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Icarus chat about their DJ tour, duo dynamics and dropping that big first album

House | Monday 26th October 2015 | Christina

Bristolian brothers Ian and Tom Griffiths, aka Icarus, are on a roll. After singing to FFRR, their label debut Don’t Cry Wolf received critical acclaim, and now their latest single ‘Ride This Train’ is also making waves, proving the boys can create both club bangers and progressive grooves with ease. After a busy festival season, Icarus are now in the midst of a UK tour, which has already seen them play Warehouse Project, Village Underground and Chibuku, with more huge dates to come. We got the guys on the phone to chat about their DJ tour, duo dynamics and dropping that big first album.

Hey guys, how is everything going?
Ian:
Yeah really good thanks. We’ve just been writing in the studio up in Bristol for the past couple of months, just writing new material. We’ve obviously got our new single in motion at the moment, ‘Ride This Train’, so we’re happy with how everything’s going. Yeah just looking forward to getting out on the road for the next couple of months so we’re really excited to play out some new music and play some exciting clubs.

Is there a show/date you’re particularly looking forward too?
Tom:
There’s quite a few places we’ve never been before. We’ve not played in fabric in London, we’ve got that as well, that’s in November.
Ian: Motion in Bristol.
Tom: Yeah home shows, Bristol’s always good. Motion’s probably our favourite place to play in Bristol, so that should be a good one.
Ian: Yeah we’ve played there a few times so that will be good.
Tom: We’ve got one in Belfast on Boxing Day as well, which should be interesting. We’ve never played on Boxing Day before. Apparently it’s a big party over there.

What can people expect from the shows? Is it going to be very different each time?
T:
It depends really. We don’t ever go out with a set like planned, so we just read what the vibe is in the club and just work it out from there. We usually have an idea of a few tunes we might play and then just see what happens.
I: We usually try and play quite a lot of our own stuff so other than that we don’t tend to plan anything. We try and play as much of our own stuff as we can.

Will there be the new material in there that you just mentioned?
I:
Yeah definitely, we’ll be playing a lot of new stuff over the next couple of months.

You’ve both got quite a musical backgrounds, I read that you both played in bands and a lot of different genres were influences on you, but where did the love of dance music come from? Was there one specific track or one party you went to that really sparked it for you or was it a long process?
T:
It’s been long! It definitely wasn’t a party. I got into dance music when I was about 12 somehow, listening to like trance and stuff. You remember the old Clubbers Guide CDs, they were the ones that got me into that and into dance music originally. But it’s weird, you know how you go through teenage years, you just chop and change. When we both started playing instruments we left dance music alone for a few years and got really into rock and metal and punk and all sorts of stuff. It’s probably coming of age when you start going to clubs and stuff, like 16, 17, started to get heavily back into dance music again. Mainly drum and bass back then.
I: And then when we started DJing we got a set of turntables and just got obsessed with it. Then it’s collecting vinyl and mixing at home in your bedroom.
T: Like you say we have had fairly musical backgrounds, we have played in bands and stuff throughout our teenage years, done covers bands and attempted to write rock and stuff like that [laughs], and then come to where we are today.

Do you still play instruments?
I:
Yeah, yeah we do. We try and play live instruments on our records because we like to have that sort of organic sound to it and think that it gives us a nice texture to our music when we do that. So yeah we try and get live instruments into our recordings when we can.

Do you think you’ll develop a live show? A lot of acts now like Maribou State and Disclosure do a half DJ, half live act.
I:
Yeah absolutely. It’s one of our main goals is our live show so we definitely want to develop that and we’re gonna be starting to put ideas together about how we can do that. It’s always been our goal to eventually have a proper live show with proper musicians because of our background really.
T: We played instruments before we ever started DJing so that is the aim, to get back to that.

And do you sing?
I:
Not very well [laughs]. We’re not gonna sing now if that’s what you’re asking!

