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Charlie Cummings

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“Liquid is a soulful singer’s dream” – In Conversation With Javeon

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“Liquid is a soulful singer’s dream” – In Conversation With Javeon

 

Implementing a further degree of diversity into the drum and bass sphere, Bristol-based vocalist Javeon is quickly becoming synonymous with a stripped-back sound defined by its soulfulness, authenticity, and R&B influences. 

Although his D&B discography is forming at impressive speed, Javeon’s newcomer status to all things at 170 beats per minute shouldn’t mislead you; beyond D&B he’s decorated musician with over a decade of eclectic experience in the music industry. His journey prior to drum and bass saw him secure a major stint in the pop world, where he signed to PMR Records, landed a writing credit on Tory Lanez’s platinum album I Told You, and became the first signing for industry legend Fraser T Smith’s publishing company Seventy Hertz

However, there was always a missing piece in the jigsaw for Javeon. Something that gave him the sonic freedom to fully embrace himself as an artist and tell the stories that meant the most to him. 

This missing piece was liquid drum and bass. A subgenre that now gives him the ability to make music that fully represents himself as both a musician and human being. 

Now embarking on a fresh path as a D&B artist, Javeon has signed to Shogun Audio, returning to his underground roots in the process. We caught up with him to discuss his past as a dubstep MC, his journey over the past decade, and why this latest venture into drum and bass is his most fulfilling to date. 

Hey man, it’s good to be able to chat with you. You’re Bristol-based, right?

Alright man. I am and I love it. Even though I’ve travelled around, I’m biased, because I’ve been based here my whole life. I’ve got a brilliant balance between the city, music, and peace and quiet. I’m very fortunate that I can stay here and do my work. 

You’re a new name to a lot of D&B heads, but outside of the genre, you’ve accomplished a lot haven’t you? 

So back in 2010, I became the host for L-vis 1990 and then signed to a label called PMR Records in 2011. We went everywhere together. Universal gave his manager his own label and when he realised I could sing, he signed me to that label. I was label mates with people like Disclosure and stayed on the label for about three years. I had a really great time and we accomplished a lot.

I left in 2014. At that point, I knew I liked R&B and soulful music and I knew I liked dance music as well, but I hadn’t found the right sort of dance music to fuse with it yet. 

What were some of your favourite memories from this time?

I toured with Clean Bandit as their main support act and featured on their album. At that point, soulful house was really popping off and there was quite a big garage influence on the sound I had at that point. That was my idea of UK R&B at the time. 

That must’ve been great, was this all under the same alias you have now?

Yeah, man. Well, my first three releases would have been under the name Javeon McCarthy, but since then everything I’ve released has been under Javeon. 

It must be a bit strange coming into drum and bass as a newcomer to this scene when you’ve accomplished quite a bit in other scenes prior. 

Yes and no. It is because I’ve done quite a bit, but that was quite a bit of time ago. I’ve had to reinvent myself, so it’s weird that I’ve come into the scene trying to work my way up again. It’s a new industry and I’m still learning the ropes and the way that drum and bass works. I always knew about drum and bass, but originally, I never had that love for the genre that I did for R&B.

What changed?

The collaboration with Alix Perez in 2016. When I was signed to PMR, Perez was producing music under the alias Arp 101. I did a session with him and another producer who was also on the label and although nothing really came of it, a couple of years later he reached out to me when he was launching his own label (1985) and wanted me to feature on an EP. 

We made a tune, which was actually a hip-hop tune. A year later, in 2017, he told me he’d flipped it into a liquid tune and it was released. That was my introduction to liquid drum and bass and as I started to listen to more of it, I really started getting into it. 

That’s wicked that you linked up with Alix Perez for a hip-hop tune!

I already knew who Alix was because I did a lot of dubstep nights, which were often Room 2’s at D&B nights. I was doing RUN shows in Bristol from 2009 to 2011 before I was signed to PMR.  I was hosting a lot of the dubstep rooms as an MC in Bristol, so I was hearing a lot of jump up but it wasn’t my cup of tea. Liquid has been my gateway back into the genre. 

It’s really interesting that you were around the scene but never felt the connection back then. 

Exactly, that’s the word! Connection. It wasn’t that I wasn’t into it, or didn’t have a love for it, I just didn’t feel that connection with it. 

To add a bit of context, it was back in 2014 that I stopped connecting with the pop audience. I’d been touring and had been signed for a few years, but I wanted to do something different. I became the first signing to Frazer T Smith’s publishing company Seventy Hertz. I went to Germany and Los Angeles to write which was amazing.

You got songwriting credit for Tory Lanez’s platinum album as well, didn’t you? 

Yeah. Seeing it is great, it’s something I’ve got framed on my wall. But how it actually happened is a bit different. Basically, the same producer who linked me with Alix Perez was doing big things and ended up working with Tory Lanez. He took some of the vocals from one of our projects and incorporated them into the track he made for the Tory Lane’z album. It’s one of those things that I don’t think about too much. 

