There’s an undeniable link between the legacy of funk and soul music and D&B: Their genres’ uniform ability to make people want to move, the sheer energy they bring to the listener, not to mention the sample sources…
A five-minute browse through the back catalogues of Lenzman, DJ Marky or Redeyes will remind you of this link. As will any given track by rising soulful D&B merchants Macca & Loz Contreras. The former lives in Portsmouth and the latter in Leeds, but the distance hasn’t stopped them from producing music which is nonchalant, unique and simple in all the right places. Beginning with a Fokuz EP in 2014 the duo have slowly but steadily impressed everyone they’ve encountered, including the likes of DJ Marky who apparently spent a taxi journey with the boys repeatedly telling them how much he loves their sampling.
Last month they released their first full-length EP on Spearhead Records and Lost Origins represents the old Macca & Loz Contreras sound as well as a newer, sharp-edged side to their productions, one which reflects the ongoing modernisation of D&B and its increasingly forward-thinking bent. I caught up with Macca and Loz to talk about all of this, as well as to hear how it all began.
How did you guys originally link up?
Macca: I had a friend called Hosta, I don’t know if you know any of his tunes, but when I first started out producing he taught me a lot. To cut a long story short, he got me a gig up in Newcastle where he was based and Loz was on the line-up there as well, weren’t you?
Loz: It was at World HQ, yeah. Hosta hooked me up with a one-off set there and it became a residency, so I used to go up every month and those boys would party far too hard for me.
Macca: They were pretty mental weren’t they.
Loz: That’s how we linked up, because they wanted to continue partying and we both wanted to go to bed. You were telling me about how if we combined our styles, my sampling and your production, we could make some sick tunes.
Oh okay so you’d already heard some of each other’s productions?
Macca: Yeah yeah. Like, before I even started producing I used to listen to Liquicity and that’s when I heard the infamous Baby It’s You.
What an absolute tune!
Loz: Yeah, I think at the time I had five or so tunes on the Liquicity channel which was quite a big deal and then there was other ones like Mr Suicide Sheep. At the time I literally made tunes like that to get followers, which wasn’t even what I was wanting to make. But yeah, after Newcastle I sent you a piano sample which became Always Yours, right?
Macca: Yeah, off of that first EP.
What were those original producing sessions like?
Macca: I’d say a lot of it is still fairly similar to how it is today, to be honest. Loz is probably the more musical person and obviously really good at sampling and getting a good idea down. Often he’ll just send me a single sample and then I’ll try and build a track around that, add elements and add other parts. Often then I’ll send it back, and you’ll add like a finishing massive sample or something.
Loz: Yeah, either add a finishing vocal or cut to shreds what he’s done [laughs].
Macca: [laughs]. Yeah that’s normally how it works. But then on the flip-side, in the last year I’ve been sending you ideas from scratch as well.
Loz: Yeah. I’d say the first few singles and EPs we did, it more often than not started with me then would go over to Macca, who would then just transform it, which would then re-inspire me and it would go from there. But now Macca starts a lot more.
Macca: Yeah, I’d say in the last year I’ve just been super motivated to improve our tunes and improve our production and stuff.
This is around late 2014 then. It seems to me like there was a bit of a gap between then and the last year or two, where you’ve put out a whole LP and are now releasing on Spearhead. Were you working on your sound or something between 2015-2016?
Loz: So I would say that there’s been a little bit of a transformation in what’s happened after the album in the sound and what we do as well. It’s all down to Macca, the time you spend producing and you being able to come up with like a different angle of looking at things and coming up your own ideas as well. Lost Origins is 70-75% Macca at least, I just put the finishing touches on it. I think it was going back to the drawing board stylistically and working on different stuff. We had to have a little break after the album as well, didn’t we?
Macca: Yeah, I listen back to the album now and the production is just so bad, but since maybe about 2017 everyone has just stepped up their production – it’s all about production now. Obviously there’s that balance where you don’t want to obsess too much over production, to maintain the vibe that you get from the tune.
Loz: I’m going to get thrown in jail soon for all these samples [laughs].
Macca: [laughs]. Yeah I think we both are.
Tell me about this Spearhead EP, you mentioned that you sent Steve BCee eight tracks and he picked his favourite four. That implies to me there wasn’t a specific vision as such with the release, it was more about getting music you liked out there via a great label. Is that accurate?