Did you always plan to form a duo? Obviously you’re brothers so working together might be a bit easier but did neither of you have any solo ambitions?
T:
I’ve still got solo ambitions! [laughs]. Neither of us formed strong enough ideas on our own so we have to come together to get a good one. We’ve done bits separately in the past because we both went through a music college and both did degrees in our chosen instruments and there was that gap where we were in different cities, so we were kind of pursuing different avenues then but after we both finished degrees we put our heads together, and ever since then we’ve been writing.

How do the dynamics play out in the studio and when you’re DJing? Do you each have things you prefer doing?
I:
Not really, we try and do a bit of everything and keep like that. Like Tom said if one of us gets stuck on a certain path in the studio or something then it helps massively to have the other person there to have a different perspective on it, so yeah we kinda do a bit of everything.

And when you do a set do you have to agree on the tracks or do you do it like a b2b?
I:
Kinda like a back to back.
T: Not quite a battle. There’s not even really that much rivalry is there, it’s quite nice going back to back. We usually mix two or three tunes each, so you get that little look ahead of what Ian’s playing, I’ll try and think I’m going to do this, this and this. We just keep it like that.

You’re never tempted to throw in a curveball and try and catch the other one out?
I:
[Laughs] There are some tunes that we play and it’s like “what have you done? What are you doing? Don’t do that to me”. There are a few actually, a few tunes that we play regularly that can be difficult to mix out of, so it’s always nice just to get them in so the other person has to mix out of it.

How has signing to FFRR impacted you and the work that you’re doing?
I:
Obviously having Pete there, having music and getting feedback is great, his knowledge of everything to do with music is invaluable really so he’s a great asset, and the whole team at the label have been really helpful and encouraged us to do what we want and not think about it too much, which is really nice. It gives us the freedom to experiment so it’s working out really well.

I really loved your Don’t Cry Wolf EP. It feels like it’s really about club music because you’ve got vocal house, progressive, 2-step, a bit of garage sneaking in there. What were you trying to achieve with that record?
T:
It’s kinda like a showcase, we didn’t plan to make tunes to tick different boxes, it just came like that. We wrote those three tunes pretty much in a row and felt that they sat together quite nicely. And yeah we where at that point, we had signed to FFRR and we had tunes in the bank that we’d been uhming and ahhing releasing but then we wrote those three and we just thought, “well this is where we’re at now and we’re just putting ourselves out to the world so let’s put out what we’re writing now”.
I: And also we like to play quite a range of stuff when we play live so that showcased that side of things as well, what we like to play when we DJ.

Your latest single ‘Ride This Train’ takes things in a slightly different direction. The vocal sample is a big part of the track, have you wanted to use it for a while or is it something you recently came across?
T:
The tune’s about a year old isn’t it?
I: Yeah.
T: It’s just something we’ve been waiting to release really. We wrote it about a year ago and been playing it for about a year and it’s always got a really great reactions without people really knowing what it is, so finally we have it out and people hearing it.

Is an album in the works?
T:
That word!
I: A what? [laughs]
T: It’s slowly coming together. That is our goal and has always been our goal before we started working with the label that was what we wanted to do, so that’s definitely what we’re working towards.

I’m going to put pressure on you now, when is it going to come out?
T:
No idea! [laughs] hopefully next year. It’s something that we’ve been ready as writers to do, we just think that’s where we’re at but we’re not going to pressure it.
I: We’re not going to rush it.
T: Yeah we’re not going to put a date out so that we have to meet a deadline. It’s gotta be right and we just have got to be really happy with it, this is our first album and it’s going to take a bit of time.