In terms of your music now, your strain of drum and bass is very soulful and you can hear the R&B influence. Is it important for you to bring your own unique sound to the genre?

I don’t think about it too much, to be honest. I’m viewing this experience as having a second chance of being signed to a label and gathering a new audience. For me, I just want to feel comfortable in what I’m making. 

Authenticity sounds key for you. 

Yeah, authenticity is important for me. Even if it doesn’t do well, or people don’t like it, it’s so important for me to like it personally. Otherwise, it feels like a waste of time. Actually, I need to love it. I love everything that I’ve put out on Shogun so far and that’s what I set out to achieve when I wrote all of these tunes.

After listening to your forthcoming EP on Shogun, the collab with Duskee is a standout. I love the light and dark contrast between your vocal styles. 

Thanks man. One of the things that I really love about the D&B scene is how easily contactable everybody is. I also love how the fans reach out to you as an artist. In the commercial scene, people can love the song but not know the artist. 

It’s a smaller, tight-knit scene and it really shows. In terms of the lyricism on the EP, there’s quite a bit of deep meaning in the words. Where does this influence stem from?

After the Clean Bandit tour in 2014, I was sent to a writing camp in LA and was working with songwriters, some Grammy-nominated, who were so much better than me. At the end of the two weeks, I was a different writer and understood the dynamics of writing so much more. I worked and sharpened my craft for another few years and then I started to collate all the skills I’d learned. 

Then during the pandemic, I started getting so many feature requests from the drum and bass world. There was just something about the liquid I was writing over that made me feel myself and dip deeper than anything I’d ever written on before. Maybe it was bcause of my underground and electronic roots. 

How did you change your approach to writing for drum and bass?

I had to respect the scene. It’s a predominantly producer-based genre so I had to really understand the format. Then I wanted to create authentic, introspective, and, unique music. I wanted people to like what I was talking about. I had a bit of an epiphany during all the writing through the pandemic. 

When I got in contact with Shogun, I started digging deeper into my soul and became a different writer again in the process. I love how naturally writing for liquid feels for me. It blends R&B and dance music, it really draws something out of me. Even with ‘Aura’, I’m writing about a friend’s mental health but I can make it sound like it’s about a relationship. 

Liquid is the gateway for a lot of people because it makes for such an easy listening experience. 

It’s just that bit more soulful. I’m a singer, so hearing the soul, chords, and warmth really resonates with me. Liquid is a soulful singer’s dream. 

Does drum and bass give you a lot more freedom in the lyrics than being signed to a pop label making tunes for the radio?

Exactly that. I’m left to my own devices to write the songs and it’s really nice having that trust put in me as an artist. 

How did your signing to Shogun unfold?

The relationship with the label, Pete, and Keir has been building for a few years and I think they liked my quick turnarounds with tunes. Being part of a new scene, I knew I had to put in the work and make a good impression on people. For the forthcoming EP, I reached out to most of the producers myself. So like I said, having that freedom is really nice. 

In 2020, I was doing loads of features, but I wanted to go and do my own EP for a label. I really wanted to be viewed as more of an artist than a featured artist. I was still planning an R&B EP, but I decided that it was time to stop running away from where the love is, so I started to reach out to the drum and bass scene properly and fully embraced it. Harry Bryson has been such a big help for me, working with me on song structures and other things. We’ve built up a great relationship now. Now, I feel in control of my career as an artist. 

And that’s exactly what you’d want at this stage of your career.

100%. My manager has been great as well. There have been times when he’s been longer sighted than me. He, the label, and I all trust each other which just means it works so well. 

If there’s one thing that you want to take from this journey in drum and bass, what is it?

I want to be able to grow and be experimental. I haven’t always been in the right industry to facilitate this. Now I am. There are so many sub-genres and so much loyalty. I want to be doing shows with DJs and live instruments, like DRS. He’s a great example of what I want to end up doing, but just in my own unique way. 

There’s so much musicality in liquid. As a vocalist, you can really work with the melodies and synth work and really incorporate that power and expression into the lyricism. 

100% man. There’s so much scope for beautiful instrumentation which I’ve really come to love. It’s such a great time for vocalists in drum and bass as well. People are not even batting an eye-lid to vocalists DJing. I would expect chin strokers to be against it, but people seem to be all for it and I love that.

From my point of view, I think D&B is in a superb place right now for so many reasons.

It feels like I’ve come into drum and bass at the perfect time. With other things I’ve done, I felt like I’ve either been in a scene before the curve or after the curve. Right now, drum and bass is so in motion and in such a great place.

Does it feel like it’s meant to be?

It really does. It feels fucking great. 

Javeon, Duskee & Hyroglifics – Aura is out now on Shogun Audio

Follow Javeon: Instagram / Soundcloud / Twitter

 

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