AS one of the few drum and bass (D&B) acts left in mainstream music, British band Rudimental is proof that it pays to stick to your guns.
D&B, an electronic music genre, became popular in the 90s in the band’s hometown of London, England. But like most trends, it became a casualty of the ever-changing musical landscape. Although the genre never truly died, it was Rudimental who brought it back to mainstream consciousness.
The band’s infectious blend of D&B beats infused with soul, disco and reggae has blasted Rudimental to the top of the charts. Its debut album Home went platinum in Britain and Australia. Feel The Love, the second single from Home, debuted at the top of the UK Singles Chart. Sophomore album We The Generation featured Bloodstream – featuring a certain Ed Sheeran – which peaked at number two.
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They’ve also built a well-earned reputation for top-notch live performances, having wowed at festivals like Glastonbury and Coachella. In March, they played a sold-out show at London’s O2 Arena which received rave reviews.
R.AGE caught up with Leon Rolle, one of Rudimental’s “core members”, when the band was in Kuala Lumpur two weeks ago, to find out what makes them tick.
“We always put pressure on ourselves to make new music. When we get into the studio, all we think about is getting down to our instruments, jamming our ideas and organically creating something beautiful,” said Rolle.
Rolle, aka DJ Locksmith, first started producing music with friends Kesi Dryden and Piers Agget when they were teenagers. They all lived on the same street and attended the same school. They released their debut single as Rudimental in 2011, and later that year, producer Amir Amor was asked to join the group, completing its current core line-up.
The music they’ve created together has taken them way beyond the streets of East London. They’re currently on a tour which will see them perform in Dubai, Malaysia, Japan, Australia and the United States, all before heading back for more shows in the UK.
Despite the hectic schedule, the band – complemented in live shows by vocalists Thomas Jules and Bridgette Amofah, drummer Beanie Bhebhe, trumpeter Mark Crown, and guitarist/keyboardist Renell Shaw – are having the time of their lives.
Rolle said: “We’ll never see our band members as session musicians. They’re like our family. So it has been an amazing experience, although sometimes you miss home.”
He added that the band members were particularly excited to see how they’re perceived in Malaysia, and how the fans interpret their live shows – especially after the cancellation of their performance at Future Music Festival Asia 2014.
Maybe because it was two years overdue, but the excitement and energy at KL Live throughout the show was off the charts. The band was having so much fun, it felt more like one big party than a concert.
They performed hits like Feel The Love, Not Giving In, Bloodstream and Lay It All On Me, which the sold-out crowd sang along feverishly.
Unfortunately, Amor and their original vocalists – Anne-Marie Nicholson and Will Heard – were a no-show.
“Will was touring with us but like most of our vocalists, there’ll be a time when they have to go off to pursue their solo careers,” explained Rolle. “We signed Anne-Marie to our label and she’s busy preparing for her debut album so you can look out for that one hopefully some time soon.”
Rudimental has a reputation for breaking new talents. Prior to their solo careers, John Newman (who collaborated with Calvin Harris for singles Blame and Faith) and Ella Eyre (who won the best newcomer award at the 2014 MOBO Awards) worked with Rudimental as well.
Eyre’s collaboration with Rudimental, Waiting All Night, won British Single of the Year at the 2014 Brit Awards, beating out Ellie Goulding, and One Direction.
Newman’s tracks with Rudimental, Feel The Love and Not Giving In topped the charts in Scotland and the UK.
Although he admits it’s heartbreaking whenever someone leaves, Rolle accepts that it’s what’s best for them. Plus, it’s not going to stop their quest for global domination.
“We’ve made strides in the US but we haven’t gone global yet, so there are some targets we want to hit. We want to go everywhere! We’ve toured with Ed Sheeran and seen the impact he’s had on the world. We’d love to have maybe a small portion of that impact.”
They’re now working hard on their third album, even while they’re out on tour.
“We never stop making music, whether we’re touring or not. We’re always writing and recording on the road. When there are dressing rooms with enough space, we’ll set up a studio so we can get some music done,” said Rolle.
“There’s a difference between our first two albums, but there’s still a connecting factor, which is our soulful, Rudimental sound. It will not change for our next few albums, but we’ll continue to raise the bar. Just wait and see.”
Though Rolle remained tight-lipped about the band’s upcoming album, he said he really hopes to collaborate with soul/R&B singer Lauryn Hill. The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill is one of the band’s favourite albums.
“For the last four years, we’ve been saying in every interview that we would love to work with Lauryn Hill. If we don’t get her on our third album, it’d be a huge disappointment to us,” added Rolle.
“We must get Lauryn Hill on this album in some shape or form. Put it this way – my promise to our fans is that I’d do everything in my power to get her on this album. It’s a promise!”