Absolutely. And what do you think about in dance a lot of people don’t really do full albums anymore, they just do a lot of EPs and singles, because I guess the way people listen to music has changed a bit. Do you think it’s still important to have those big bodies of work?
I:
I think it is. I think if it’s done in the right way I think you can still create something that people cherish. For us maybe because of our background and being interested in all sorts of music, an album has always been our goal, so I don’t think the fact that maybe some other people are kinda put off by the idea of doing a dance music album…
T: Our album, we wouldn’t consider it to be that.
I: So I think that’s probably one of the things we’re trying to make sure of, that our album did make sense as a piece of music that is maybe ten tracks long not just three or four track EPs. We definitely want to make a full body of work.
T: It depends on the artist really, it depends on who you are as a writer. There’s nothing wrong obviously with people just wanting to bang out singles or EPs all the time and just continue on that road, it’s just because we’ve always had that passion to create something a bit bigger that that’s just always been in our mind.

Sounds good, I look forward to it very much whenever it comes out!
T:
Thanks!

So you guys are from Bristol, which has such a rich musical heritage, how has the city influenced you?
T:
Good question.
I: Probably the main thing is there’s such a variety of music that comes out of Bristol. There’s no limit on what you can write it feels like. There’s no main scene that dominates there, there’s loads of little scenes that have their own areas in the city so we take inspiration from every little bit of it. It’s no holds barred really.
T: There’s a really strong, it sounds cheesy, but there’s a strong community. Everyone that’s involved in music, especially production and the dance side of music, if you’re in Bristol people are talking all the time and meeting up and getting together, and I think that has a positive impact on your writing.

You also run a label Fly Boy, how long has that been going?
I:
Properly, we put our first release out July last year but then we’ve only really got stuck into it July this year, so we’ve had four releases since then. We’ve just had our fourth one come out on Beatport, but the idea for a label, again it’s one of those things, since we got into dance music it kinda feels like we want to be involved in different aspects of the scene and running a label is something we’ve always had a passion for. Now we’re in a position that we can do it and we get to work with artists who we’re excited by and it’s a cool feeling, searching for new music and stuff that you think is exciting and you wanna play or wanna nurture and get involved with. It’s something that we wanna keep building on, it’s very new really but it’s something that’s going to be part of Icarus.
T: Yeah it’s just another thing that we’ve always wanted to do.

Are you pushing a lot of Bristol artists with that as well or is it artists from all over?
T:
I mean it’s not exclusive but yeah finding artists in Bristol is a bit of a goal.
I: We get to meet them and it’s easier to work with people when you can get in the studio together and work like that, but it’s music from anywhere as long as it’s good. If it’s exciting it can be from anywhere in the world, it doesn’t matter, but Bristol is obviously part of our stamp so artists from Bristol are definitely going to be on the label.

What’s been the proudest moment of your career so far?
T:
Proudest moment?
I: Signing to Pete Tong’s label.
T: Yeah probably signing our record deal and our publishing. Yeah that’s what we’ve been aiming towards ever since we got into music and when we thought about doing it seriously that’s what we wanted. Achieving that at the end of last year was a bit of a life goal for us. Having people sort of believe in you and support you is a really good feeling and us being able to achieve that, yeah it was big.
I: It was certainly my dad’s proudest moment [laughs].

Other than music, what would you say you know the most about?
T:
Ummm ale. Quite good on ale!
I: Probably boozing [laughs]. So cliché but you know what it’s like with music, it just takes up your entire life, we are consumed with it so there’s not a lot of time for anything else.

Time for drinking though!
I:
Fitness, nutrition and a little bit of drinking.

If you could fill a swimming pool with anything, what would it be and why?
I:
I’ll revert to the last answer [laughs]
T: Craft ale! That is serious as well.

You’ve got five places on a guestlist, and you can pick anyone, dead or alive to come and party with you, who do you choose?
T:
Michael Jackson has got to be one.
I: Yeah.
T: Oh and the original line-up of Take That, there we go! [laughs]

God that would be such a strange night!
I:
It would be interesting though!

It would! Ok so one more question, what would you do to change the world?
T:
You can have that one.
I: Sack off nuclear weapons, there you go. We’re not going to get political now are we? [laughs] End it with a bang. 

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