first live show. “What I’ve really discovered personally is that you don’t always have to sound exactly like the record. With live gigs you can change it up a bit, use different synths and different instruments. It helps makes every gig fresh.”
Those gigs have since included the cutting edge likes of Melt! Festival in Berlin alongside Global Gathering in the UK, Amnesia in Ibiza, Ultra Music Festival in Florida and many dates across Australia. “Going to Australia and Eastern Europe and seeing all these different cultures go mad to d&b is great, you know,” he beams. “Not everyone gets it, but a lot do, and it feels great to take something uniquely British overseas.”
Reportedly feeling “more inspired than ever” to get to work on their second album – despite the fabled difficulties such things can pose – Piers explains that “we’re always jamming and messing around, making little grooves on our phones and, you know, we’re like a big family from the drummer to the trumpet player to the vocalist, all coming in and out as well as us four… It definitely feels that we could set up a studio and go in and record another album in a week.”
They might have gone about things a little backwards, then, releasing a debut album, then having a hit single, then playing live for the first time, but now you sense Rudimental’s forward charge is unstoppable. In fact Piers, who admits to having his sights set on conquering America in 2014, puts it best when he beams, “I feel like we’re just getting started.”
A QUICK GUIDE TO SOME RUDIMENTAL COLLABORATORS
John Newman English singer on Feel The Love who has since had a solo UK No.1 with Love Me Again and topped the album charts with his debut Tribute. Rudimental’s most successful discovery yet.
Ella Eyre Ella sang on Waiting All Night. This British singer/songwriter is soon to collaborate with the UK’s Professor Green and features on Tinie Tempah’s forthcoming second album, Demonstration.
Angel Haze Featured on Hell Could Freeze, Angel is a rapper and lyricist from Detroit who has a debut album out now and has previously covered Kanye West with fellow rapper Iggy Azalea.
Alex Clare English singer on Not Giving In, Alex has seen UK and US chart success with Too Close, which was nominated for a Brit Award this year. Major Lazer produced his debut album in 2011.
Sandance Beach, Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai
Taxi: Atlantis The Palm.