Loz: Yeah he sort of gave us an indication of which ones he liked.
Macca: That was like summer last year, wasn’t it? We started talking about it straight away after Liquicity last year.
Loz: Yeah, you’d sent me You Want Me You Need Me, which you thought was a finished tune, and then I put the vocal on it. Then we met at Liquicity and we were both like fuck, we’ve done it again, why do we make each other’s tunes so much better? [laughs].
Tell me about working with Becca Jane Grey on the EP, what was that like and how did she impact the EP?
Loz: I first properly heard of her through you Macca, because you wanted a vocalist on Lost Origins. How did you link up with her?
Macca: I’m just trying to remember, it was through Facebook and I’m almost certain she got in touch first to say that if we ever wanted a vocalist on a tune, we should let her know. Almost straight away, the first thing she sent over ended up being Lost Origins. She was just so quick at getting an idea down, which is one of the things I really like about Becca, she straight up just told us yeah, I really like this. Within a couple of days, she’d sent us a demo which sounded amazing, we wrote it all together and it came out quite quickly I think.
Loz: That tune would be pretty much nothing without though. It’s a nice tune, but she made it.
How do you guys see this release within the context of your other releases? Do you see it as similar?
Loz: You Want Me You Need is like nothing we’ve ever made before, and that’s mostly Macca coming in with this new angle.
Macca: Yeah and then you put the vocal on it and just transformed the whole tune. But there’s like a weird synth in that one, isn’t there? I remember writing that in FM8 and it sort of carries the whole tune and sounds really similar to Plan B – End Credits. It was originally a very happy, soft, rolling tune but I thought it needed a vocal on it, so sent it to you and came out with this massive, uplifting vocal. It made it so different.
Loz: Yeah, I really like it, it’s really catchy. But to summarise on the EP, I’d say there are two tracks that are like the old style – Don’t Give Up and I Need You – the amen rollers. There’s You Want Me You Need Me which is like nothing we’ve ever done before, it’s a bit more of a deep, Lenzman-y sounding roller. Then there’s Lost Origins with Becca Jane Grey which again, is like nothing we’ve ever made before, it’s quite a haunting tune. So there’s two that are like our old style but sound better, then there’s two other songs that are totally different to each other and different to anything that we’ve done in the past.
Tell me about what the rest of 2018 and perhaps 2019 has in store for you guys.
Macca: We have got another EP coming out on Fokuz, it’s more of a throwback to our older style, which should be arriving around late Autumn.
Loz: Have we mentioned the remix that is on that EP? So, at the last Liquicity, last summer, we had to share a cab with DJ Marky all the way to the festival, and I have a decent relationship with him because we’ve DJ’d together 5 or 6 times and I speak a bit of Portuguese. He was banging on about the sample in Honey Sugar, telling us how sick he thought the sample was and then said he would love to remix it.
Macca: Yeah, I remember telling him that I was going to hold him to it and would send him the stems tomorrow. We were obviously so eager to hear it, then we opened one of his nights which was incredible, I can’t believe we got asked to do that. He said he was gonna play the remix that night, then at 4.30am he played it and it was just so surreal. Fucking hell, Marky is playing his remix of our tune!
Loz: So we’ve got that Fokuz EP with that Marky remix on.
Macca: We’ve also got a bunch of tunes that are just sort of unsigned, so we’re hoping to get another Spearhead release and will probably be sending Steve BCee some more stuff over the next few months.
Loz: I think a lot of the tracks we’re sitting on are the best tunes we’ve made.
Macc: Do you reckon?
Loz: Yeah I do. Some of them sound so different, you would not listen to them and think it’s by us.
Macca: You’ve played them out, haven’t you?
Loz: I’ve played quite a few of them, yeah. Ghost Of You, I played at Overflow in Leeds and let it roll all the way out, it’s quite a chilled out roller. When the second drop hit the boys from Overflow were like ‘mate, what’s this tune?’. I’ve played it at other sets and it goes down really well and we’ve got a few others like that.
Macca: I think that goal of playing our music out a bit more was part of me taking that period to improve my music, perhaps looking at making some more dancefloor orientated tunes…