“20 hours ago I was in Brixton and now I am having a beer on the beach in Mexico and can see the stars. Life is weird”, tweeted Harry Agius – better known as Midland – a while ago and it indeed it must be. In the past five years alone, Agius has released around 20 records on labels like Aus, Phonica and Feel My Bicep while touring the world as DJ. Surprisingly, he also found the time to work with long-time friend and vocalist Robbie Redway on the material they now present as a full-length under the name AKASE. Graspers will be released through !K7 on Friday. You can listen to it in its entirety below our brief interview with Agius and Redway.
You have been friends for years now. How did you initially get to know each other and when did you decide to collaborate?
It was a good 5 or 6 years ago that we both left Leeds, where we met at university, and moved to London to embark on various projects, musical and otherwise. We’d always spoken about doing something together and finally found a day when we could try something out. It went pretty well and we decided to write some more stuff together, although none of the first 6 or 7 tracks we wrote will feature on the LP. It was a steep learning curve but we had a lot of fun with it.
Robbie, it took you two years to complete Graspers, which nowadays seems unusually long, but makes sense considering how busy you both are. How did the collaborative working process look like?
In terms of how much time we spent in the studio, it was actually quite efficient! But yes, with Harry’s DJing schedule and the fact that I was teaching full-time for one of those years, it was tricky to fit time in. As we made more music together the process became way more refined – we got to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and also developed a more coherent ‘sound’. For the first few tracks we wrote it was very much Harry on production and me on vocals and instruments, but the more we did together it became more collaborative, more flexible and more consistent. The last 4 tracks we wrote for album were done in about a week.
Harry, you have been rather productive. Did writing Graspers provide a counterbalance to the fast-paced lifestyle of a DJ who is also expected to frequently release club-orientated material?
For me the distinction between writing with Robbie and working on my solo material never felt like a counter balance rather another avenue in music that I wanted to explore with someone else. In my more club focused music I always try and imbue my songs with a sense of of development and structure and so when I write with Robbie it is a chance to hone that further. As we continued to work together our focus on structure and trying to achieve our goals concisely within our songs became stronger, and as such bar a few songs, all the tracks are actually quite short.
The press release describes Graspers as a suitable soundtrack “for post break-up nights in and emotionally laden post club afterparties.” Does that adequately reflect the record’s themes? Is it a break-up record? Is it even possible to create a personal narrative when you’re working on a record for two years?
Just to set the record straight, it is not a break up record, we were and are both in happy relationships, I think what we wanted to achieve was that hopefully our record can become the soundtrack to these important and sometimes forgotten moments in your life. There are records that you go back to which for better or worse remind you of times in your life and so perhaps this might do for others, what others have done for us. In regards to the narrative, for us, because the record was never rushed by label deadlines and was only worked on when it felt right, the music catches us at various points and moments over the past two years of our life . There are tracks which feel more tense and introverted and then those which feel more open and optimistic and so if anything the album feels deeply personal to us, like a snap shot in time, because it comes from a totally honest place.
What are you plans for the future with AKASE?
The full length LP is out on January 22nd so we’re excited for people to finally hear it as a whole. We’ve also started getting booked to play some interesting shows so we’re going to see how it all develops and take it step by step – we don’t want to force our music on people, rather make personal and hopefully lasting connections. Every gig teaches you something new about playing live and how you can develop it and make it more rewarding for both the audience as well as ourselves. Making music should be a constant learning curve and so we are already looking forward to start working on the next set of songs.
Stream: AKASE – Graspers
AKASE – Graspers (!K7)
6. Is It Because
8. Deft Ways
9. Feel A Little
Format: LP, CD, Download (!K7)
VÖ: 22. Januar 2016