If you don’t know Ivy Lab as the drum & bass super-group they are, then you will know the groups individual members, Stray, Sabre and Halogenix. Their first big release ‘Oblique’ was a perfect introduction to the groups intentions: breathtakingly delicious drum & bass to rival anything out there today.
We featured Ivy Lab in our ‘Get To Know’ segment in January, and with the EP now released, it seems you might not have a choice whether you get to know or not. Although the groups Missing Persons E.P. has only just been released, it is already being billed as one of the best drum & bass releases you’re likely to hear in 2014, with Metalheadz CEO Goldie describing their work as both avant-garde, and celestial. The handmade ‘Ivy Edition’ of the E.P. sold out in three minutes, with 50 lucky vinyl heads bagging themselves a copy. This year should see big things for the Ivy Lab boys. We caught up to talk about drum & bass music today, collaborations, and of course – the new EP.
Hi guys, how are you doing?
All well thanks. We’ve been real busy and productive.
How long has the Missing Persons EP been in the work for?
Far too long. It should’ve been wrapped up in June 2013, but the tracklist kept evolving and new beats kept emerging that fought their way into contention. Only “Pepper” and “Missing Persons” made it on there from the batch of beats originally intended for the record – and even those two are unrecognisable from their original state.
Can you tell us who these Missing Persons are?!
It’s not that we have specific people that the title track is based around, it’s more a metaphor for the tone of the music, especially the string section.
‘Live On Your Smile’ is getting some airplay right now, notably as Frictions Fire Track for this week on Radio 1. Talk us through the process of making something as special as this.
“Live On Your Smile”; though it had a few different incarnations, was always based around a core three-note bass hook which we instantly identified as being catchy and worthy of a killer vocal to do the track justice. The drums were changed a lot from the early demo versions of this tune – originally they were a bit heavier, but we ended up opting for a lighter and more rolling break to suit what the track had become by that stage.
Which track on the EP took the longest to perfect?
“Missing Persons” took us around 2 years to get right, which is certainly not a practise we intend on repeating in the future. Part of the reason it took so long to perfect was the difficulty (mainly from a mixdown perspective) in marrying the vibe of the intro and breakdown with the main rolling sections of the track.
How did you end up coming together as a group?
We all knew each other separately and had been coming together in different combinations for about a year before all 3 of us sat down together to objectively write some music. We’re all North London guys too, which certainly played a part.
How would you describe your style? In three words please. One each would be great.
Can we have an Ivy Lab fact that no one knows?
The first moniker that was coined as a collective name was “Syprus Ivy”… but it sounded too much like “Cyprus Hill”, so we canned it.
How do you feel that your output as Ivy Lab differs from anything you may have put out individually?
There’s certainly a bit of crossover, but the quality of the finish on Ivy Lab beats tend to be a little more sophisticated. This is partly because more manpower can easily translate into more man-hours spent on a track, but also because we can act as a filter to each other’s input; reigning back or egging-on as required.
2012’s ‘Oblique’ was massive. Did you feel a certain amount of pressure off the back of that success?
In a way. Our audience certainly hinted that they wanted more of the same so there was a musical imperative we had to take into account. In terms of success of the project though, we didn’t come away from Oblique worrying whether we could maintain a standard.
How did the collaborations with Frank come about?
We discovered Frank by way of an A Cappella that J (Stray) had knocking around on his computer. When we were in the studio making Oblique, it surfaced, and there was no real question as to the suitability of his voice to the track. We contacted him asking him if he was cool with us using his vocals and have corresponded with him directly ever since.
So far, each of your releases have shown great versatility, showcasing contrasting sounds. Does this come naturally with having three different brains on one project?
Yeah, and especially since each of us individually also have quite wide-spanning tastes. One thing that we all have in common is a desire to keep switching things up and to continue to challenge ourselves.
Production wise, have you learned anything from each other during the last two years working as a trio?
Most certainly, it’s an inevitability that there is to be a certain degree of learning when you put three people in the same room and ask them to work together. It’s part of the beauty of working in a team that you’ve always got the experience and knowledge of your peers to support you.
It seems you’ve got drum and bass down to a T. Do you think you’re likely to expand your creative repertoire and explore different tempos?
No doubt, and there can’t be many heads we’d be surprising in doing so. We would definitely stick to genres that we collectively feel we can take ownership of, so to speak. You won’t see us breaking away and writing in a style that doesn’t already hold some pre-existing history or sentimentality to each of us.
Apart from what’s going on at Critical, how do you feel about the current state of drum & bass music?
The ‘new’ fusion between drum & bass and hip-hop has definitely reinvigorated the scene a little, you’ve got producers crossing over from all kinds of genres now which is pretty refreshing. Music at 85/170 BPM seems to be making its way into more and more people’s playlists which ultimately means that the scene experiences a fresh audience.
Niceties aside, who has the most annoying studio habits?
Both J (Stray) and Laurence (Halogenix) spring and shake their ankles whilst sitting. Our entire studio shakes as a result. TAP TAP TAP TAP FUCKING TAP TAP TAP TAP TAP.. SHUT UP.
What does 2014 hold for Ivy Lab?
A bit of this… a bit of that. Maybe a spot of club promotion, definitely another single or two – and of course we want to push the envelope on our “Ivy Edition” – our custom-design packaging project.
Who else should be looking out for in the next 12 months?
To name a few…. Darkhouse Fam, Mr. Carmack, Deft, Great Dane, Sinistarr, Lau:ren, Bruce Da-bGL, War, Kitty Beats.
Grab yourself a copy of Ivy Labs ‘Missing Persons EP’ from our download store
Check out the new Ivy Lab website
If you missed it, check out the teams guest mix on Friction’s Radio 1 show