Rudimental have managed to blur the lines between dance music and pop whilst still remaining credible. A killer debut album and a wealth of stellar festival performances have cemented them as the go-to dance act of 2014. DJ Mag managed to grab Piers from the band for a quick chat before the boys jetted off on the Australian leg of their current world tour..
How did you go about recording the first album?
“With the first album, we recorded on nothing majorly expensive. We had an old Mackie desk, we produced it all on Logic, and we were using an M-Audio Pro-Fire Soundcard to start with. That type of set-up definitely wasn’t typical of anyone else in the dance industry.
But to be honest, we weren’t really thinking about that. We’ve got instruments in the studio, we’ve got keyboards and guitars, got a little banged-up organ that I found on eBay. I guess you could say it was more instrument-based than technical.”
It feels like those instruments give you your trademark Rudimental sound...
“Yeah, definitely. We’re all about using live instruments, it’s really important to us. We’d rather mic up a piano than use a Logic piano sound. We like using plug-ins and manipulating the live instruments that we’ve recorded, making them sound a bit different. Our studio is heavily based on recording instruments, and then we add the production afterwards.”
In terms of your set-up would you say Rudimental follow a collective ethos?
Yeah, it’s definitely like a family, a little collective with the way it works. I like to think it’s a bit like Sly & the Family Stone or Funkadelic, and also like the jungle scene, and I guess like a lot of the backdrop to the UK scene where it’s genuinely friends all making music together. For instance with John Newman, I met John in a pub, we saw him perform and we made friends. He wanted a keyboard player so I joined his band and I was living with him for six months, so we were all intertwined in various projects.
With Ella Eyre, we were looking for a live singer, and she’s a friend of a friend and it was just like ‘Come and join us live, you’ve got a wicked voice, let’s do some tracks’. It was all very organic. I definitely feel as if I’ve got another seven sisters and brothers in addition to my actual family.
We’ve toured so much and you get to know each other so well. All that just helps when you go back into the studio, it helps with your writing and you can pick out people who you know will be perfect for certain songs. It’s all directed by us four, but there’s a wider family of musicians and writers.
It certainly filters through when you’re listening to the album...
“Yeah, there are some extra family members like Emeli Sande, Alex Clare and people that have approached us to make music and work with them. Emeli wanted to work with us and we were really excited about it — she’s an amazing songwriter and singer — so there are some collaborations, and that’s what album two will be like.
We want to keep it true to our family roots so there will be music with John and Ella and that crew, but you might catch an Ed Sheeran track on there, or a Lianne La Havas one — there might be some new family members, definitely.”
Talking of the second album, how is that shaping up?
“It’s going really well. We’re not far down the line with it but we’ve been continuously making music since we handed in the last album. We’ve been in the studio with Ed Sheeran — he rocked up randomly at the studio when we were recording in LA, that was the same weekend we met George Clinton and we made some songs with him, being in the studio with George was amazing as he’s such an inspiration for us.
We’ve just been making music throughout, and I guess it will come together in a quite similar fashion to the first album, I guess it will come to a point at the end of the year when we’ll sit down and construct album two. It will probably be out early next year, I would imagine.”
At the moment there are a lot of acts borrowing from the early house sound, and that filters through. How do you define the Rudimental sound?
“We’ve all been doing this sound from when we were young, if you listen to my beats from when I was 16 I was mixing Otis Redding into garage and I was always trying to mix genres that didn’t work.
We’ve all had tunes like that where there are two genres mashed together. I think once we met Amir and we added one more person to the puzzle, all of a sudden we had that moment where it was ‘Oh, wow, we’ve got something here’.
We’ve always wanted to mix live instruments and electronic stuff, kind of like Massive Attack. We’re not the only ones in the world to have done this, but I feel like it was the right time. I feel like the music industry was going down a route where it was all David Guetta, it was all one way, one route for dance music.
I guess people were forgetting how great dance music has been in the past with acid, rave, jungle, garage, house, all these genres.”
You guys are extremely busy — how come you have not had a burn-out moment?
“I think it’s testament to the team, all four of us have different skills. Amir’s really strong at producing and finishing tracks, but he’s also a writer. I’m kind of writing a lot but I also do the DJing with Leon, we go out and DJ a lot round the world, Kesi does a lot of writing as well, which means when me and Leon are out DJing Amir and Kesi are in the studio and vice versa.
“I think that helps, it keeps us relevant; you can see what goes down well when playing out. I’m not going to lie, it can be hard getting tracks finished when you’re out on the road, when none of us have had that much sleep, but we’re all really focused and passionate and driven about finishing the album and delivering the music.
We all chip in, we all get our hands dirty and I think that’s why it’s worked so well. There’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears spent on that first album.”
Do you have any tips for the next wave of producers, for the people who want to follow in your footsteps and taste the success that you guys are enjoying?
“Surround yourself with good, like-minded people. If you’re not working well with a singer, if you’re not digging it and it’s not happening, move on. We all attract each other, we’re all likeminded producers, musicians and singers. But when that does happen, when you’ve got it right, you’ve then got to work even harder.”