The Untitled Magazine caught up with rising stars Rudimental last week while they were in town for a performance in New York City’s Central Park with Emile Sande. The electro-soul quartet is known for their original sound, mixing jungle and garage sounds with a soul flavor. The UK based band has risen to the top of the charts in the past year with #1 hits including “Feel the Love.” We chatted with them about their musical influences, their recent performances including the UK festival Glastonbury, and how they keep it real in the midst of their ever-growing success.
Indira Cesarine: Amazing to meet you. We loved your performance in Central Park – you really know how to get the crowd going. Tell me – how did it all start? Where did you meet?
Rudimental: We all grew up together and went to school together, just playing in football (soccer) teams together. We started making music from a really early age. We lived around the corner from each other in East London, Hackney, Camden, and North London. We started out DJ’ing on pirate radio stations. We used to make music and work on tracks together in studio in East London. We have a background of pirate radio culture that we come from – which is kind of like DIY radio. That was how we were educated on dance music, jungle music, garage music. That was our upbringing and how we learnt about clubs and certain DJs, before the internet was the hub of everything, before Youtube – that was the platform. Pirate radio was a big thing and we were all involved in working and Djing at the stations.
IC: How long ago was Rudimental formed?
R: Rudimental has been together for about 6-7 years. We met Amir like 2 years ago and that’s when it became a four-piece band.
We have all been connected over the years in many different ways. We all actually went to the same school but we didn’t necessarily know each other. We grew up in the same environment, we had the same influences- we grew up with the pirate culture and dance music scene and the clubs, and you know – getting into clubs underage. We all play instruments and we all love soulful music. It’s that combination that brought us together.
Amir: I lived around the corner from Cool FM, which was one of the first jungle stations in Hackney. We come together to make music and we use those influences and mix it with musical instruments and the love for soul music from America. Artists like Marvin Gaye, Sly and The Family Stone. I think you can see that when we are on stage and how we perform. We are massively into blues as well as jazz. We’ve always had that kind of dream to create music that crosses over. I was running a studio East London which we all share and is our hub basically. I was producing for other people and doing stuff with hip hop artists, bands and things like that. It was really a breath of fresh air to meet and work with the boys properly because when you are a producer you always work to a brief but with Rudimental its complete freedom of sound. That’s why it sounds that way. Why there is trumpet sounds. We have built up this relationship with a family of musicians to draw upon when we need different singers. We would go out to open mike nights and this was how we met John Newman – we went to a pub. My sister said come and see this guy and he blew us away! We had a riff we had already written and we thought it would be great if he could sing that and then we just carried on working with him. We would go on searches for the artists a lot ourselves. When we were making the album it was done by a lot of A & R and it was done by us and we got really friendly with all the people that we worked with so it’s kind of like a little family.
IC: Amazing! So how did you come up with the band name Rudimental?
R: Kesi came up with it. He said he used to go to music lessons and his music teacher used to tell him he always forgets his book of “rudiments” which was like his book of basic rhythms. I think at first he called himself Mr. Rudiments or The Rudiments… When we started making music together he said we should make music “rudimental”. We are all pretty crazy – but the “rude” is ironic – we are nice guys.
IC: You’ve got a bit of “rude” and a bit of “mental” and a bit of everything else in there, I love it.
R: That’s it.
IC: How did you feel when your song “Feel The Love” went to number one and you had massive global recognition overnight?
R: It might have seemed like it was overnight but for us it didn’t feel like that because we were working on it for so long and you know we had a few singles out before then. It was sort of bubbling on the underground and we were building up a name for ourselves. The XX blogged us and we had some supporters which was really cool. “Feel The Love” was the first number one we had which went straight to the top of the charts. We all knew we had some magic there in with us since we all get together as a four piece a couple of years ago. All the songs we were writing, “Feel The Love” and “Not Giving In”, we thought were really good and had a lot of potential. For them to do well was not really expected it but we secretly did expect it – if that makes any sense. We knew they had power – but we just didn’t know how far they would go.
The good thing about it is that ”Feel The Love” musically covers so many different things – it actually opened up a lot of doors for us and gave us license to do anything we want really. Like if we want to put a trumpet solo in the middle of a song or put vocals on a drum and base track. We had some barriers at first with the labels saying it wasn’t hard enough. You need to make it more dub step or to be this and that. But the people vote with their feet and that made us able to create any kind of music that we wanted and create the music we wanted to create. It gave us the freedom and we knew there was an audience out there.
IC: You had another number one hit right after that?
