British electronic music group Rudimental has been working feverishly off the heels of their debut album, Home. The touring has been relentless and they have no prospect of slowing down any time soon. This weekend the group will be playing Jay Z’s Made In America Music Festival, but first they will be playing alongside British pop sensation Emeli Sande at Rumsey Playfield. Luckily I got to sit down with the group (specifically band members Amir Amor and Piers Agget) to discuss how they got to where they are now and what lies ahead for Rudimental.
How did you all meet and what made creating music with each other a different/new experience; in relation to your past experiences with other musicians?
Amir: We’ve been making music together for six or seven years. We come from a DJ background, DJ’ing on Pirate Radio, which are illegal radio stations in the UK that we were involved in getting set up and helping run. The way we used to spread our music and sound was through radio. We were involved in the club, jungle, and the dance music scene.
Piers: We were also musicians as well. We are not just dance music, but we also have live instruments that we’ve had since growing up.
Amir: Even though all of us have that dance music background we also have played in bands and play instruments. The main thing about us four is that when we started making music we knew that we could write songs together as a band. That was the thing that brought us together, the fact that we could fuse together live instrumentation and soulful elements with dance elements.
Electronic music travels at a pace that’s almost astronomical. It resonates with people quickly and fiercely. What do you think it is about Rudimental tracks that caused people from so many countries to take to your tunes?
Amir: We are a mixture of live and electronic music, not just electronic music. Dance music started off as music that was played live and we are trying to bring that back. We love soulful song writing and soulful vocals and because we combine that with our electronic influences I think that is what has made it resonate with people.
Piers: I think there is an emotion that we bring into song writing, to make you feel good. It’s about having a good time, but also getting through bad times and I think a lot of people can relate to that across the world.
Where was Home recorded and why did you guys record it there?
Amir: Home was recorded in our studio in London, called Major Toms and that’s basically been our home for the past few years. We recorded the whole album here, all of the singers and writers came here, we almost live there; it’s basically like our living room.
Piers: We all grew up in London, so it only made sense to call the album Home because a lot of it was written and recorded here. I think what was also great about having a #1 and “Feel the Love” putting us on the road touring around the UK is that we also did a lot of recording on the road; in rehearsal rooms and in hotel rooms, which had an influence on us. We also say our home is on the stage as well, because we love to perform, which I think it ties the whole album together.
Amir: The thing that sets our studio apart is that we its where we play music. When we come to write music together at Major Toms we play instruments and we actually go around the table to write songs. It’s in East London; it’s where we grew up and where we are based so it’s good to have somewhere to base yourself, somewhere to call Home.
When it came to crafting the songs was it a conscious effort to be different than your peers and did you find difficulty doing that?
Piers: I don’t think we made a conscious effort. When we are making music we don’t think about other people making music; we’re not too worried about it. We are writing the songs from scratch, it’s about having the people on the album, and the vocalists are all our good friends, who we’ve been working with for a while .
Amir: We come from the UK underground culture but are also influenced by soul music and hip-hop, everything from The Fugees to Nas, to Marvin Gaye and Sly and the Family Stone. I think what makes us sound different is that we naturally bring these influences and start from the base of a song, the beat, the lyric. It’s not always about making hard beats, it’s the soul and vibes that come naturally when us four come together, because it’s the background that we’ve had from the club and pirate culture, fused with the live music and soul culture. We didn’t intentionally combine those things, its just natural to us and I think that’s what sets us apart.
What I love about Home is that it has all these collaborations yet it still essentially feels like Rudimental, like this is who you guys are. How did the collaborations come about?
Piers: We met John Newman in a pub, he was singing at an open mic night and we liked his voice and asked him to sing on it and I joined his band and we made more songs and now he’s a really good mate. Same with a lot of the other artists on the album, they are all friends we’ve been working with for a few years.
Amir: MNEK is part of the Major Toms family, we share our studio and he just popped in on his lunch break and sang on “Spoons”, it was a beat we’d just started, and I played the percussion part with a spoon! Most of the artists, like John Newman were upcoming and unsigned when we made the album, and they’re all starting to do incredibly well on their own! We love working with new talent as well as established artists; Rudimental and Major Toms are like the new Motown haha.
Piers: We knew what we were looking for; we just wanted really soulful vocals.
Which act was your favorite to work with and what was it like recording a song with them?
