Bop x Subwave- Pandemic, War & Renaissance

Photo: Konstantin Kondrukhov

Bop and Subwave first met after featuring separately on Hospital Records’ Future Sounds of Russia LP, back in 2009. After continuing to forge a following for their genre defying soundscapes, the pair teamed up nine years later on the massive track City Lights. And since first releasing their EP together ‘Love and Other Drugs’, Bop x Subwave have become synonymous. 

After over a decade of partnered production, it seemed almost impossible for Bop x Subwave not to have created an album thus far. Best known for the stripped back, microfunk genre of which, Bop X Subwave were at the helm of creating,  this debut album Renaissance is a true, and thorough mix of eclectic influences, we hear UKG, 80’s pop and post dubstep, as well as, of course, drum and bass.  

Today we chat to Bop and Subwave about their influences and how the lockdown affected the creation of their album. We also speak to them about the Russo-Ukrainian War and how this tragedy affects unspoken facets of artistic life such as whether it’s appropriate to play out or release music. It’s a humbling reminder of the importance of music during the most troubling of  times. 

Hi Guys! How are you? What have you been up to? Have you been playing out much?

Bop I took a really big pause in my DJ career because of the pandemic. Firstly, I didn’t want to play because it was locked down and stuff like that. Then I decided that I wouldn’t play because it wasn’t safe for people. I thought playing out could influence the spreading of Covid, vaccines were not popular in our country.  A really low percentage of people had the vaccine. So I didn’t play any gigs because I didn’t  want to spread covid.

Then the war started and it was hard, but this summer I finally started to play out. I was feeling like I had my life on pause for a long time. But I just can’t wait until everything is good and normal in the world, because there is always something bad and awful that happens. I decided I needed to keep my life too, to keep myself so I can  help others and, and to feel that I’m alive. I started to play this summer at music parties in Moscow. There are really  great parties there- shout out to Data Moscow. A couple of gigs here and there, but mostly in Russia, but also we played Hospitality on the Beach in June.

How was that? 

Bop It was really good. And I think it was really inspirational for us because with all that isolation, sometimes you think that you don’t need music or music doesn’t matter. But when you feel the connection with people, with a crowd, the Hospital crew, with… everyone, it’s really inspirational. It was hard to get there because pretty much every European country stopped flying to Russia and from Russia. But we made it. 

Subwave: Yeah. It took me one day to get there, I think it was 24 hours. Three flights. First to St. Petersburg, next it was Istanbul. And then to Albania, Busy day. Horrible. Long day.

So you mentioned the war and the political landscape. Is it really affecting the rave scene and the music scene? Are there still parties going on?

Subwave It’s having a really, really severe effect on the music scene. First of all, we don’t have any foreign artists because it’s very expensive and artists don’t want to come here at the moment. A lot of promoters are out of money. It’s hard, like Bop said, people are trying to live life normally. Some people are running some local parties but that’s all. What can we do?

Bop It was really hard when the war first started. No one wanted to party when it was in the air. The fear and the solidarity with those people who suffered from the war. Lots of people left the country if they could and moved to other countries. A lot of great, creative, cool, and open minded people just left Russia. So it’s a massive loss for Russia. But for now, there are still people who live in Russia. They can’t leave the country, they need to stay here and they need to live their lives. I personally know that everyone doesn’t want this war, they just happen to be here and they want to live life. So the parties there are still local, but at the same time, I think people have started to appreciate what we have right now. They appreciate freedom much more than, well, we don’t have super freedom, but we still have air, and we can still gather to party and be together. I can only speak for myself, I have started to appreciate more simple things in life that I have at the moment.

That’s amazing. So you said that you stopped playing out during the pandemic You were still making music?  

Subwave: Yeah. Our album was made during the pandemic, well mostly.

For me, your names are synonymous now. Whenever I think of either one of you, I think of the other. But it’s only your first album. How come it took so long to get a full album together? 

Bop I think we spoke with the Hospital team about the album four or five years ago. We started to discuss this and we slowly started to collect sketches. At the time we had like five or six tunes. Hospital said, “Oh, let’s release it as an EP”. And we were like, “Whatever. Why not?” And we released the first EP, then the second one, then a couple of tunes here and there. Actually I think it was beneficial for us because at that time we were experimenting with different sounds and flavors. You can hear in the first two that they’re quite eclectic. We had garage tunes, we had lofi, drum and bass and jungle tracks and some more dark ones. So we experimented and then we kind of found something that inspired us.

I think it took so long because we were searching for the right sound and also because we are quite lazy dudes and we were working on our solo projects.

