If you’ve been to a Spearhead night recently then Villem & McLeod will need no introduction. But for those who haven’t had the pleasure of hearing the liquid ear candy they produce, you’re in for an early Christmas treat.
From DJing in their bedrooms to performing at sold out Spearhead events, Villem & McLeod have rightly earned their place in the spotlight. While the current year has brought a lot of misery to some, the Ipswich duo have had their best year yet – releasing No More Games in April, their first EP on Spearhead, and then the hotly anticipated (not to mention beautiful) Spiritual Value EP on Horizons last month. With another Spearhead EP on its way and the prospect of an LP in the not so distant future, this is only the start for Villem & McLeod.
We managed to catch up with them as they made their way to a Spearhead event in Leeds with label boss Bcee as the chauffeur.
As a duo you guys are making waves at the moment! When did the Villem & McLeod partnership start to blossom?
Villem: Well the first track that hit home was Another Star. It was the one that got picked up by everyone. Friction had it on his Fabriclive CD and Marcus Intalex wanted to sign it. That was the one that really got people talking about us. I wouldn’t say there was one time where we started to blossom though; it was a very organic process.
Has music always been the goal? Or have you had other careers and ambitions along the way?
Villem: I think we both just wanted to do music! I was thinking about this earlier today – many people in drum and bass aren’t making enough money to survive without working. It’s surprising how many people aren’t making enough from music. We’ve got day jobs and we both work, but we do music because we love it.
Very true. What are your day jobs?
Villem: I work for my dad. He’s got a building firm so I just help out in the office.
McLeod: I work at a fabrications company and I’ve just started a little clothing company off my own back. That’s taking up a lot of my time at the moment…check out @Project_45_apparel on Instagram – that’s my new clothing line. Designs are inspired mostly by Funk & Soul 45s and an online store is also in the making!
It sounds like hip-hop and funk have been big influences on the tracks you make?
Villem: Yeah definitely. We used to run a night called Stay Tuned, which was more just us having fun playing hip-hop, funk, soul, reggae, all sorts. We came from listening to jungle and then listening to jungle you find the different sample sources like your funk breaks, reggae samples, soul vocals. So then you go digging around discovering what the original sources are, and we ended up loving the original sources and wanted to DJ them. That’s where we came from, that funk/soul theme.
Finding those original samples gives your music more authenticity!
McLeod: Definitely. I think that culture is a little bit lost in drum and bass as well – going crate digging and finding original samples. Some of the newer stuff sounds a little plastic because it’s all just synths etc.
With releases on Warm Communications, Horizons, Spearhead and more, it’s clearly working for you. It does seem like you guys could pop up anywhere at the moment.
Villem: Yeah I mean we are more affiliated with Spearhead now, that’s kind of the direction we are heading. Bcee says it’s the best label in drum and bass – we tend to agree.
No bias there then with him sitting in the driver’s seat…
Villem: None at all…
McLeod: Bcee’s pretty open about us working with other people though.
Villem: Yeah but when we released on Horizons Bcee didn’t speak to us for about a month, but it’s all good. Basically our main home is Spearhead now, but those tracks that came out on Horizons, they weren’t really fitting the EP that we had at the time for Spearhead.
Jokes aside, it must feel good knowing you’ve got support from someone as respected in the scene as Bcee
Villem: It’s been a pleasure the whole way. All the Spearhead events have been absolutely killing it. It’s nice to be involved in something that is doing so well. He’s also a handsome chap… that beard.
Talking of support, you and Riya seem to have found something special
Villem: Yeah definitely. That’s kind of how we met Bcee because he caught wind of us writing a bunch of music with Riya, and he came down to basically sign the album that Riya was doing and met us at Sam’s studio. We tried to get in the studio as much as possible with her.
McLeod: Sometimes Laura (Riya) would come and stay at mine for the weekend and we would shut ourselves in the studio working on music and getting to know each other better. Those studio sessions were usually rewarded with a few drinks down the pub afterwards!
Villem: We were really happy to work with Laura and we also got to work with Dynamite MC on Fear Bites, which was a dream come true. He’s one of our favourite MCs from back in the day. When writing Fear Bites we had Brown Paper Bag in mind with the bassline. It was like a double bass kind of feeling to the tune. We joked that we should get Dynamite on it and Laura was up for it as well! She sent him the tune – he loved it and boom he did the vocals on it.
He’s a true legend. I can imagine co-producing Riya’s album must have been not only inspiring, but also a real learning curve?
Villem: Yeah we had never really worked with vocalists before. Working with Riya was definitely a learning curve. I think she wants to do some more actually.
McLeod: We’ve discussed doing more music together, hopefully in the 2017…so watch this space! Working with her definitely gave us a better idea of producing vocals – before we only used samples.
So more collaborations with Riya are in the pipeline, but what else can we look forward to? Is an LP in your sights?
Villem: Bcee’s shouting at us as we speak… he’s cracking the whip!
McLeod: We’re kind of working on an LP aren’t we?
Villem: We’re basically writing a shit load of music. We do have an EP coming on Spearhead in February – Perfect Solution EP featuring MC Fats and we’ve got Heidi Vogel on a track, who has worked with The Cinematic Orchestra. We saw them live back in 2007 at the Royal Albert Hall and Heidi was singing on that. We were blown away!
McLeod: The way we linked with her was a bit strange…
Villem: Yeah! She was on a Facebook cull. She was deleting all her friends and said to Sam ‘shall I delete you or not?’ and Sam told her that they should talk because he writes drum and bass, and she was up for working with us. It took some time for us to get something from her, but she absolutely smashed it. So yeah that’s coming in February. We are very much looking forward to that!