We catch up with New Zealand heavy-hitters The Upbeats to ask them a bit about their latest collaboration EP with Shapeshifter, SSXUB, coming out September 12th.
The five tracks on the EP have a bit of flavour from both sides of the collaboration, with each producer’s style easy to detect. The mini album has some of everything you might expect from The Upbeats and Shapeshifter: from technical, snapping percussion to uplifting melodies and dance floor rhythms. The combined force of these two massive talents has been knocking into audiences all festival season long, and the release of the SSXUB EP has been highly-anticipated.
Along with hooking us up with an exclusive guest mix, The Upbeats fill us in on what it’s like making tracks with a live drum and bass band, the production process of the EP, and what the scene is like in a small country with a lot of talent.
Tell us about your history working together. How long have you all known each other?
We’ve known each other for quite a few years, having played a lot of shows and festivals together in New Zealand. But our working relationship only really started a couple of years ago when Shapeshifter approached us about getting involved on their latest album ‘Delta’. So we came on board for that, and co-produced the album– which really solidified our friendships etc, and led to us doing this SSXUB project.
What’s the scene like in New Zealand? Has drum and bass been more commercialised in recent years, or is there still a strong underground current?
Drum & Bass has been really prominent in New Zealand for the last 10 -15 years. Thanks to the likes of Shapeshifter & Concord Dawn, alternative and mainstream radio and TV accepted it early on. So it really has been one of the strongest, if not the strongest genre of dance music in NZ for the last decade. Which means that we’ve been really spoiled by the amount of support we have received back home. I guess it also explains how so much good DnB has come out of such a small country.
How important is it to push the boundaries of genre and composition for you? Do you think there is also something to be said for making accessible, “feel good” music?
The reason we were, and still are, drawn to DnB is that it is underground music. The kind of producers (Bad Company, Konflict, Klute etc) that we were inspired by never (or rarely) had any mainstream media support, and that was part of the appeal. It was all about a tight, online community and small but passionate underground club culture.
That to us is something we hope is never lost in DnB. I mean, it’s understandable that people see the success of dubstep acts in the past and more recently of DnB #1 singles like ‘Hot Right Now’ and ‘Nobody to Love’. People are attracted by that kind of fame. But that’s really not why we’re into it, or why it’s something we’re interested in pursuing. Thankfully, despite the amount of people hunting for a payday, there’s still a lot of really creative and interesting music being written within DnB.
Describe the process of piecing together the SSXUP EP. Which tracks flowed naturally, and what kinks were more difficult to iron out?
We started work on the EP shortly after finishing work on the Delta LP, so it was quite easy and natural to get the creative process going. The tracks came together relatively quickly, with ‘Aeon Night’, ‘Antipodes’, and ‘Little By Little’ basically writing themselves. ‘Bloodstream’ and ‘Solitaire’ took a little bit more work. In fact, Bloodstream was almost excluded from the EP until later on in the piece. It got a complete overhaul and turned into what it is today.
How does working with a live drum & bass band affect the song writing process? How is it different from making tracks as a producer?
Actually it’s essentially the same as if we were working with another producer in the studio once the process is underway. There’s definitely some great perks, like if you need any live parts on the fly the guys will just jam something on the cuff. Plus, having P-Diggs (the band’s singer) throwing ideas around is awesome.
If you can, describe the collaboration EP as a piece of physical art. What is its color, texture, and design?
It’s chaotic, like a canvas that has had handfuls of paint thrown at it. With thick blotches of black and red running to the floor together, and splattered highlights of neon green and pink.
So what’s next? Has working on this EP together inspired any new ideas moving forward? Any independent projects in mind?
It definitely feels like it’s time to start thinking about another Upbeats album, so the plan is to put aside enough time so we can start creating some ideas and direction for our 5th album!
And finally, tell us a bit about the guest mix that you’ve put together exclusively for Kmag.
We wanted to showcase a lot of the new DnB we’re feeling at the moment. It covers a lot of more musical stuff that we enjoy listening to, but wouldn’t necessarily play in the club. Hopefully you can sit back, be immersed, and enjoy!