Ivy Lab: Off The Beaten Track
As a trio, Ivy Lab have established themselves as one of the most respected acts in the scene in a relatively short period of time. At the forefront of the half-time movement, they’ve carved their own sound and continue to push the boundaries when it comes to their own productions and curating their hugely successful 20/20 club nights.
Their impressive 20 Questions EP, released on Critical earlier this year, further cemented their versatility as artists with an incredibly diverse body of work. From breathtaking liquid rollers, to grimey half-time riddims, the EP was a perfect testament to their wizardry in the studio, and a good indication they’re in top form, as always.
Enter MTA Records – returning to Oval Space in East London on the 19th of June for another huge event, they’ve recruited Ivy Lab to join the already huge line-up, including DJ Zinc, Big Narstie, Dimension and a very special guest TBA.
We caught up with the trio to chat about the event, their favourite rollers, and more, plus we caught wind of an LP in the works and plans to turn 20/20 into a label. Big tings…
Big up fellas, long time no chat! Where are you joining us from today?
Hey! We’re at the studio today, not too far from your offices. Our boy Alix Perez is knocking about and we’re wrapping up a batch of collabs we got going on.
You’ve just been announced as headliners for MTA Home @ Oval Space in June – BIG! How’d the connection with MTA come about?
Seb from their team has been a long time supporter of our stuff and when we started doing experiments with Hip-Hop influences he asked us to come through and try our hands as beatsmiths for some of the MTA rappers. Since then we’ve just feeding over demos as and when we make ’em.
With such a diverse repertoire of releases under MTA’s belt, do you feel like you’ll feel a bit more comfortable playing material at the gig that you wouldn’t usually get a chance to play at other events?
Yeah the vast majority of our live shows happen within the mainstay drum & bass circuit but we’re also massive advocates of the halftime movement …. You do get a few moaning purists but the crowds tend to join you on the journey. Shows like this do provide a greater license to go really off the beaten track, and that works great for us ‘cos we got serious serious heat in the record bag that doesn’t often see the light of day.
Fave MTA release to date?
Dream Mclean – Sloe Gin by a country mile. That Manc twat Dub Phizix did okay with the remix and all too.
We haven’t spoken since the incredible 20 Questions EP came out on Critical a couple of months back.. Serious kudos are in order. You guys continue to push the genre forward with your own flavor. Love the way you incorporate the half-time stuff while still smashing out the original rollers… How did the concept for this EP come together?
On a spiritual or artistic level there’s not a lot of concept behind the project, but on a practical level it was really important for us to up the proportion of halftime stuff that featured on our releases because we’re on the cusp on investing ourselves fairly heavily into that movement.. I guess we just wanted to show a bit of breadth and showcase the span of our taste.
Is there a story behind the artwork?
Its essentially a bit of home-made pop art we created by reconfiguring and editing an Art Deco childrens book illustration. The concept and process is exactly the same as was used on the artwork for our previous E.P for Critical “Missing Persons” . We’re hoping to turn this into a series of images with a consistent use of colour blocking, organic edges and bare-minimum typography.
There is something about Gomeisa that gets me every time I listen to it.. The name reflects the vibe perfectly, truly interstellar…. For me it’s the perfect roller really.. it’s smooth and yet has those crunchier / darker sounds sprinkled throughout… How did this particular track come together and was it inspired by anything in particular?
Gomeisa is at its core a reversioning of a previous beat of ours called “Baby Grey” that contained a lot of very versatile components that we were really keen to reinterpret. We’re all fans of glitchy techstep sonics but part of our trademark is tempering them with placement alongside quite lush, spaced-out melodies and that concept is largely at play here too.
What do you think constitutes a perfect roller and do you have a top 3?
At its core it’s a drum programming issue; Snappy snare, a modest kick drum (nothing too shouty) and swung drum fills that offer funk and pace…… oh and lots of repetition/ looping without too many jerky halts or crescendos.
1/ Ryme Tyme – Frogger
2/ Konflict – Celestial
3/ Noisia & Phace – Floating Zero
Nice selection! Can’t chat 20 Questions without discussing the title track.. It’s seriously smooth and for me one of your best tracks to date. What’s the story behind the video?
Its kind of a Texas-blues sort of flavour. Feisty old broad with a drinking problem telling it how it is to her whipped toyboy lover who’s got caught out playing games behind her back. She aint angry – she’s seen too many years to get angry over trifling, she’s just dropping wisdom on him while puffing her 30th cigarette of the day letting him know he aint really shit.
More and more we’re seeing producers breaking down the conventions of what constitutes as ‘D&B’, and I think you guys, as well as producers like Alix Perez, Fracture, Om Unit and a bunch of others have really been at the forefront of that movement, bringing the half-time / hip-hop roots to your productions and not sticking to a particular formula.. Are there any particular artists who inspired your sound and this particular approach to production?
Across the collective Clams Casino is a huge inspiration if not a direct influence. Stray definitely has a soft spot for Dilla-esque smoothness…..Sabre has that whole eerie RZA vibe to his ideas.. and Halogenix has got a lot of Mr.Carmack influences to his stuff. Clearly brainfeeder and stones-throw artists like Mono/Poly, Jon Wayne, Fly Lo etc. are pivotal. Could probably throw Ta-Ku, Eprom and Esta in there too.
How do you guys work on a track these days? We’re seeing a lot of producers work together online rather than in the studio.. Do you still find you work best when you combine your collaborative efforts in the studio?
We’re all North London based so linking up to work on stuff isn’t actually that problematic and we try and get about 30 hours a week booked in to work together…. but we also all work on fairly humble setups with a lot of the same equipment so moving projects from one studio to another is common. It’s sometimes happens that one member will start an idea, message the others to let them know a draft is on our cloud storage ready for someone else to flesh out. Its no replacement for all being in the same room though.
On to the 20/20 front – your 1st birthday is coming up in June. Hard to believe it’s already been a year! Big ups! Did you expect the night to become as successful as it has?
We always knew the event was covering unique territory and could become a success if we put in the effort and ran the project with the right intentions, but getting to where we are in 12 months has been a bit of a shock ! It’s very affirming though, and probably led to us accelerating our efforts to secure our place at the heart of this new half-time movement. Every 8 weeks we get a very visible demonstration as to the potential of the genre, and that spurns us on to create fresh music in preparation for the next event.
Some of your 20/20 highlights from this year?
They’ve all been ridiculous to be honest, we never expected what the reception would be like, we just wanted to create a vibe where we could play new beats.. The first party we did, everyone smashed their sets, Om Unit came on and destroyed the place with an all vinyl set of old Jungle, then when we came on, ready to play all these half-time things that no-one had really heard before, we started off and people lost their proverbial shit…
What’s planned next for the series? You’ve just announced you’re doing a boat party at Outlook, right? That’s huge!
Yeah sometimes it feels like getting the boat party hookup is punching above our weight, but fuck it – we’ve been grafting! Up next has to be more 20/20 events outside of London. We did a room at a Big Bristolian NYE party and that city has got love for the sound, but we’re also getting a lot of fan-mail asking us to bring it to their city so we’re looking to make that happen…. The bigger picture beyond that ? 20/20 will most likely turn into a record label at some point.
BIG! So what’s coming up next for Ivy Lab, is an LP on the cards at any point?
Yeah there’ll be one coming soon and TBH its pretty much all written already. We’re thinking we may even combine it into the 20/20 record label project somehow but there’s details to iron out.
Can’t wait for that!! 🙂 Final shouts?
R.I.P Charles Kennedy
Catch Ivy Lab at MTA HOME @ Oval Space 19th June. Tickets available here.