Currently the official number 1 in the UK singles chart with their Summer smash ‘Feel The Love’ Rudimental are the latest act to be announced for Glass Butter Beach.
There’s a strong history of the studio pioneers of British dance music becoming household names in this country; from Basement Jaxx to Groove Armada, Massive Attack to Chase & Status. The hottest new collective making their mark are the East London quartet Rudimental – and their mission – to bring soul to electronic music. With support spanning from Zane Lowe, The XX to Mistajam and Fearne Cotton, they’re set to dominate dancefloors and airwaves in the coming months.
Comprising songwriters and producers Piers Agget, Kesi Dryden and Amir Amor, together with DJ Locksmith, the four men draw on their eclectic musical backgrounds and sense of teamwork to keep their finger firmly on the pulse of dance music. “We aren’t just electronic bedroom producers, and we’re not just guitarists and pianists who don’t know much about making a beat,” they affirm together. They grew up on everything from grime to jazz and blues; from hip-hop to house; one of Piers’ early musical memories was of pushing Locksmith off the decks at his older sister’s birthday party to play the ’90s speed garage he loved at the time, Todd Edwards and Armand van Helden in particular. The range of influences each brings to the table only enhances their work: “We’re all quite critical,” grins Kesi. “We’ll often just take bits out of a piece of music before sending it on to the others.”
The original Rudimental trio go back a long way: Piers and Locksmith grew up on the same road in Hackney, with Kesi living just around the corner in Stoke Newington, where he went to the same school as Labrinth and Professor Green. (Amir joined the collective in mid-2011 after working with them on some remixes: “Everything we did together sounded good; it was a no-brainer to join the group,” he says.) They’ve been everywhere and done everything in the London music scene from young ages: at 15, Amir was producing hip-hop and garage beats at Camden youth studios alongside Plan B. Piers, meanwhile, co-managed a Tottenham studio that housed the likes of Wretch 32 and Scorcher alongside his own DJing and producing. Rudimental first made their mark in the burgeoning UK funky scene of 2008-09, with Locksmith and Piers cutting their teeth on London pirate radio station Deja Vu – the former home of names as big as Dizzee Rascal and Kano. But Rudimental have always set their sights beyond just one genre: “You can’t really box us into a category,” says Piers. “We’re more about musicality, songwriting and broader influences.” Pressed, he comes up with a unique combination: “We are Sly and the Family Stone, Todd Edwards and Dr. Dre in a cheeseburger!”
This is borne out in the variety of their work. “Spoons” is a blissed-out, soulful-house duet, perfectly capturing a lazy, laid-back summer vibe. In stark contrast, their next single “Feel The Love”, to be released on May 27th, is a maximalist organic D&B monster with a soaring trumpet break and an unrestrained, magnificent vocal performance courtesy of John Newman – no wonder, then, that Zane Lowe has labelled it a “potential number one” and “summer smash” whilst making it both his Hottest Record and Single Of The Week. Last year’s club anthem “Deep In The Valley” was propelled by house piano and syncopated garage beats, with MC Shantie’s voice treated to give it an extra demonic twist, while their recent remix of Ed Sheeran’s “Drunk” found Rudimental flipping between skanking reggae and drum n bass. “The unifying thing is the soul influence and the bass influence,” says Amir “those two things are always there.”
This breadth is partly down to the outfit’s independence. “We’re entirely self-contained,” says Amir cheerfully, “we do everything ourselves.” The singers Rudimental choose to work with are either mates, friends-of-friends, or just amazing voices “you bump into”. The band freely admits to being fussy when it comes to choosing vocalists. “Who would I most like to work with?” muses Piers, “that’s a hard one, most of them are dead”; they also say their own picks can’t be bettered. Still, their self-belief means that the group have ended up doing most of the lyric-writing themselves alongside the production. “Not in a cocky way,” says Piers hastily. “But when we previously made beats, sent them to singers and got back the results…I always felt what we wrote was better.”
As might be expected of men with such a deep knowledge of the dance genres that are interwoven into London’s musical history, Rudimental also feel a strong connection to their communities. Piers, Kesi and Locksmith have all worked with East London youth in schools, and have seen how music can be an outlet for kids from trouble backgrounds – experiences that were unexpectedly mirrored when they travelled to the USA to film the video for “Feel The Love”. Written by the same team behind the ubiquitous 2007 Cadbury gorilla advert, it’s a feel-good clip based around the Fletcher Street community horse-riding centre in North Philadelphia that helps keep disadvantaged children and teenagers out of trouble. “That was the funny thing about going to Philly and meeting those kids – we could relate to them,” remembers Piers. “One of the girls in the video witnessed her mum getting murdered in front of her a couple of years ago – there were some really tough stories. And we could relate to them because we grew up in Hackney. And they were such good characters – that kid in the red jacket you see dancing, for two days that’s all he was doing.”
Rudimental are keen on the idea of setting up musical workshops to help kids and young people in the future. First, though, there’s the small matter of their 2012 takeover. “We want to make an album where each track brings something new to the table, where you’re not going to sit down and get bored,” proclaims Piers. And that’s not all. “We definitely want to be a festival