“[It’s] about real life, no fake shit or pretending” – The Hempolics tell us about their music

Tuesday 14th July 2020 | Grace

With their first album, ‘Kiss, Cuddle & Torture’ going down so well, The Hempolics decided it was time to release another album full of Dancehall, Reggae and Hip-Hop tracks for us to ‘bop our head’s’ and get high too. And what a great new album the band have released, with each track being just as wonderful as the last. We caught up with them and had a lovey and insightful talk about their latest album, the best and worst parts of being in a band and what they plan to do once lock down is over.

How would you describe yourselves in one sentence?

Our singer Nubiya described our sound best - ‘It’s like the 60’s had a threesome with the 70’s and 90’s and she doesn’t know who the father is.’

The new album is called ‘Kiss, Cuddle & Torture: Volume 2’. It’s a great name! What’s the meaning behind it?

Thanks! It’s a game I used to play in the playground at school where you’d run around and the boys would grab a girl (also viceaversa) and say ‘kiss, cuddle or torture’ and the name always stuck my head. Then when I started making music, I realised it’s like life and also making an album, being in a band. Just being in the music industry.

Life is full of kisses and cuddles and hopefully not too much torture. Just like some songs are instantly perfect with a bang, like a kiss. Some songs you have to cuddle to get them right, and some are bloody torture to get finished.

I always, since thinking of the band’s name, thought I wanna do volume 1, 2, 3 and 4 Red, Gold, Green and Black. All called Kiss, Cuddle & Torture. The volume thing probably came from my love of all the Electro Volumes they did when breakdancing first came out in the 80’s. I wanted it to be a mixture of bodies of work. [I wanted to] put into these Volumes and having different styles of music, but with one sound. The Hempolics sound.

What is your favourite track on the album?

“Gotta Thing” is our party track for me. You put that on, and it should be all over. Well we will see after lock down. I can’t wait to hear that out and about. It’s one of the fastest tracks we have done at 131Bpm. I wanted to do a half time sort of Reggae fat thing and drop the vocal in and wait till you drop the beat on this one. It just worked that way. It’s all played with the band, with some programmed stuff. I love the mash up madness and that you don’t think it’s gonna be a beat like that coming in. You think it’s going to be Reggae time at 65.5bpm until the beat drops. Bass, guitars, keys, drums and percussion was all programmed on this one.

Or I really love “Forever” by Danny Bowskill, who was on “Warrior Sound” on VOL 1. We did this love song from a male point of view called Forever and that one gives me goose bumps when I still listen to it. Even after the hundreds and hundreds of listens you do whilst writing, recording and finishing.

Your sound is a mixture of reggae, pop, hip-hop and dancehall. What is about these genres that you love?

Well, I don’t love pop! But across the band we’re all into different music and try and fuse all those influences together. But it’s generally music that’s real, about real life, no fake shit or pretending. No-one makes music like hungry people do and the best of reggae, hip-hop, soul and all that is made by people where music is their only way out. A lot like us.

The tracks have such a funky, chilled out vibe to them. What do you picture people doing when they listen to your music?

Smoking herb. Naturally. Driving in ya car bopping your head, with it loud and I can see them played at the after party. They are all made to have a nice jam too. It’s all about dancing, and the feeling the lyrics give you is important to us.

With seven of you in a group, how do you all make sure you get your voice heard?

Shouting very loud. Nah, we’re all good friends. A good mix of personalities. It took me ages to get the right people with the right vibe in this band. So, it’s always pretty chilled and no-one gets lost or dominates… except me sometimes hehehe. I normally make the music or a start of something and think, who will suit the vocals on this backing track? Or one of singers will pick out of a bunch of ideas I send or they hear down in the studio. It all depends.

Leon the guitarist is chilled to the bone with family from his mam’s side up in Teeside, like where I was born. He is an incredible guitar player and a good friend. Craig on drums is a south London talented funny fucker. Great on stage for us. He has the reggae, ska and hip hop so down. He is great at playing to a click with still keeping a great feel. So, that is great in the studio when it’s time to record. He doesn’t bash the drums. He lets the mics do the work. Lorenzo, bass player, is probably the least chilled being Islington, Italian combo! We all have a say, but I’m the gang leader. You have to have a leader, or it will just turn to chaos, I reckon. To many cooks spoil the broth and all that.