Amir: Most people on the record we’ve known for a while, so to pick and choose would be a bit weird! It’s cool to work with people you know and can write with because we don’t like doing things over the Internet over distance, its hard to bring a powerful emotional message through your music if you haven’t even met! We’re writers ourselves, we’re not singers, although you can hear our backing vocals and shouting all over the record! So we need to be there with whoever we’ve chosen to sing that song so we can create the vision together. Were lucky to have built an extended family of singers and musicians over years, we can reach to a different voice to suit every sound that we have in our heads. For example, if we’re going to do a track with John Newman it’s going to be more gritty soulful and less laidback. Why would you have one singer when you can have many! It gives us so much scope to break some boundaries and be creative, were really only just scratching the surface.
Were the tracks written for the artists who appeared on the songs or did they write their own parts?
Piers: No, some of them wrote them and some of them were co-written.
Amir: “Feel The Love” and “Waiting All Night” were tracks that we already had written and were just waiting to find the right singer for them. With tracks like “Not Giving In” we worked with John Newman so he co-wrote the vocals, and same thing with “Spoons.” It works both ways, the main thing is that we have to be together when we’re writing because you really get that energy that way.
Was the live show thought out while recording the songs or did that come afterwards?
Piers: It came mid-way through making the album. When we did the live show, it was really really interesting because a lot of bands get to change their album and then tour, and we had to kind of be on the road and a lot of the songs were tested out in rehearsal rooms and then tweaked when we got back in the studios. It was a really fun experience.
What was your first visit to the states like and how does it feel to be back?
Amir: Its wicked, we really didn’t expect to get the reaction that we got. America has such a rich music history, and people are really open minded. We’re bringing our backyard to the stage, the influences that we’ve had growing up and people are embracing it with open arms! That’s the thing about Rudimental, we bring positive energy to the stage and people vibe off that, they see that we’re friends and genuinely enjoy ourselves up there and they end up feeling the same way even if they’ve had a shit day! We come from a background where a lot of our childhood friends have ended up in the most negative places, but we were stubborn enough to persist to a point where we can spread the Rudimental message all over the world. Like we shot the Feel The Love video in Philadelphia, but people all over the world relate to the emotion in the video. Everyone has had their struggle and with our videos we try and show that positivity can come from darkness, whether its In Philly, Philippines, or LA. We love America and spend a lot of time there, we’re doing lots more gigs and festivals in the US this year, and I’d recommend people come and see us live to get the full picture of what were all about!
Piers: I think what’s great about touring in America is that we’re influenced so much by American music and hip-hop. I think what’s great is we get to go out there and hang around in famous, historical places for music and it’s great to go and just hang around.
Emeli Sande appears on two of the tracks off of Home. How did you guys meet her and what do you think made it easy for you guys to work with one another?
Amir: She actually came to one of our gigs in the UK and told us she liked our music and we were like “fuck it, let’s get in the studio together” and we started working on some tracks and the vibe and energy between us was perfect. Most people probably first heard of her from the Olympics, but she’s been behind the scenes as a songwriter for ages, She has an amazing voice and is an amazing writer, really soulful and we totally relate. She also comes from the same area as us in the London—Hackney. So that was one of the cool things is that she was literally around the corner from Major Toms.
Piers: It was pretty laid-back and quite natural and it’s actually one of the favorite songs on the album is “Free”. I remember we got that really good feeling when we were working on it like “Oh, this could be something special.” It was a really good session.
Any acts you guys would love to tour with or collaborate with that you haven’t yet?
Amir: We’d love to work with Lauryn Hill. Her recent music has been going in a new direction and we want to bring, you know, back to the roots, do something a bit more soulful with her. Lauryn Hill is definitely one. The thing with Rudimental is that although we don’t mind if someone is already well known, we love to work with up and coming artists and fresh talent as well as more established acts. Also we did a gig with Bobby Womack in the UK, he’s a legend and is working with another one of our favorites, Damon Albarn from Gorillaz. Those are both people we would love to collaborate with.
Piers: We were actually in the studio with Ed Sheeran and The Game last week.
Amir: Yeah! We did a session and did 5 tracks with The Game in LA and Ed Sheeran was doing the chorus.
Piers: Yeah, and that was something they had been working on the night before and Ed told us to come down and listen to this beat. It wasn’t a set-up thing. We really kicked it in the studio and just made some music.
Amir: It was a bit of a dream to work with The Game as well. West Coast hip-hop is a huge influence on us.
What was one of the best compliments or criticisms you’ve heard regarding the group?
Piers: We try not to pay much attention to criticism, in terms of reviews and live shows. If you get to caught up in what people think about you, you kind of lose yourself and you end up trying to do things based on peoples opinion. I think it’s really important for us, the band, to still listen to new music and still be influenced by things around us. I don’t think popular opinion is too helpful. I guess you have that relationship with your fans sometimes, that you can see what goes down well and you just have that connection with your fans.
Rudimental’s Website: http://www.rudimental.co.uk