If you have been to a house party with a DJ that knows half a damn about playing some good music to vibe out to, then you've definitely heard Snakehips. The UK crew, consisting of two London-based producers, Oliver Lee and James Carter, has been smashing remixes and original productions since 2012. With their tracks featuring on Majestic Casual, a popular YouTube channel, the duo has racked up tens of millions of plays. With their latest single blowing up on Spotify, Snakehips are establishing their own high-class brand of chilled out, jacked up beats.
THUMP caught the duo in LA over a breakfast Skype date before they took off on the rest of their US Tour. On the west coast, the pair were relaxing after playing HARD's halloween rager Day of the Dead, alongside the likes of Vic Mensa and Flying Lotus.
The duo, by pure chance, crossed paths years back in Hong Kong on business. "We got to talking and then realized we were on the same flight back to LA," says James. We decided to get in the studio together once we were back in London, and that was basically it." Like many successful production duos, the pair immediately clicked, musically. "We both had the same vibe of stuff," remarks Ollie. "We didn't really talk about it. We were just like, 'okay, now we want some nice jazzy chords,'" continues James with a laugh. "It's just how we think about music."
If you ask five different people to describe Snakehips' sound, it wouldn't be surprising to get five different answers. What is true is that the sound is undeniably their own. "It's chill, but high up beats," says James. "Slow-jams. Contradicting really. Because some people say we make really chill music, and some people say we make really hype music," he laughs.
The duo draws upon a wide range of influences in the studio. Ribbons of old school R&B, soul, disco, hip hop and beat music all run through their songs. "There are so many different vibes, there's not just one thing we're most focused around," says Ollie. Each track is meant to stand on its own. "We aim to make full songs," explains James, "rather than just a dance song where it has the whole build up and the drop, and that middle bit and what not." "Even with our remixes, we've always used a vocal," continues Ollie. "We don't just have a drop and a wump wump wump," James concludes with a smile.
Considering the variation in their tracks, it's no surprise the two are intensely knowledgeable about the music they grew up on. "There's obviously a hip hop/R&B thing in our stuff, but we're both also really into garage and drum and bass being from England," explains Ollie. "There's loads and loads of D&B that used to sample old school hip hop," continues James. "And there's loads of liquid D&B that would have stuff like old Pete Rock samples in it. I kind of got into old hip hop through D&B that I recognize."
The guys have most recently seen huge success with their single, "All My Friends," featuring Tinashe and Chance the Rapper. The track is a bonafide slow-jam anthem with an undeniably catchy hook. The duo was understandably psyched to enlist the help of Tinashe and Chance, who both flex their skills on their respective verses. "It's was crazy," explains James. "We did the hook and the beat all in London with our friend Cass Lowe, who we write with loads. And then, while we were doing it, we said, 'Imagine if we could get Tinashe on the first verse and Chance on the second verse.' We never thought it would actually happen, but we reached out. They both really liked it and were in."
While the track may urge you to belt out the hook while letting loose with your friends, the subject matter is a shade less than sunny. With the hook beginning, "all my friends are wasted, and I hate this club, man I drink too much," the vibe isn't exactly an "out have a good time" type of thing. "No, but it almost is!" James says with a laugh. "I think everyone can relate to it," remarks Ollie. "We've just had so many shit nights out in London," he jokes.
The pair comment that they never could have predicted the single's success. "You lose focus on that," says James. "We've been working on it for four or five months. By the end of it you're just wondering, what are people even going to think of it? You don't know. But since it's come out, it's been really great."
If the single's success is any indication, it won't be surprising to see the duo rack up similar stellar production credits in the future. The pair were most recently nominated for the "Best Newcomer in England" MOBO (Music of Black Origin) award, and are heading out for a three-date New Year's tour of Australia in December. Commenting on their sound, both members are quick to embrace their flair for variation. "I'm sure it all ties together because we make it," says Ollie. "But every track is different. We would hate to only do something in one style." After hearing the eclectic, silky smooth beats Snakehips is dishing out, we have no problem with that.
"All My Friends" is available on iTunes here.
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