How are you feeling about getting together again after the lock down?

Like everyone else. I can’t wait to get back in the studio. Or actually to get back in rehearsal and start working out the new songs again. We literally did a day in February in rehearsal going through a few songs. I think we only managed to look at Play On, Get It Right and The Enemy off the new album. So, can’t wait to get back in and get on with learning the new shit for an even better set from us lot. It takes a while and a lot of rehearsals and even gigs for the songs to start clicking on stage with everyone.

Ya know what, I’ve been starting to get the next one together. Vol 3, The Green Album. Since lock down it’s made me think I wanna try and do an album in like two three days. A rock, blues or whatever genre and just get the right musicians in with say Nubiya and Cojack and smash it out. Write them, record them once we have worked out what musically we do and then last night and bosh it down, each song we have been writing and learning from the last few days. Then mix it all in one day. That’s what I want to organise and try out.

What have your best and worst experiences been as a band?

Worst? Well touring can be a nightmare at times - especially long journeys for shit money. But probably the worst was the label who put out our first album. They were just generally shit and clueless in their work. But also sneaky fucks who were always playing games. They played, they lost. Hempolics mashed them up. So very happy about this next vol being on our own label called ZeeZee Records. With the help of Kartel Music Group Distribution. Proper proud of this album for that reason and I think it’s next level, more mature Hempolics on this.

The best times are getting the music out there. Seeing the response and holding the vinyl in your hands. All that hard work comes together and then your art is out there forever. Oh yes and being on stage. Some gigs just make all the hard graft and determination worthwhile. The buzz you get from giving other people a buzz, just makes you play all better as a band on stage and that can be with all the ups and downs.

What would this summer have meant for you and has it all been rearranged for a better time?

Well, we were in the middle of our album campaign when lockdown kicked in so we had to push the new album back but couldn’t push it back too far. We had some big festivals lined up and a tour after the summer which has all been postponed until who knows when, so it’s been pretty gutting to miss out on all that. But we’ve just got to roll with it and get back out live again whenever that turns out to be. We’ll see if we can get to those festivals next year instead, but no-one knows right now.

Grippa, you have worked with some of the world’s best electronic and reggae artists. How has all this influenced the work you do with The Hempolics?

Well yes, I was an engineer for years working with different artist and producers and from that I learnt how to produce records and write, arrange and finish songs. Just been right in the middle of it all. Trying to make the artist, producer, management and label happy with the same thing can be hard. It’s also influenced me to know how to and be able to push to craft The Hempolics songs as good or better as we can.

Who would your dream collaboration be with?

Dream Collaboration, dead or alive? Still ain’t easy. Cypress Hill for sure would be a great one with us. And dead, probably Elvis. Imagine Elvis doing a Dubby Hempolics style record. Or Nat King Cole - a ‘There Maybe Trouble Ahead” version with him could be cool

You have had a lot of support from the BBC, especially BBC radio 6. How has been featured so heavily by a station like that spurred you on?

Yes, it’s inspiring hearing your tunes on the radio. Seeing people come over to us from hearing it on there. And it’s great when these big names are backing you with kind words and supporting your music by playing it. You just want to go and make more music when that happens.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?

On the dole. I’m basically unemployable if it wasn’t for music.

What should we say to the haters?

Some of them you shouldn’t say anything ‘cos they thrive on the reaction. Some of them need a hug. And if all that don’t work then maybe they need knocking out.

What can we expect from you in the future in general?

Plough on! Crack on with the release of Vol 2. Lots of remixes from tracks off the new album coming. Dubmatix, Jstar, Manasseh, Pnut and more. Then we’ve got some cover versions of songs we love as well and some of our own singles.

Then we’ll get on with Vol 3 and a Dub album after that using favs tracks off Vol 1, 2 & 3 and proper make each one class as fuck. Plus, wanna get to America for sure and do shows out there soon. Try to get next year all solid too. Cos this year is completely fucked up. Release these covers and just get lots of music out there really.

The Hempolics second album ‘Kiss, Cuddle &Torture: Volume 2’ is out now, stream it here.  Follow the band on their website: