A lesson in how to get around the ‘difficult second album’ cliché Loadstar style: lock yourself away for three intense months and write the whole thing.
No over-thinking. No over-tweaking. No fannying around: Loadstar’s second album I Need The Night, released late last month, is the result of this technique. Listen to it and you can feel that intensity. 100% club-charged drum & bass (besides the triumphant turbo-soul of the finale track Walking On Water) it slaps, shoves and sizzles within the vast broad canvas the duo have been establishing since Xample and Lomax officially became Loadstar in 2010.
From all-out underground visceral gully (Give Yourself, Guerilla, All Junglists) to more electrified, euphoric synth-struck rush-boosters (I Need The Night, Run Down, Feelings) via thoroughbred dancefloor damagers (Spinnin Out, One For You), the album is a hard-hitting snapshot of a singular moment in time for Loadstar. It’s not about development or a journey, it’s about consistency and an energy and an ability to whisper sweet nothings in your ear one minute and break your neck the next.
We last spoke to them in August 2016 when they’d just poked their heads out of the studio after this three month production sesh. At the time they were 80% done. Several teaser singles and a cheeky sample clearance later and it’s finally out there. We called Gavin Xample to find out more… And left with a heads up on some massive collaborations coming our way in the future!
The album! Glad to see it’s out there doing its thing?
Yeah I am! It feels like a long time coming. We finished it ages ago. Around Christmas time last year but we had sample clearance which held it up. It was a pain waiting but totally worth it.
So you stuck to the plan you told us about last time.
We did. We wanted to do it quickly; write it, get it done and get it out instead of slaving over it for several years because your sound, style and techniques change so much over that time. So with this we wanted to capture a sound and a point in time. It’s got a lot more of a cohesive sound as a result; getting in the studio over three months and thrashing it out. It was a really exciting period. I’d just come down to Nick’s studio in London; we’d arrive with loads of samples ready to go and getting two or three ideas a day down, going away, living with them and picking the best ones to finish.
I like the honesty of that. Plus drum & bass changes so much over that space of time too. For example in the last interview we asked you about jump-up and that’s become a very dominant sound in drum & bass this year….
It’s been a strong influence on us, too, I’m happy to say. We’ve been into it for ages and guys like Upgrade and Turno have featured heavily in our sets. So we did a cheeky last minute jump-up tune All Junglists.
That, Guerrilla and Give Yourself are my percy faves I have to say…
Guerrilla and Give Yourself are my favourites on a pure drum & bass perspective, too. They reflect our individuals sounds, our collective sound and our collective influences. Basically lots of breaks, minimal bass and quite heavy and old school influenced sounds.
The sound that’s really kicking back in now!
I think so. UK drum & bass has been in a weird space for the last four or five years. Ten or so years ago things were really popping and drum & bass was appearing on a lot more multi-genre nights and there were parties happening all over the country. And I think that’s started to come back. It’s better when the scene isn’t so divided – there’s been a lot of tech nights, a lot of jump-up nights and no merging in between, but the cross-pollination is happening again with DJs from across the board playing on the same line-ups. That’s what I love about drum & bass; it’s very diverse with so many styles, the best parties are when we’re all playing together.
Label nights were a cause of this division for a while, I think
I totally agree. No one wants to hear the same sets in different order through the whole night! Labels are seeing this again and we’re seeing a lot more diversity on line-ups again now. It’s really exciting.
I think European events have had an influence on this, would you agree?
Definitely. Europe has had a thriving scene for years now and they haven’t been as divisive as UK line-ups.
Let’s talk about Give Yourself… It’s had some divisive reactions on the channel!
It’s split opinions for sure; I think a lot of fans who’ve followed us since we started Loadstar or even before as Xample & Lomax, will totally understand where we’ve come from on it. It’s got all those classic elements I mentioned earlier. But we’ve always tried to be diverse with our releases – an A-side and B-side that are different on purpose. We’re never defined by one sound. People often like one side or the other and not always both. We’re quite used to splitting opinions. It goes back to the idea that we don’t like one style of drum & bass and make one sound. That is our signature.
When contrast is your signature you have a blank canvas but also have to have a consistency, right? Not many albums can cohesively include tracks from the gospel-like Walking On Water to All Junglists for example…
That’s the benefit of making an album – to have that freedom to be that expansive and expressive. Walking On Water was a real privilege to do because of this. We couldn’t release that as a single – we’d have to give that to another artist for that to work. So to be able to write something like that and have the chance to put it out there and show we’re into that side of the music and enjoy making it is a benefit of doing an album. Even though a lot of people don’t think albums work this day in age.
Albums aren’t about working in a commercial sense any more – it’s a personal statement for the artist to dig deeper into their craft and explore ideas that don’t have to be big singles.
100 percent – it’s a creative experience that allows us to really get into what we do and how we do it, and that then pays off in the singles and bigger tracks which will also be written for the album.
I guess writing it in three months makes it a lot more viable as artists who also need to be active, maintain bookings and do everything you need to do to stay at the top?
Yeah things move quickly – if you don’t put anything out in a few months then you start to feel you’re becoming forgotten about! It’s different to when we started on Ram when we were all putting out a 12” say every six months or even longer. It’s about keeping that balance; I’m not really a fan of throwing music out willy nilly. You’d really consider which tunes you’d put out when you’re only putting out two or three tunes a year. So the job is to keep quality control as high as possible. You have to A&R yourself different and understand how people digest music differently now everything is on a plate for them to try. It’s a challenge that all artists face and one that’s really interesting when people get it right.
I think the one-track bombs in the build up to EPs and albums are a cool way of testing the water now.
Definitely. You’re staying active, giving people what they want but holding back at the same time. Working out which tunes to and when to drop them is an interesting challenge.
Each of these singles and one-trackers has come with its themed artwork. Any concept behind this?
We’ve always found it tricky to give a visual representation of our music with artwork and videos and things like that. Sometimes it’s felt very rushed, like ‘shit we need some artwork!’ This time we wanted something that goes through the various releases. Our designer came up with this concept – and it reflects our sound well. Because we’ve got ‘star’ in our name designers always want to do something with the star but often their ideas come across as cheesy. But when we saw the mock-ups we thought it was a cool way to incorporate the star and not look shit! I think drum & bass is still trying to find an appropriate visual identity in this way, finding visuals for music is a strange art.
So I’m wondering if you’re already working on a next project if this album was finished a while ago?
Yeah we’re sitting on a load of new material which we’re not sure what we’re going to do with. We’ve got a massive collab with DC Breaks which has been smashing our sets. That will be the next thing after the album.
That sounds heavy!
We’ve done quite a few back to back sets so we thought that would be a good idea to do something. We’ve also been doing back to backs with Mind Vortex so we’re all working on a collab together with DC Breaks and them.
Yeah that’s working out really nicely too. We’re just passing it around between us and seeing how it shapes up. It’s cool. We’ve not done much collaborating at all over the years, not for major reasons but since we’ve finished this album and we’ve tried to embrace collaborating. We’ve got some collaborations with S.P.Y on the go as well. So yeah, loads of exciting things to follow the album…