R: We hit number one with “Waiting All Night” about five months later – actually it was nearly a year later. It was quite weird because when we wrote “Waiting All Night” we were saying this is going to be next years “Feel The Love,” and it was, yeah it was. It was almost like going to plan! It was freaky and we were on tour the time before that and finishing the tour in a hotel room and it was one of those gut feelings like we were playing in out live and we had a big reaction from the crowd and it was like there was something special about this song. We kind of went for it and our label wanted to choose another song and they weren’t really happy with our decision. That’s the good thing about us – we are stubborn as well. The album came out a couple of weeks later and went to number one and obviously was the biggest achievement for us and that was the main thing – because before that I guess people kind of saw us a single type of band.
But we still have a long way to go in terms of educating people about Rudimental. We are a live act we are not just a Dj group. You know we actually perform.
IC: You’ve have played a lot festivals haven’t you?
Out here in America you’ve literally got to do thousands of live shows and that’s what we are about at the moment. Because once you’ve seen a live act you understand a little bit more about who they are.
IC: Is there any particular festival or live performance that you’ve done that really stands out?
R: Outside Lands in America that was by far the best. It’s in San Francisco. That was amazing because it felt like one of our earlier gigs in the UK. They have all been amazing and gotten a really good reaction out here, even better than what we’ve got from the UK at first. It started off with a couple of thousand people and then it was building up and by the end of it, it was crazy. Out here there is a real transition from the start of the set. There are a lot of confused people thinking what is this? Because they are expecting to see a DJ and there is dance music played live and then after a couple of songs people are clapping and dancing. It’s so good to see and so enlightening to see people enjoying it by the end – to see the crowds expressions change. In the UK it’s been massive. We’ve just done V Fest and Beyoncé did that as well. We actually got a bigger crowd than Beyoncé!
IC: That’s exciting.
That’s the biggest crowd they’ve had in 5 years. It was 45,000 – 50,000 people! It was unreal! They had to stop people getting into the field because it was a health and safety risk and it was just the most crazy up for it crowd! I mean if anyone has been to Essex in England they know that they like to party and really drink.
IC: You’ve got a novelty by mixing all these types of genres and sounds that is quite original.
R: I think the key about us is that we have emotion in the music and people haven’t really seen emotion in dance music for a while… I don’t want to tread on people’s toes but there has been plus side to the whole dance music culture being massive over here. I personally think there hasn’t been much emotion in dance music to be honest with you. It’s become a little bit rigid and there is a place for emotion and it is cool.
We feel like the soul has been lost a bit and we are all about good vocals. That’s the key. It’s about people relating to the song. That what I mean – about relating to and connecting to the music.
IC: I understand Rudimental likes to promote troubled kids and using music as therapy for disadvantaged children. The subjects for your videos often highlight that. Can you tell me about this?
R: We came from working with young people before it all happened. One of our jobs we do is working as behavioral mentors. Mentoring young kids through music. We have all worked in youth centers and with young kids through music and it’s something that has been quite close to us because when we were growing up we had a similar path. There wasn’t much opportunity in our area. The only place to meet people and get creative was youth centers which aren’t around as much as they used to be because of various budget cuts. It’s something that’s really important to us and kind links to our videos in a sense that we wanted to show stories of people getting through struggles and reality is a big part of that, you know. We did come from that kind of youth center background and many of us never even had a music lesson.
IC: Were you all self taught?
R: We might have had some but really the way I got into music was through charities. There was a charity down the road, which was a youth club. Basically an ex-club producer was running workshops, which gave kids the opportunity to go in and learn how to make music. That was mind blowing as a 15 year old, skipping school and going there every day. That kind of thing doesn’t really exist anymore because of money and various reasons. This is what we would really like to get involved in much more in the future. Obviously right now we are pretty much living on the road and living at airports. It’s something that’s very close to us and we are able to show that through the videos. Young people are very important to the future.
There is positivity to be found everywhere. Whether it’s in the Philippines or LA, it’s like the videos all have that theme and relativity. It’s all real people and all the stories are things that we’ve actually gone through and there are no actors they are just real people. “Right Here” is actually the first time we’ve used actors. Part of the reason we called our record “Home” was not just because where we grew up and the influences we’ve had there, but it’s also because anyone can relate to that no matter where they come from in the world. The videos are a great way of showing that – that there is hope from darkness and especially for young people. I think lots of people might look to where we grew up and a lot of our friends didn’t end up in a lot of positive places so it’s good to be able to show that, were you are from.
