It was one of those nights where late Summer and early Autumn had come to duel in the dull urban air, brought to being by a sea of endless streetlights. This natural collision took place unassumingly around me while I strolled down towards the Radisson Blu hotel which itself brought with it an air of constancy, unaffected by its climactic surroundings. Of course, I’m not one nature’s most intense spectators, this wasn’t an evening stroll to take in Mother Nature’s grasp on the concrete jungle, but a slight observation in anticipation of catching up with the originators of the anthem that was released in the dampened Winter of last year which blossomed neatly to transition Spring into Summer, 99 Souls, who were due to play in the Loft venue above the Seven bar here in Galway.
There’s no avoiding the fact that there are many acts that’re here today and gone tomorrow in terms of commercial success, and while to some degree one would be forgiven for thinking the same of the incognito duo of ‘Soul’ and ‘Jo’, it’s important to remember they’ve skipped by the common pitfalls that bestow most acts similar to them, all while not doing an awful lot to the naked eye. While there have been a number of prestigious remixes for the likes of Blonde, Snakehips and Clean Bandit along the way, their patience in terms of a follow up single to the Brandy and Destiny’s Child-sampled ‘The Girl is Mine’ has been much more so well planned and goal driven, than anxious and disorganised. Here’s what they had to say about that amongst other things.
Could you give me some sort of insight into the average day in the life of 99 Souls?
JO: ‘Each day is a bit different, we’ve got a lot of gigs and shows at the moment, we’ve done a lot of festivals. Also, we’re in the studio a lot making music so I guess there isn’t really an average day, but they’re always full of music.’
SOUL: ‘Lots of travelling!’
What’s the weirdest place you’ve been to over the Summer?
S: ‘I don’t think there’s been anywhere that weird. Corsica was nice, we went to New York for the VMAs. That was cool, we seen Kanye, Alicia, Swizz Beatz, we were sitting next to Desiigner.’
What’s the highlight been of the Summer, what was the one thing that stood out?
J: ‘There were a few live shows that were amazing, Parklife was incredible, Reading and Leeds were both incredible.’
S: ‘Common People and Wireless, Reading and Leeds I guess, Corsica was nice, we’re heading off to Dubai soon after the Summer, October. I think that’ll be good.’
How has playing so many shows over the Summer influenced your live set, what tricks or has there been anything you have picked up through the shows?
S: ‘In the UK it stayed kind of similar, but in the UK with a lot of the bookings we get, the rest of the lineup will be a bit EDM-y, we always play to the crowd so it depends on where we play. In Europe we don’t really play EDM, at the last European festival we did change it a bit but we didn’t go completely screechy EDM.’
How does life differ now and before ‘The Girl is Mine’ was made and released?
J: ‘It’s kind of strange because it’s very different because we travel a lot more, but in some ways it’s very similar, we’re still making music everyday in the same way that we were, so it’s kind of hard to answer. We’re a little bit more comfortable financially than we were, I was making a living as a Jazz musician, I’m still doing some Jazz gigs. Everything has changed but nothing has changed!’
S: ‘I got fatter. Always on the road eating big fat meals, it’s never healthy stuff. When you get home you keep that pattern up, a lot of Deliveroos. Yeah, I’ve put on like a good stone or so.’
Has it become easier for you guys to navigate through the music industry, especially since you’ve worked with the sample you did for ‘The Girl is Mine’?
S: ‘I guess we got to where we are with ‘The Girl is Mine’, because we could navigate, so I guess you learn new bits and bobs here and there. Maybe before we knew how to navigate it like we do now, but people are more open to you, people answer their phones faster and reply to their emails faster!’
Given that you’ve still only released the one track, you haven’t done what many before have in giving away too much too soon, has that been an intentional ploy to build the brand and momentum?
S: ‘There’s been a few different factors. Anything we do we want to make a statement and we don’t necessarily want to be pigeon-holed as a ‘UK dance act’, we want to be seen as a serious global act, so we always want to make sure that every step is the right step. With that song, the samples took so long that it ended up taking a year to put out, that has pushed our timeline back, we’re getting ready to put the next single out, we’re just looking for the perfect feature but at the same time, the remixes show that we can do more than just pop records.
Before single 2, we wanted 30,000 Twitter followers and 50,000 Facebook likes so we’ve hit those targets, we did have certain goals to build more of a fanbase. If you come out with a big hit and follow it up with another big hit, you get too hot and you can burn out and there’s a few people that I think have done that so we’re happy to take our time. We’re in a position as well where we’re not trapped into a deal. The record is licensed from us, we’re self-managed so we don’t have short-term labels forcing us to do singles because they need that money for their annual accounts, we don’t need to do anything, we just strike at the perfect time.’
With the Tech and House scene growing so much, would you ever go down that road in order to brush off some pop-y stereotypes?
J: ‘Musically, we come from quite an acoustic place. We love artists like Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, anyone called Bob <Soul interjects by specifying that Bob the Builder doesn’t make the hallowed list>. I mentioned I’m a jazz musician so to be honest, we’re kind of pushing towards the more musical side, we love Dance music and we play quite a lot of that stuff in the live sets but in terms of our own singles and what we’re trying to do, we’re definitely trying to keep it musical. That soulful side is really what we’re trying to focus on.’
Do you think that the more popular artists and genres within the Dance music scene did enough to fight the closure of Fabric in London, which was more so a blow to the underground scene?
S: ‘I’m hoping it’s not going to close down, I hope there’s going to be some sort of appeal and that it’ll stay open. I’m not from London but when I used to go to London, that was the place I went. I think the last time I went it was about a month ago and Chris Lorenzo was playing there. In the taxi on the way in Kiss FM were playing the original ‘The Girl is Mine’ and I walked into the club and Chris Lorenzo was playing his remix of it, so it wasn’t a bad farewell! I’m hoping it stays open, I guess people have their own scenes and their own agendas so they support what they see fit. It was a champion of underground music.
I just think what’s happening to nightlife in London is terrible, it’s not just clubs. In Westminster they don’t let Subway toast certain subs after 11pm. I wanted a Subway melt and they couldn’t toast it. There are ridiculous council laws because they just want people to go home so they don’t have to spend extra money policing at that time, all the people in their nice new high rises need quiet, London is becoming a sterile city I guess.’
J: ‘You can tell Soul is passionate about Fabric, but he’s more concerned about Subway toasting sandwiches after eleven, so lets get on that campaign. Lets talk about what really matters!’
What effect do you think the closure will have on the younger generation coming up in the UK as fans and artists?
S: ‘We were just in New York and I grew up on Hip-Hop so that’s kind of the Mecca when it comes to Hip-Hop. It was kind of disappointing that you couldn’t do anything Hip-Hop in what was the Mecca of Hip-Hop that I grew up looking towards. You can’t go to a record shop anymore because all the record shops are gone. You haven’t got people doing ciphers in the park anymore, it’s like culture has shrunk. I think it’s really disappointing. There has to be more stuff in person and less stuff moving online, I’m a big champion of that. Our music, we want it to be meaningful and we want it to have lyrical content but at the same time there’s something important about musicians that make people dance and have a good time. My favorite thing to do is to go out and go crazy in a club!’