Rudimental – dance music with a Hackney soul

(An article I wrote for the Hackney Citizen newspaper.)

The quartet of former youth workers are set for mainstream success with their feelgood blends

Teetering on the edge of the underground but ready to blast into the mainstream, Rudimental are already commandeering the airwaves.

‘Spoons’, a house tune they produced in a couple of hours, is played repeatedly on Kiss FM, has received bountiful airtime from Radio 1 and was rapturously supported by fellow band The xx.

I met three quarters of Rudimental – Piers Agget, Kesi Dryden and Amir Amor – for a coffee in Shoreditch. Leon Locksmith, AKA DJ Locksmith, unfortunately couldn’t make it.

Reluctant to brand their music or adhere to one genre, the foursome are producing tunes that can be loosely labeled dance music.

“We’ve been annoying labels and journalists who want us to fit neatly into one category,” admits Amir.

“We come from a London, UK, electronic background but we call it bass music because nowadays garage and drum & bass have morphed. And then we have soul music as the connecting factor between all of us. We all listen to soul and blues, from the 60s and 70s, so it’s bass music with soul.”

As well as producing electronic music, they each play instruments: Amir is a guitarist, both Piers and Kesi play the keyboard and Kesi also dabbles in percussion and writing lyrics.

Their next single, ‘Feel the Love’, features vocalist John Newman.

“Usually the vocalist will come up with their own lyrics, but for this one Kesi wrote them,” says Piers. “Basically, Kesi met a girl, he was really happy, it was a sunny day…” Kesi cuts him off, embarrassed.

Their song-writing process varies but most often they start with a few chords, a melody or some lyrics. Once they have the core idea they move to the computer and take it in turns to work on the beat and add to it.

“’Spoons’ is a good example of how we work: Piers played some keys, Kesi added kickdrum to it and I played the spoons on it,” says Amir. “We started thinking of top lines and vocals and then MNEK came in because he works from the same studio. He came through, wrote some lyrics and it all happened like that: one, two hours. The best songs happen that way.”

Piers, Kesi and Leon grew up together in Hackney and met Amir later on.

“Growing up in inner-city London was not easy,” explains Piers. “I was hanging out with the wrong crowd and could see how easily people take the wrong path. But music played a big part in pulling me onto the right tracks.” Amir and Dryden nod their heads in agreement.

“I wasn’t great in school,” he continues, “and growing up as a young boy, music or football are your only options. If you don’t have a music centre and the opportunity to get involved and get creative, that can push you in the wrong direction.”

Fortunately, he hooked up with Kesi and Leon playing football and they soon realised they had a shared interest in music. They started DJing together on pirate radio, then bumped into Amir at their studio and “suddenly it was like ‘click’,” says Piers. Rudimental was formed.

They get excited about the prospect of playing alongside Jay-Z. I ask them who else they would like to collaborate with and Piers informs me that most collaborations on their wish list are dead. Amir quickly reminds him that Lauryn Hill or Cee Lo Green would be quite good to work with.

For their first album they are aiming to use only lesser-known artists. Eager to discover new talent and not just rely on collaborations with established artists, they pluck vocalists from bands they have performed with. This is how they met John Newman, the vocalist on Feel the Love.

In a few years, when Rudimental are firmly established, they would like to do more work with young people. “We’ll open up the Rudimental Academy,” Amir jokes. Piers steps in with a more serious tone: “It’s close to our hearts, we were like these kids.”

Rudimental will be judging the Hackney vs Harlem talent show at Hackney Empire in June and will offer three days in the studio to the winner. They will also be touring throughout the summer, playing Creamfields, Outlook Festival, Lounge on the Farm and a few dates in Canada.

So what are their goals? Playing Jools Holland would be nice, they agree, but only if he plays piano with them. Otherwise the ultimate aim, at the moment, is Glastonbury main stage: a massive show. “Thousands of people singing along to your song,” says Piers, “that’s the dream.”

For more go to Rudimental.


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