Subwave And because of Covid. Usually we make tracks together in the studio. So Bop would come to Moscow and we would write tunes in Moscow. Then I go to Petersburg. We’d make tunes there. So because of Covid, we couldn’t make music together. We did it through the internet. But it took a bit more time for us. 

Bop. Like before Covid we were making our tunes mainly in one studio together and we loved that process. It’s a much easier and smoother when you are together

You mentioned your solo projects. Is it hard to flip between solo stuff and then collaborating together? How do you get the mind space of like… This is mine, this is ours? 

Subwave I think we found the key mix of our music. And the main thing is that I really love what Bop is doing and I think Bop thinks the same about me so it was easy for us to generate something new. It was never really hard, it’s just natural. 

Bop Even right now when I start a sketch, I think “Oh, Subwave might like it”, or “What could Subwave do with this tune?” 

So let’s talk about the influence on this album because it’s so eclectic listening to it, it goes from post dubstep to Miami’s Vice style eighties, into pop and then darker, and then smash the UKG, where do you get all your influence?

Bop I have no certain answer to this, because I think it grew organically. We were just experimenting with the different styles that we like, and when something started to work, we said “Wow, that’s it. Let’s do this.”

My favourite part of the album is the sound. It’s like a combination of eighties, indie pop, indie rock with toyish drum machines and a vocal. I think the combination works really well for us because we feel like it’s something interesting that’s still 170 bpm, but it’s not drum and bass.

I think it’s partly because of Covid and isolation because we started to treat our productions not like tracks for playing out now but just treating them like songs we could listen to.

While it is 170 there’s not really very much drum and bass on the album. How does that work releasing on Hospital which has a very drum and bass focused audience?

Bop They were really supportive. I was surprised, to be honest. They, just gave us the full freedom to do whatever. When we were signing us, they were totally aware of what we produce and that it’s different stuff and I really felt happy when they encouraged us to write even more different stuff. 

And what about the Hospital fan base? 

Bop I was really afraid about how the Hospital fan base will react to the album, but so far it’s been really positive.

Subwave Me too was very afraid, but there’s been no negative at all. Some people understand what we want to give them and they’re taking it, so we appreciate that Hospital gave us a chance to make this. 

Bop Nowadays people started to be a bit more open minded in terms of styles and genres. There are lots of producers who produce breakbeat today, jungle tomorrow, Jungle and techno on Wednesday… I think people are more prepared right now for different genres. 

Yeah, I agree with you there… So a couple of the tracks, like Closer To You remind me of Burial, or Rave I Didn’t Know Was My Last has UKG vibes. Is Garage big in Russia or is that an influence you’ve got from the UK?

Subwave In Russia, it’s not really big, to be honest. Maybe drum and bass, but not garage. But for me, I’m from a very small town in the east of Russia, and when I was young in 97, in two clubs in the city, they were always playing speed garage and UK garage. I dunno why! So this music was always in my heart from my youth.

Bop  We have some great parties with UKG music in Saint-P and Moscow- shout out to Vaden & Blasta, but it’s still underground.But I also listened to a lot of UK garage, in my youth, and with drum bass it always has a special room in my heart . So I always experiment with these sounds.

What about the eighties as this album is drenched in the eighties? Where did that all come from?

Bop  I don’t know, to be honest. Maybe because I’m writing more with drum machines and drum machine samples from the eighties and nineties because they are simple and there’s just something magical about them. It started from there, and then all the synth sounds from the eighties are instantly associated with that time. For example if you take the  M1 organ and you instantly get that eighties vibe. I think it’s some nostalgic feeling that these sounds will  evoke in you. It’s like a fast track to those emotions. 

Subwave For me I was always listening to indie rock music, so they also have those drum machines, bands like Metronomy, in the 2000’s. So it’s like Bop said, the music had a room in the heart for a long time and it melted all together.

When will we see you after the album campaign? What’s going on? What’s happening next?

Subwave We are producing more music. We’re producing new music with Degs and also remixing London Elektricity right now. And, some guy, I think it’s, it’s a secret at the moment, but it’s big…some big mixes.

Bop For now we are really excited that we are finally releasing this album because we planed to release it earlier, but with the war and all that shit we needed to postpone this because we just didn’t have the mental energy to release it.

Not because of any kind of ramifications, just because you didn’t feel like it was the right time with what was going on? 

Yeah. It just didn’t feel right to post it. It’s never the right time because it’s still going. The war is not over. But, we need to keep going and do our best and I think with the music we can. People need emotions. People need music, I think, and I really hope it helps someone just to  be alive, to feel something positive. To feel loved. To feel…

Subwave Hope.