Five collaborative productions, one collaborative remix and a crazy mountain glacier set deep into their shared mission, Mefjus & Camo & Krooked’s supergroup status is fully confirmed.
It all started with Mandala in 2017. An emotional creeper that tears open the grand finale section of Camo & Krooked’s last album Mosaik.
Then came euphoric overdrive of Kallisto, a track that landed on Hospital just months after Camo & Krooked returned to the label in August 2019. It was swiftly followed by the immense disco thrust of Sidewinder on Mefjus’s Particles EP on Vision just months after… Then came the heart-stopping No Tomorrow exactly a year later in October 2020, slap bang in the centre of our lockdowns, capturing all the anxiety, emotion and ennui we were all experiencing at the time.
Now, almost a year later, comes Sientelo. Teased as the intro tune on their recent UKF On Air set, and now a peak missive in their rapturous pre-lockdown sets, it’s a Mandalorian-inspired fantasy banger supercharged with Columbian instrumentation and vocals. Translating to ‘feel it’ in English, Sientelo reflects a shared mood once again as many of us are indeed feeling things on a whole new level now we’re able to travel, rave and play once more.
But capturing the zeitgeist (no pun) is just a happy accident of this trio’s mission. For them, the most important thing about each of these collaborations – and the ones that will follow – is that it has to be completely different from the last and experiment with elements, influences, references and arrangements that aren’t typical to drum & bass.
With lockdowns pushing them further and further away from the typically functional, made-to-mix arrangements, plus giving them time to hone their ideas with even more nerdy detail than usual, the three artists are now sitting on at least five more tracks. If we’re lucky we might even get our hands on another one before 2021 is out. But for now, it’s all about Sientelo. We gave them a call. Se le oyen las voces…
Life is starting to get good again!
Camo: It all came quite quickly! It was silent for so long and then suddenly everything opened up again, even though the numbers were telling us something very different. Now it seems like lots of places are opening, we’re super happy to be travelling again. Travelling isn’t quite the same yet, we’re still not quite back to normal, but we’re on the right track.
Krooked: It’s quite complicated with travelling now, and a lot of work, but the shows make up for it and it’s so nice to see people raving again. We’ve been waiting for so long to hear these tracks on live systems, in a club with the crowd. It makes such a difference. This is what we’ve all been waiting for; to hear these new songs in the way they’re supposed to be played.
Mefjus: It’s been very fulfilling and rewarding to finally hear a lot of this music through big systems and seeing people react to them.
Road testing is a huge part of the creative process. Do you think it might influence a change in direction for the music? Perhaps make it less DJ-centric?
Camo: We’ve heard lots of stories from friends who are exploring different musical ideas and paths because of covid. We also did this ourselves setting up a ghostwriting company and mixing and mastering for other people, which has been really exciting and gave us a chance to think outside the box. We’re happy to be back into a busy schedule but it was a breath of fresh air.
Krooked: For us it was a deceleration in the first place. We could clear our headspace and rethink what we wanted to do. The thing with Martin was that we had such a good workflow with him we knew it would be fun to continue. We love fiddling round with beats, Martin has his hip-hop project on the side and does beats, too.
But I think this period has made it a lot more possible to not have to think about your typical dancefloor arrangements or tracks specifically made for mixing. It’s more like, ‘Okay, let’s write a tune that doesn’t have a typical main drop and does something different.’ When you’re in the club pressure, you want to make things for mixing and the club but we’ve been able to put that to the side during this time it’s made it a lot more fun and interesting. Our next track, for example, has a 16 bar intro but it doesn’t really drop, it just builds and builds for four minutes. We’re really proud of it.
You should be proud of everything you’ve done, even before raves closed. Sidewinder is a great example of that. Also No Tomorrow if there’s a track that summed up 2020 it was that!
Krooked: Haha. I think because we have three heads on this we try and come up with ideas that go beyond what one of us would come up with. That’s what has brought us together in this way even before covid. But during the lockdown is when we could really think about a lot of the details and ideas we wanted to implement in our tunes and we made the best use of our time. We’ve got a year’s worth of releases ready and we’re still on a roll. That’s a good feeling. It’s very rare because as a musician it’s very easy to get stuck.
Mefjus: It’s true. When we write a song it always has to have a new thing we haven’t done yet. That will be our topic for each new project. What haven’t we done? Let’s try something we’ve never done. With Sientelo it’s the Columbian influence and the organic instrumentation. And because of this big gap we’ve had time to take with our tunes. We can keep the three studios running parallel for weeks and weeks and not have any touring breaking up the workflow. It gave us a lot of freedom to go in on things – I think Sientelo had 12 different approaches. We started it before No Tomorrow, it was tricky to get right but we’ve been in a lucky position to have that time to make sure we get it right.
So every track you do together you need to learn something. That’s cool.
Camo: Every track has to totally stoke us.
