5 Minutes With: Contra
With their Kokoro EP making waves on LionDub International’s latest Street Series, Contra have been turning heads and flaunting a serious sophistication in their production.
Flawlessly switching between ethereal liquid to screw-face inducing jungle, the producers are hitting all the right notes and are clearly feeling inspired, even if they are split across different corners of the globe.
We caught up for a chat about the EP, their influences and more…
Yes fellas, thanks for taking the time to chat! Are you all based in London?
No worries! We’re all over the world at the moment. Me (Max) and Chris are in London, Bradley’s in Australia and Charlie’s in Canada at the moment. Three of us grew up in South West London and I met Charlie in Bristol around 2008.
Citizens of the world! You guys just dropped the Kokoro EP as part of Liondub’s Street Series. The EP is straight up fire from start to finish! How long did it take to piece together?
Like a Ghost had been sitting around for 3 or 4 years and the rest of the tracks were put together across a few months. Each track was made from start to finish in the space of a couple of weeks.
Wow, you guys work fast! How did the link with Liondub come about?
I listen to the Kool FM show & the first track I sent him was Days of P. He got in touch pretty quick asking for more and the idea for an EP came soon after. We’ve had releases on some liquid labels previously but for Liondub to show interest was something new & exciting.
We need to talk about the title track. Something about this track breaks my heart. Beautifully melancholic and deliciously smooth… What’s the story behind it?
Chris started Kokoro and it sounded very different at the time. I think we pulled all of the melodic elements and synths & piano out of the original and reworked the drums around that. Definitely not our normal workflow but it worked.
What‘s the significance of the title Kokoro?
I think Kokoro is Japanese for spirit (although I don’t speak Japanese!). It doesn’t have much more significance beyond the vibe we are going for when making our music.
I have to ask the significance of the title “Days Of P”… What is P in this instance?
I’ve been informed that it’s a well kept secret!
Let’s chat about the monster that is Like a Ghost then – When I first listened to the EP all the way through I honestly almost fell off my chair when I heard that first drop. Was NOT expecting that!! Some proper jungle influences in that one, and I love how even amongst the rowdiness you managed to throw in those proper uplifting synths..Did anything in particular inspire this track?
(Charlie) I was just trying to avoid making tracks that were too heavily influenced by the popular D&B at the time. It’s inspired by the music I grew up listening to, Total Science all the way through to Aphex Twin. We were collecting a lot of hardware at the time and the drive to develop our own style definitely shaped that track.
Moving Time has a real sophistication to it. You guys have a really refined sound – where/ when did you all learn to produce?
Charlie and I studied Audio & Music Technology together so we picked up quite a lot there. We ran a label in Bristol called Heavyweight Product and produced for that under the alias Drop ‘n’ Roll. We’d all been DJing for a few years and in Bristol the natural progression is to end up in the studio. Got a lot of love for Bristol!
The Light is an infectious lil’ stepper. Really love the groove on this one. The way you’ve managed to balance the vibe throughout the EP is impressive. From smooth, to roller, to straight up jungle wall-slapper, to a slightly sinister stepper… Was that intentional? Or generally how you like to operate?
The tracks weren’t written as part of one project, Erik Liondub had the vision to put them all together. I think that between the four of us we have a diverse style but it’s nice to not be tied down to a particular ‘sound’. Gives us a bit more freedom in the studio to do whatever we feel like.
There are 4 members of Contra – how do you split the workload between you?
This is obviously more difficult when we’re split across several continents… the London crew are in the studio regularly and we’re always in touch with the others bouncing ideas & samples around. A tune will usually start with one of us and we’ll all have at least some input before it’s finished. We also have quite different hardware & software setups so that is sometimes a challenge but we make it work.
What’s been blasting through your speakers lately and which releases have been getting you nodding?
I saw Goldie & the Heritage Orchestra perform Timeless last year and that really got me back onto the earlier stuff. Been listening to Photek tracks and old Loxy & Ink mixtapes. Also Noisia have a weekly podcast which we are really feeling at the moment, such a mix of top quality music.
What’s coming up next for you guys then?
We’ve had recent releases on DNBB & Influenza so it’s heads down in the studio for the time being, but we also co-run an event called Heavyweight (check the event page here). The London launch last year went down well and we have a few more parties planned for this year. We’re available for bookings too so hit us up on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Final shout outs?
Big shouts to Liondub for pushing the EP and to everyone that has supported it so far!
Kokoro is out now. Get it here.