The amalgamation of Stray, Halogenix and Sabre has proved to be a rather formidable one since the trio decided to form Ivy Lab five years ago.
The production powerhouse comprising of the three talented producers, who were all established solo artists in their own right before clashing heads, is now one of the most respected in electronic music thanks to a handful of sublime releases.
And their most recent release was proof – not that it was really needed – that their sonic capabilities by no means lie solely within the realms of drum & bass.
We were lucky enough to pluck all three of them away from their hectic schedules to chat about what it is that makes them work so efficiently, their chain of 20/20 nights, their increase in half-time hip hop and their plans for the future.
But first, a few words on the success of that aforementioned EP, which featured this:
“The response to the EP has been really great. It’s been a year since our last release so we kind of anticipated that there would be a bit of hype behind it” says Halogenix.
“I think the coolest thing about this EP is that it’s the first large body of the half-time hip hop we’ve been producing and it’s been well received, which is really encouraging going forward,” adds Stray.
“What’s particularly encouraging is that people who are feeling one side of it seem to be feeling the other side too, which implies that their tastes reflect ours perhaps more than we originally thought.”
This steady rise in incorporating more experimental hip hop into their sound has been no means an accidental process. As Sabre explains…
“It’s been a long term plan of ours to incrementally introduce people to our personas as a half-time act and an act that is trying to incorporate hip hop sonics into our music” he says. “I guess it was a bit of a risk as most people know us from a drum & bass background but any good music needs to take a risk.”
This experimental alter-ego to the trio’s persona is a million miles away from the liquid rollers (see Live On Your Smile, Baby Grey, Oblique…) that helped towards making them so respected in the drum & bass community. But this isn’t a straight up style switch, just an ever-evolving and constant-broadening of parameters and abilities.
“We definitely intend to continue releasing more of the half-time stuff but we’re not planning on phasing out the drum & bass any time soon,” confirms Stray. “However, we may separate the platforms on which we release the genres.”
“And because we’re implementing a lot of formulas from drum & bass into our half-time stuff, it’s not massively unfamiliar territory for our listeners, which makes the transition easier.”
Production and musical tastes aside, the boys have also been running a successful chain of club nights under the guise of 20/20.
“There was quite a bit of risk involved with it at first,” admits Sabre. “But it’s kind of galvanised itself into a definite movement of people and we can tell the audience slightly apart from other club nights in the UK. It’s not the same crowd you’d get at a drum & bass night or a beats night – instead, it’s a niche crowd which makes it feel like something very new and something very British.”
When asked whether the addition of organising, promoting and playing at these nights is a burden on their time, Stray dismisses the added duties: “The nights definitely take a bit of planning but as we get better versed in all of it. The decision making becomes easier and it runs more smoothly each time.”
“There’s also quite a lot of experience between the three of us,” adds Halogenix. “Which means we can all learn from each other and fill in the gaps where others don’t necessarily have the knowledge required to complete a certain task.”
And Sabre concludes that when it comes to putting on a successful night – three heads are definitely better than one.
“We’ve all got the ability to take on different roles when it comes to putting on a night, whether that’s booking the artists, doing the artwork or running the social media campaigns,” he says. “That’s the way any good collective should work in my opinion.”
Three is not a crowd…
If anyone knows how a collective should operate, it’s Ivy Lab. While many artists would find three creative minds bubbling all at once a confusing musical minefield, they work with a seamlessness that’s more than the sum of its parts.
“With three people there’s ultimately going to be a dynamic, and that comes with its peaks and its troughs,” explains Halogenix. “There’s a combined objective we’re all working towards and we’re all pretty good at reminding each other what that objective is when we veer off track.”
“We do get on well, but there are disagreements,” says Sabre. “But that’s a good thing. If there weren’t any then it wouldn’t be such an exciting project and the music would probably be a little bit more banal.”
Of course, friendship, disagreements and dynamic aside, the immense combined ability between the three of them probably has a part to play in their success, too. So what does the future hold for a trio who’ve already achieved heaps in a relatively short space of time?
“I think rap is definitely the next stage in our development as a half-time act. We want to explore what it would be like to work with rappers,” hints Halogenix.
Four is not a crowd, either…
Many of you more observant folk have no doubt seen the picture of Ivy Lab and Alix Perez sharing a studio that recently emerged on social media. Stray sheds some light…
“Perez is a long term friend of ours so he hangs out here quite a bit. We’ve been making quite a bit of music with him but there’s no definite plan just yet – what I will say is watch this space.”
If potential collaboration with Alix Perez and various rappers wasn’t enough to whet your unquenchable appetite, Sabre closes with a final snippet of exciting news…
“On top of that, we’ve just finished off a load of remixes, including one of a Lenzman track and a few more that haven’t been heard at all as yet.”
If you’re not excited for what Ivy Lab has to bring in the coming year – you should be.