Krooked: And most of the time we’re stoked by a new idea that hasn’t been done in a drum & bass realm. With Sientelo it was the Columbian vibe which hasn’t been done in D&B before. With No Tomorrow we wanted to approach something that was organic but in a symphonic way. It’s always about contrast with us. A lot of artists have their trademark in their drum sounds or certain motifs but for us the trademark is unpredictability. Our brainstorming is very pragmatic. We collect ideas, we try things and explore directions. Sometimes we end up with 10 different versions and we pick the best parts of each. It’s a good place to be in, that’s why we hardly ever have any repetition in any of the tunes, and the second drop is never a copy of the first one.
It makes much better use of the time. Sientelo feels more than four and a half minutes because it’s such a trip
Mefjus: That’s something we’ve learnt with this style of writing. With Markus and Reini, their songwriting ideas and arrangements are so clever, that’s what they bring while I bring a pragmatism in terms of rolling out a track so we can finish tracks quite quickly. It’s a great hybrid.
Camo: Martin is the best in the game for sound design, this has to be said. I think for all of us it’s such a cool feeling – we can all realise ideas we couldn’t have executed on our own. So if I have something I need to develop I can send it to Martin like, ‘What can I do with this?’. It doesn’t work all the time of course but it usually does.
Krooked: What makes this triangle so interesting is that as solo artists we have our safe space of sounds that people will know us for – things that people can immediately tell it’s a Camo & Krooked tune or a Mefjus tune. But pull it all together you have such a bigger playground and bigger source of sounds and more potential for creativity. Compare Mandala to Sidewinder to Sientelo, they’re all so different from each other. So we’ve got this situation where people know and expect something different every time. That’s the cool thing for us. Like, ‘Okay let’s make a jungle tune. What would a jungle tune by Mefjus, Camo & Krooked sound like in 2021?’
A bit like your Sub Focus remix probably! You just called yourself a triangle… But are you comfortable with the term supergroup?
Camo: That sounds like we need to have nice faces. It sounds too much like a boy band!
Haha. It sounds like there’s loads to come. Gotta big up the local connection… Schnitzel power and all that.
Camo: Haha. I think it’s actually more about our shared mentality than our location. We’re all remote in our own studios anyway. We share the same ethic and mindset.
Krooked: We hardly ever meet up for music, it’s always done online as we tackle the different parts at the same time and Martin does the merging. He does the dirty work! We do meet up socially, too, just to skateboard or have a few beers but we don’t talk about music so much when we meet like that. We’ve got a lot more in common than music.
Mefjus: Like gaming!
Krooked: Yeah we’re in the gulag most nights together and connect as good friends anyway and it feels great to work together.
Camo: And none of us are looking for a quick short cut or do the easy way. We’re all looking to do something truly different, exciting and creative. It’s very rewarding.
The music stands the test of time and has a lot more longevity and meaning that way…
Camo: You want to be the original and not the copy.
Mefjus: Especially if you want to complete something new and fresh. It’s about 3 of us finding a compromise between us. We eliminate so many different sketches because one of us isn’t happy with something and that creates this unique middle line between the three of us that doesn’t exist in anything else we all do. We go through so many feedback loops to arrive at the finished track that I’m super happy with every track we’ve done so far.
Krooked: There’s an old German expression that essentially translates to ‘We bring ourselves up the palm tree.’ We are very honest with each other and annoy each other so much, but it does lead to the best quality control. I also want to say that the stuff that triggers any idea we have can be very visual. With Sientelo we’d all watched Mandalorian and I was like, ‘Imagine that you’re in some Inca temple in Columbia then Mandalorian kicks in. The flutes, then the empire comes flying in. That’s the vibe – sci-fi, Inca temple vibe. That was the trigger point for this tune.
The next thing we did was look up Ludwig Goransson who wrote the Mandalorian music to get inspired by the sonics he used. That gave us a visual sonic space where you can imagine this tune to work in. This is very important for us when we write tracks – not only to work in the audio realm but also in the imaginary and visual realm. It helps us not lose sight of where the tune is going and what sounds we want to us. It’s almost like a movie score in that way.
Camo: I think Sientelo is the most rewarding tune we’ve put out so far. With No Tomorrow we had no idea what people though of the track or how they reacted to it. Now we’re playing it at our shows and seeing people sing along to it but we didn’t realise people knew it – so to see the reaction a year later is very strange. With Sientelo we did the opposite and teased it in our glacier stream, so people are already singing along to it when we play it which is also a great feeling. The tune is about to drop and we’re already happy.
What drops next?
Mefjus: We’ve got four more tracks that are pretty much done entirely. There’s another track in our glacier set which will be our next single, which we hope will be out before the end of the year.
Camo: Martin has a single coming out, we’ve just finished a single, so there’s lots coming up in between our collaborative work, too.
Krooked: We’re also getting booked for more exclusive b2b2b shows so we’ve made a whole bunch of exclusive edits for us to play only in our sets. We’ve bounced down lots of stems of our tracks and made mash ups of tracks like Martin’s Ringshifter and our Ember for example. We’ve also done some bootlegs like Prodigy’s Breath and Faithless’s Insomnia.
Krooked: We’re keeping the exclusive to us so you know you’ll hear stuff you won’t hear from anyone else. Then if you come to one of our shows or a b2b2b then you know you will get something very different and very fresh. It’s an exciting time again!
Mefjus & Camo & Krooked – Sientelo is out now on UKF