It was a boiling hot 5th August in South East London.
I travelled from Brixton to Greenwich with a rucksack containing all the essentials – laptop, microphone, mixer and all cables necessary to connect all things together, and probably most importantly (due to the heat) a large bottle of water. I was there to meet a young and incredibly talented group- The Mud. I had come across just a couple of months ago through an email sent to me by Luis, the manager of the group, who introduced their debut EP Sungazer to me. For some reason I didn’t cover the project until a month later, when I decided to finally have a listen, and was blown away by the group’s chemistry as a whole.
I met the guys outside the Cutty Sark ship, 4 tall and quiet guys who seemed a bit reluctant at the idea of meeting someone randomly for an interview, which I suppose is fair enough. With the sun beaming down on us and being surrounded by large crowds of people, we walked quietly towards Greenwich park where we would find a relatively quiet place to sit in the shade by some trees. I set everything up, and we were good to go.
I first wanted to find out what their names and roles within the group were, just to provide a bit of context before I jumped in with questions. First off, there was SHAKE OF ARFA, who mainly plays guitar while providing some vocals as well. Next, there was “BEARLY, aka CHILL BILL, aka RICO TEASE,” who writes raps and occasionally produces. Next, YOUNG TURKISH, who is the main producer and finally Luis, aka SUGAR RAY who is the art director and manager.
I wanted to ask them how they got together and how the group formed, to which CHILL BILL responded: “Me and my man YOUNG TURKISH, we did a radio show on Mixcloud, cause we wanted to get into some music stuff and just do something, and then we kind of know each other through mutual friends, but we never really spoke, but then he (pointing to Luis) heard our shit on the radio and we played and like the same music, so I guess he thought it was tight and he messaged me, and then from there I was just saying that if he needed anyone to DJ anything that I’d be down. He said that him and some other friends of ours were doing a show in the club down the road ‘Up The Creek’ so we were originally gonna DJ at that place but then after like a week or something I just asked whether I can do like a set of raps and then, here we all are today.” They said they started in April this year, and SHAKE OF ARFA took the mic to say: “I’m in [another] band and we do shows together, doing shows with other bands as well.”
Then a few of their friends just happened to walk by, so little interlude while they say hi and all that.
I wanted to ask then just out of curiosity, and was kinda blown away when they told me they were 17. I told them awkwardly how most of my favourite artists are “basically all my favourite artists are either my age or younger, and it’s crazy to me to kind of see this new generation of young artists come through, so what are your thoughts on the scene in London, because in my opinion it’s kind of booming at the moment with a lot of like, jazz and hip-hop seems like it’s on the rise as well. Any thoughts on that?” Luis reemphasised the fact that SHAKE OF ARFA is in a band and there’s a whole scene developing around that King Krule punk- like sound, but also from the likes of Rago Foot and Sub Luna City, hip-hop in London has gained a voice through young talented artists. They’re looking to expand on that and build their presence within their community.
“As you start to develop and grow as an artist, as like a collaborative effort, the more personal aspect of things come out and the more like generic side of what we’re doing is slowly being lost, because everyone’s progressing into something that’s gonna become more personalised to us.”
In terms of musical influences, SHAKE OF ARFA stated King Krule as a major influence as he found a way to marry punk, trip-hop, hip-hop and jazz together so effortlessly. CHILL BILL stated MF DOOM and Earl Sweatshirt as influences on his rap style, but is also influenced by Ethiopian music and jazz. YOUNG TURKISH states Knxwledge as the main influence, mainly from a beatmaking perspective. SUGAR RAY stated that his 4 biggest inspirations are “Tyler, The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Childish Gambino and Mac Miller”. The DIY aspect of making art is what drew them to the likes of Odd Future and inspired them to make music in the first place.
I wanted to switch the conversation to deeper topics such as whether “your environment has impacted you, I suppose on a personal level and on a musical level as well.” More specifically I wanted to touch on the idea of creativity and musical output being influenced heavily by the environment. SHAKE OF ARFA said “I think in London there’s like an environment to kinda do what you want in a way, there’s so much going on musically, like there’s people who are into jazz, there’s people who are into like soul and punk, there’s like everything.” “For me, I would never be into hip-hip or anything if it wasn’t for these guys. Even to combine guitar music to hip-hop, like that would never comr about if we weren’t living in London. There’s an attitude where you could do what you want.” CHILL BILL contributed an interesting thought as well, stating that “As you start to develop and grow as an artist, as like a collaborative effort, the more personal aspect of things come out and the more like generic side of what we’re doing is slowly being lost, because everyone’s progressing into something that’s gonna become more personalised to us.” London has this environment of creative freedom that gives them the opportunity, as SUGAR RAY later said “block all these negative people out” and focus on their own movement. South London being so multicultural and diverse has resulted in them being more comfortable to experiment.