IC: Rudimental came together about 7 years ago and you’ve recently seen some serious success. I imagine there were also some struggles along the way?
R: There has definitely been places were thought this is not going to work and people just want too much hard stuff and I think like Amir said there’s loads of points were we were all working to briefs with other artists and it’s was like what’s the point, it’s not emotional, heartfelt music. It’s not music written from experience. It’s like “I want to be like Lady Gaga”. Lady Gaga is hot right now but in a year and a half time a new star is going to be around and she will be the star of the moment. Labels would go “can you make it sound like… Can you make it like Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and Fifty Cent…” Those are the main things that stuck out to me before it all kicked off. It’s a testament to our stubbornness.
IC: It’s definitely hard when you’re expected to match someone else’s sound and you’re like – wait a second we have our own sound!
R: Yeah that’s it, it’s a testament to our stubbornness that even when we are being put in a rave where we are playing after someone who is playing pure hardcore dub step and we’re dropping Ben Howard Remixes and stuff we’ve mashed up with Marvin Gaye with a bit of a jungle loop… let’s just keep on feeding people with this! Throwing in a bit of other stuff as well – eventually people will get it. That was the thing – the audience was there – it was kind of like they were waiting for us to play that kind of thing. It’s been really cool like that. So by keeping the focus on our sound, we can keep true to ourselves.
IC: What musicians do you admire at the moment?
R: Growing up Marvin Gaye was a massive influence. As well as garage and stuff like that. Hip hop was great but secretly I’d listen to Marvin Gaye and play a little samba remix. I think its people like Sly and Family Stone, James Brown and the whole funk and soul thing. Parliament, Funkadelic, those people were such characters and families of musicians which we really relate to. There are nine of us now on stage and you can tell that when we are playing live we are all really friends and we all enjoy what we do and it doesn’t matter if we are playing to one person or hundreds or thousands – we still love it and really enjoy being on stage. Bands like that we really admire. There is also modernized bands like we all love – like Lauren Hill, “Miseducation of Lauren Hill” is a really big influence to all four of us. The Score, Fugees, Elmatic, there is so many. “Ok Computer” by Radio Head, you might here that in our music. We are massive Prince fans as well.
We love Massive Attack. And people like Basement Jaxx from what I can remember were kind of like the last dance act that really rocked the stage through live music and managed to bring soul to the charts. We got to watch them after our show at V Fest. We dressed up like gorillas and went on stage with them and partied with them – that was amazing! It was a good moment.
IC: What are your plans coming up?
R: We still have a long way to go in terms of album one, in terms of pushing the message and what Rudimental is about. There is still a lot of education to be done. Especially here in America which is a massive place. We have to go state by state putting the live act out there. We are perfectionists. Each tour can add something fresh to make it exciting to people that come to see us. I mean there is nine or ten of us on stage sometimes and we really go live and we are all friends that we have had growing up. If you’re going to be on a tour bus with people for 12 hours a day, they better be your friends because you’re going to get pretty sick of them otherwise!
IC: Do you have any forthcoming performances you are excited about?
R: We are playing Made in America this weekend and then the next US tour is in October with Emeli Sande. We are doing a couple of gigs with her and we hopefully will sell out shows! We are touring the UK and Australia as well – a lot of touring! I think that’s the main focus now, just really touring the world. We’ve got Europe to do as well.
We are always writing and thinking of music, thinking of ideas and I’m sure next year we will put some time in to album two. There are so many sacrifices doing this. Leon has a three year old son and we all have family and things like that that we have to leave behind. But it’s a small sacrifice. This is such a moment for us and we realize that this chemistry that’s happening is really special.
We are going to run with it. Our aspirations when we first got together – we were thinking what we want to do in five to ten years to come – and we said we want to do the main stage of Glastonbury. We want to do big festivals in America like Coachella. And put albums out there that people really remember!
Photography and Interview by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine
RUDIMENTAL ON TOUR:
*10/21 – 10/26 supporting Emeli Sande
10/21 – Columbus, OH @ Newport Music Hall*
10/22 – Cincinnati, OH @ Bogart’s *
10/23 – Nashville, TN @ Ryman Auditorium*
10/25 – Indianapolis, IN @ Egyptian Room – Old National Centre*
10/26 – Chicago, IL @ Vic Theatre*
10/27 – Asheville, NC @ Mountain Oasis
11/2 – New Orleans, LA @ Voodoo Experience
11/5 – Washington, DC @ U Street Music Hall
11/6 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
11/7 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom