Since the release of their debut EP Steal the Sun in 2014, brothers Tom and Ian Griffiths aka ICARUS have emerged as another head-turning act emanating from the South West’s overflowing pool of electronic talent. Their versatile sound ranges from deep, underground club tracks to crossover airplay hits, as well as running their own record label Fly Boy, with an ever-growing roster of electronic talent.
Nitelife peeled Ian and Tom away from their studio in Brislington, where they’re currently hard at work, to chat about what they’re working on currently, their recent EP and what’s in store for their upcoming UK tour this April.
not only did the brothers land their fourth consecutive BBC Radio 1’s ‘Hottest Record’ (…) they also turned the heads of house music giants Rüfüs Du Sol
2018 was a busy year for ICARUS and probably the biggest in terms of their music career, as not only did the brothers land their fourth consecutive BBC Radio 1’s ‘Hottest Record’ with Love Has Come Around, they also turned the heads of house music giants Rüfüs Du Sol, who invited the Bristol-based brothers on their North American tour; promoting them to main support for the UK leg of their tour, which included a sold-out date at London’s Printworks – a pretty big achievement considering they’d only debuted their live show six months earlier.
This February, ICARUS released their This Must Be the Place EP on Pete Tong’s FFRR label and it’s undoubtedly their most accomplished body of work to date.
‘It’s a themed EP, which is something we’ve started experimenting with in the last year or so’ Tom explains, ‘having a concept behind something is quite a novel idea for us and helps tie the music together. We spent a lot of time on the road last year, so we thought about the constant travelling, or running away – which is actually one of the track titles – and having in mind all the feelings and emotions around that.’
having a concept behind something is quite a novel idea for us and helps tie the music together
Opening with the track Echoes, this latest release showcases the innovative duo’s ability to blend the darker, cinematic extreme on their sonic spectrum with tracks like Man of the Land with their swirling melodies on tracks like Running Away and Sirens, featuring vocals from fellow Bristolian, Katy Pearson.
Previously, ICARUS have moved between genres as they’ve fused elements of deep house, garage and progressive production, whilst taking inspiration from an eclectic cocktail of artists such as Basement Jaxx, The Chemical Brothers and Hans Zimmer. With this latest release, Ian and Tom have continued to push their sound to the limit and have succeeded once more in creating tracks that don’t fit into neat categorisation, though the brothers agree that this conceptual body of work is the clearest vision of their sound to date.
this EP really helped us find our groove with writing and enabled us to discover our real sound
‘Over the past couple of years, we’ve experimented and dabbled in quite a lot of different styles of music’ says Ian, ‘it’s all dance-led and has a house music foundation in terms of tempo, but this EP really helped us find our groove with writing and enabled us to discover our real sound. Previously when we’ve put out music there has been lots of different sounds and textures from one track to the next, whereas we felt that there was a clear feeling and mood flowing throughout this EP.’
putting together bodies of work has helped, actually doing EPs as opposed to singles
‘I think putting together bodies of work has helped’ Tom says, ‘actually doing EPs as opposed to singles. We did a couple of years of just putting a single out at a time, which is fine and it felt right to do that as it’s helped build us; but actually putting records together has definitely sculpted a sound.’
‘Also, sometimes you can spend six months writing a single before putting it out’ Ian says, ‘and your influences change quite a lot between two records. Doing an EP gives you that focus and you’re always referring back to the music that you’ve already written, rather than going off on a tangent.’
Ian and Tom have firmly established themselves as sonic adventurers, as they explore the outer realms of electronic music. So while they might have found their groove with writing, that doesn’t mean their next release will sound like this one.
‘We don’t get excited about something that sounds similar to things we have already released’ says Ian, ‘what excites us is something that sounds different and something that sounds a bit unique.’
We don’t get excited about something that sounds similar to things we have already released
‘You always want your most recent release to be the best thing you’ve ever recorded, in your opinion anyway’ Tom adds. ‘You realise after a while of doing it that obviously other people are going to have favourites throughout your catalogue that you might feel differently about. But as long as we’re really happy with the piece of music that we’re putting out at the time, that’s all it’s really about. That’s the only pressure we put on ourselves – to like what we’re doing.’