“We’re still at the point of where, we can’t go out to anyone and say ‘we’re musicians’ because we’re still stuck in the school for 6 hours everyday, kinda doing shit that we don’t want to do because we kinda have to.”
I later asked whether they are “still trying to build on your identity or do you think it’s there, so you just push forward from there?” This is the point where I felt like CHILL BILL would lead the conversation. He was very introspective that day, really taking in what I had asked and trying to formulate a cohesive answer. “The skeleton of it [the identity and vision] has been there for the most part, for pretty much the whole time from when we started. Because I remember before we made the first project we sat down and just has a long-arse conversation about where this was trying to be moved into, so there’s always been, like the vision to make sure that we’re all on the same wavelength. And we all kind of have the same identity, we’re all trying to be in the same way I guess. It’s more actually fleshing out and showing who we are through the music that has been continuing, every project I think, the understanding of what we’re trying to do and who we’re trying to be is what’s growing from it.” SHAKE OF ARFA said that he’s always looking to progress by working with different people and experimenting with different sounds as a means to grow as an artist.
CHILL BILL later adds, “on the topic of identity, especially for me, we’re all in kind of like a very transitional point in all of our lives, and I was thinking about this because we’re going to start making a full length album, probably today actually, and I was thinking about this and everything that I’ve made so far has kind of been touching on it, but the main thing for me is that we’re all kinda stuck in this limbo, in some way lost because at this age it’s kind of difficult not to be. We’re still at the point of where, we can’t go out to anyone and say ‘we’re musicians’ because we’re still stuck in the school for 6 hours everyday, kinda doing shit that we don’t want to do because we kinda have to. We’re not adults, but we’re not not adults, if you know what I mean. And obviously there’s the test and tribulations of growing up, not feeling like you necessarily belong. For me, I’ve felt lost for a very long time, and I feel like this is kind of the place where I’ve felt like we’ve belonged collectively.” He goes on to talk about their future and trying to figure things out still.
“I think the sky, to me anyway, you can like see a lot of like the dreaming, the world is yours kind of aspect of it. Also, like when the sky changes, so does my feelings, that kind of thing.”
I then moved on to their creative process and how they work together. SUGAR RAY mentioned that after a show that didn’t particularly go to plan they got together and spoke seriously for about 45 minutes on how to really make things work. “There was a clear vision, and just from that it helped a lot. And then there’s an aesthetic with that project as well [Home By The AM] it’s cohesive.” YOUNG TURKISH talked about how the recording process wasn’t as clear as it could have been, having a different process to it. “For example, “Windowsill,” we were planning to record an then Bailey [CHILL BILL] came in and said “I want to take this and loop it. Then he played me the D’Angelo sample that “Everybody Loves The Sunshine,” his version of it, we looped and recorded it. Sometimes that’s how it works, we’d take a sample and do something with it. And then sometimes I’ll make a beat and then they’ll want to use it and someone would rap on it. And then when we made “SE”, that was a bit of a turning point because it was like when we all came in together, when we were there. It started off with, I’d done like a piano, lowkey sample and drums and then Flynn [SHAKE OF ARFA] like got on there and just tore it up, and then it’s like we start off with an idea of what we want it to sound like, like a kind of tone or ambience and then it just goes off and ends up somewhere else.” SHAKE OF ARFA chimed in and added “it’s kind of like a spontaneous thing, like if I compare it to how I record with my band, we’ll have a song, rehearse it for like three weeks or four weeks and then we’ll go into the studio and we’ll record it, but with this it’s kind of spontaneous. There’s more room to experiment.”
“With rapping, it’s less of just trying to say things, I’m more trying to kind of carve out a picture of something in someone’s mind. I’m trying to paint in words what I see in my mind. So it’s less of telling people that I’m sad or happy but more creating the moments where these feelings originate from.”
For one of their songs they found a horrible horror film sample that sounded super distorted with some weird jazz playing in the background. There was a video concept born from it, as SUGAR RAY explained, which is he brings to the table in terms of the creative process. The visuals are always important! CHILL BILL contributed, saying the creative process “normally comes from things or habits at points in time, where I just find myself doing stuff and Sungazer, for me I have a thing about looking at the sky. I think with looking at the sky, it gave me mixed feelings like there’s lots of… I think the sky, to me anyway, you can like see a lot of like the dreaming, the world is yours kind of aspect of it. Also, like when the sky changes, so does my feelings, that kind of thing.” He adds “In terms of writing raps, it’s just a thing of I’ll hear something, and then I can… there’s like pictures that I can see, so when ” Same Ol’ Waltz” came on, the beat was finished, there was just like a feeling of, I don’t know whether you’ve experienced it, but sometimes I just feel like the whole world is like condensed into one room, and like everything like encloses you. Like everything is just on top of you, drowning and shit, and that’s how that came to me. With rapping, it’s less of just trying to say things, I’m more trying to kind of carve out a picture of something in someone’s mind. I’m trying to paint in words what I see in my mind. So it’s less of telling people that I’m sad or happy but more creating the moments where these feelings originate from.” SUGAR RAY just adds “and getting it to resonate with people, which I think is starting to happen slowly.” “We never make music for anyone or compromise in any way.” People have started to feel their music on more of an emotional level and they’re really feeling that manifest into something special.
