Normally one looks towards the United States for some of the world's most soulful acts, but recently the music industry has turned its gaze across the pond towards the UK for some of the best new talented breed of acts combining soul with various elements of pop, house and hip-hop. One of those artists leading the way is UK electronic band Rudimental, comprised of Piers Agget, Amir Amor, Kesi Dryden and DJ Locksmith and the foursome are prepping the release of their sophomore album We The Generation. We recently had the chance to catch up with the group for an interview to discuss their album and who they decided to collaborate with on the project. They have worked with young, budding artists like MNEK and John Newman in the past and continue that trend with the likes of Anne-Marie and Will Heard, but also were able to grab some of their "bucket list" collaborations with artists like Steely Dan's Donald Fagen, Bobby Womack, George Clinton and others.
Music Times: How'd you choose the collaborators on the album?
Piers: We didn't ever sit down and go, 'right we want this man, that man, that man.' We've never done that. It's a very free form networking style, which is how we made the first album. In the case of Foy Vance, Ed Sheeran introduced us to him and he's a got a great voice and we were like 'let's write a song together.' For the example of MNEK, he shares our studio and always has for the last six, seven years so collaborating with him always happens. It really does boil down to this new album we wanted to tick off a few off our bucket list. We managed to get George Clinton, Max Romeo, Bobby Womack, Donald Fagen on the album.
They weren't planned meetings; they were very organic in every single one of those. Bobby Womack we met two or three years ago and he came up and was like, "that was amazing" and we were like, "oh my god you're amazing." George Clinton was a very similar thing. We met him and found a connection through my friend's mom who knew him really well.
MT: Didn't she used to date him?
Piers: Yeah, exactly. These organic situations are how we work, it's not always something that's set up by the label or set up by people around us; we've got to make it happen ourselves. We go to the gigs, like we went to George Clinton's gig and went to meet him with the intention of telling him that story.
Locksmith: At the same time, we always want to work with undiscovered talent, talent that you've never heard of before but you will in the future to come.
MT: Like John Newman.
Locksmith: Yeah, like John Newman or Ella Eyre. They're actually still trying to find themselves, but they have grown tremendously since working with them. And we've done the same thing with some of the vocalists that we've got on this new album, the likes of Will Heard and Anne-Marie. Anne-Marie especially as we've signed her to our record label called Major Toms; and it's a way of us providing a platform for these artists to express themselves musically and they also sing with us live. So it's a kind of a good way to keep them singing with us live, make our live show the best it can be as well and hopefully in a couple years use them as a pension fund and then can owe some money for us [laughs].
But on a serious note, we never really plan out whom we want to vocal our tracks. The way we work is so organic it's unreal, I feel like I've used that word a million times today but it's the truth. We get in the studio and we jam out our ideas with each other, we write lyrics to the songs together mostly and we go out, and we look for vocalists to vocal our tracks. And sometimes we get a vocalist in during a writing session and that's the way we work. And if their voice sounds perfect for the song then they'll say on the song. If it doesn't, then we continue to search, and we go out there and we try to find the next best thing.
I think that's what's deterred us from working with, apart from the legends like Bobby Womack and Steely Dan and what not, that's what's deterred us from working with the likes of the Beyonce and other high-profile names because we're still trying to find ourselves at the end of the day. I know we might be two albums in, or an album and a half in because we haven't released the second album, but at the same time, we're still trying to find and refine our sound each and every day. We're learning stuff about each other all the time and I feel like if you do work with those A-list celebrity vocalists, sometimes that gets suppressed. But at the same time, if their voice is right for the song then who are we to say no?
MT: How'd you link up with Steely Dan? What song are they on?
Amir: It came from the most random moment in one of our meetings with one of our managers and right at the end of the meeting, he asked, "Who do you want to work with just tell me anyone?" And literally as a joke I said Donald Fagen from Steely Dan and he said "Yeah I could do that." And a few weeks later we found ourselves in a studio in New York and he did turn up and he knew our songs. He knew "Not Giving In" and he seemed to be inspired by our music. It was really amazing to have a person of his stature complementing our music.
We warmed up together; we spend a couple of days together; we jammed together. He was on his keyboard and we all played live together. We recorded a couple of songs and on this album part of what we decided to use for this record is a little spoken word piece that he did. So it's tucked away on the album on one of the songs, it'll be a little present. There are a few little surprises for people, especially for fans of soul music and funk music and that kind of stuff. There's a few little surprises in there.
Locksmith: Listen to every track 'till the end.
Amir: Yeah, it's definitely an album, which is, we like to think of it as a piece. Naturally, it works that way with us. It's definitely not intentional because we can't plan anything like that to save our lives, but it comes together nicely. So listen to the songs and watch out for the little secret bits.