It’s pretty clear that they’re not the only ones who like what they’re doing, as ICARUS have grown from a hotly-tipped name to a regular fixture on daytime radio, finding fans in Pete Tong, Annie Mac, Phil Taggart and Alice Levine, to name a few, and attracting masses at the likes of Creamfields, SW4, Boardmasters and Ibiza’s Amnesia.
Getting noticed in the crowded world of house-driven electronic music can be tricky, and carving your own niche within it even more so. I asked Ian and Tom how they go about setting their music apart from their contemporaries.
‘It is pretty difficult’ says Ian. ‘We just keep going with an idea until we feel like it’s got something about it. I suppose it’s just persistence in the studio, if a track doesn’t feel special enough, we won’t stop. If we’re still keen on the basic idea, we’ll keep hammering away until we take it to that next level.’
If we’re still keen on the basic idea, we’ll keep hammering away until we take it to that next level
‘That’s why we don’t put loads of music out’ Tom adds. ‘We take a lot of time over our records and some things do get shelved for a year, then we’ll come back and finish it when it feels right for that track. Something we’ve realised is that our tracks always have to have a thing – that one thing – that grabs us and makes it weird or different, then we focus the rest of the track around that. It took us quite a while to have that realisation.’
‘The tracks that connect the most or excite people drive us forward’ says Ian. ‘When we’re playing them live or DJing, you really get a feel for the audience’s reactions and whether or not the track connects, and when it does, it’s the best feeling and something we hook onto. That’s what we have in the back of our minds when we’re writing.’
Bristol’s music scene is so varied
Bristol is one of the most influential electronic music outposts in the world, producing some of the greatest names across many scenes, and the level of cross-pollination in Bristol is unquestionably unique.
‘Bristol’s music scene is just so varied’ says Tom. ‘There’s just always so many different pockets of things going on. The underground scene is just always very exciting here. Looking back to when we first starting clubbing here in Bristol and going to drum and bass raves, it’s just got a nice feel to it. An all-inclusive feel.’
‘The crowds in Bristol, they’re some of the best crowds we’ve ever played to’ says Ian. ‘I mean Motion, I’m a bit biased here, but it’s probably the best club we’ve ever played in. There’s always such a good vibe in Bristol clubs, whereas some places we play, we struggle to get a vibe.’
The crowds in Bristol, they’re some of the best crowds we’ve ever played to
‘There’s no real attitude here’ says Tom, ‘no one’s trying to be cool, no one’s worried about anything like that. Everyone’s just there to have a good time. We can tell and that makes you feel so much better when you’re the other side performing. It makes it so much easier to find a groove and to get into it.’
Clearly both excited to return to their hometown for their show at Thekla, I asked the brothers what we could expect:
‘New music!’ says Ian. ‘And a new kind of visual to it, it’s going to change a fair amount from our last tour. We’re just currently putting it together now, putting together ideas and putting the production and the new set together – it’s exciting. Though there’s more pressure playing in our hometown, this show has to be the best, the one.’
‘It was for me last time’ Tom says. ‘I just enjoy it much more. We also want to release some new music about two weeks before the tour starts. Time is running out, but we’ll get there! There’s never a calm moment before anything like this, it’s always to the wire, but that’s part of the fun.’
The Bristol-based brother’s current trajectory is showing no signs of slowing down, as there is much more to come from the duo with 2019 set to have not only more releases and shows, but a busy festival schedule too.
‘We aim to do another body of work towards the end of the year’ says Tom. ‘Though it’s always hard writing in the summer as we’re so busy travelling and we have festival slots this year, as well as Ibiza bits – it’s shaping up to be quite busy. So we’re trying to plan out our writing period now because we know time just runs away.’
We aim to do another body of work towards the end of the year
ICARUS are also focusing on expanding their Fly Boy record label, as they’re currently signing new artists and building a busy release schedule. They also have plans for the further development of their live show, so keep your ears to the ground for further updates on this unstoppable duo.
Photos by Dominika Scheibinger
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