“But in terms of talking about shit I want to say, it’s not really been a problem so far because we haven’t tried to make an album that is trying to fit everyone’s aesthetic, like these guys so far have been happy to just make music that fits the aesthetic that I’m trying”
Next I had a question for CHILL BILL in particular, as I was interested to know whether his personal raps sometimes restrict his own creative process. What he had to say was interesting. “Especially between me and this man [YOUNG TURKISH] there’s sometimes moments of discord where I kind of… I write something, without like a particular beat in mind and then I try and ask for something that that will be the vessel for holding those feelings, and sometimes I’m like nah. But it doesn’t ever really resort in anger because me and this man [YOUNG TURKISH] we’re like fuckin’ brothers. So we never really fight about anything, but it does cause blockade creatively, especially because it feels like just for moments it’s not really working and like we’re kind of… we have to step away from that for a while and then come back to it. I think it affects him more than it affects me because sometimes… especially when you work as closely with someone who produces, it can dishearten… I think it disheartens you sometimes, like you can’t, you feel like he’s kinda not doing his job properly. It’s more me sometimes asking too much of him, like I’m trying to be like “yeah, see my mind,” and then put it into sound, which can be kind of challenging for him. But in terms of talking about shit I want to say, it’s not really been a problem so far because we haven’t tried to make an album that is trying to fit everyone’s aesthetic, like these guys so far have been happy to just make music that fits the aesthetic that I’m trying. But we’ve made some more collaborative songs and it’s fun for me also to sometimes because I don’t want to seem like I’m always crying about, or just moping about shit that I feel about all the time. It’s also good to make different stuff to dislike personal introspect… I don’t want to say introspect because it sounds fucked up when I say it, but there’s just like things with me, trying to paint pictures of myself, my life. Like I’m not a super dark dude all the time and I think that it can come across that I’m like some sort of tortured soul. I don’t really know how it appears, I kind of just write it an say it and just think I’m me. But with the less serious shit, I can be the little arse kid that I am if you know me personally.”
SHAKE OF ARFA says that they let CHILL BILL be himself. “There’s definitely a different power dynamic in terms of creative power. For me, I’m just doing what I can do around what you want to do. This is all new to me, like this is not music I would choose to make.” CHILL BILL mentions that “Everyone is in the process of growing into their own in this space and I just think that the way that it’s worked so far is as a consequence of me being the one having the clearest ideas, kind of at the start, so when it came to actually making stuff and having stuff to say and write, I was kind of in the right moment to take this thing forward. It comes across that way because not everyone else has been wanting to rap that frequently, like I’m the only person… it’s gotten to the point of where I kind of need to rap, it’s a release for me. It’s a space to talk about things that… a lot of the time I don’t want to talk about things because it makes me feel like an idiot but when I rap about them, I can say it in a way that I don’t feel stupid, kind of thing. And that’s where it kind of just all spawns from, just being able to say stuff, and it’s also like a place to say it without people that I don’t want to hear these things… like I can say stuff and it’s outside their control, I can say whatever I want when I feel like I want to rap.” He goes on to emphasise the fact that the creative process is becoming less of him making music for himself and being the centre of creativity. It’s a more collaborative effort, especially for their full length debut they’re working on at the moment.
Speaking of their debut album, I asked the final question – “what does the future hold for you guys?” and CHILL BILL‘s response was simply to “make an excellent fucking album.” Should I end it there? Basically, they just want to be able to create in a free spirited and creative environment, and eventually meet Gucci Mane and get lots of money.
You can listen to the full interview below, and I apologise in advance for my poor mic control, the audio quality wasn’t great, but for a first vocal interview in a while I think it’s alright. Thanks a lot to the guys for taking the time out of their busy creative schedule to meet up, it was a fascinating conversation. We apologise to the person near the end who interrupted us to ask for spare change, we really didn’t have any mate. You can check my review of their Sungazer EP here, and check out their excellent new release Home By The AM below via Soundcloud. Make sure to support!