Rudimental: Home boys with their eyes on the prize
Mercury Prize nominees Rudimental may not be the bookies’ favourites, but they’re way out in front when it comes to the sound of right now. They know it’s all about capturing the vibe of the song ASAP
Rudimental are the sound of now. Every tune on the London band’s debut album Home smacks of the present. Be it the hands-in-the-air pop anthems Feel the Love and Not Giving In or the brilliant shimmies Right Here and Spoons, Rudimental are turning out state-of-the-here-and-now tunes like no-one else around.
Amir Amor would naturally agree. He’s one of this gang of four, a producer who joined three life-long Hackney friends to set the Rudimental story in motion. He admits that he’s the accidental pop star. “I didn’t have any intentions or plans to be in a group at all or be on tour like this,” he says down a phone from Brisbane. “It never crossed my mind.”
Amor was already a busy producer working with acts such as Maximo Park, Plan B, Marina & The Diamonds, Giggs and others before Rudimental came along.
“I first came across them via the Black Butter label. When we met, we all clicked and we realised that the stuff we were producing as a four piece sounded amazing, so that’s when I joined and the Rudimental story started.”
When Amor talks about the music which has influenced him and Rudimental, there’s a broad sweep of sounds, bands and experiences in the mix. It includes Massive Attack (“they’re just this amazing live band with a sound which takes in so much”) and The Specials (“they had this wicked vibe onstage because there was so many of them and they maintained this family mentality and had a positive message”) and goes from there.
“My influences really come from the soul side,” Amor notes. “I obviously did hip-hop and house and dance music as well so it all went into the mix. You could also add in Basement Jaxx and clubbing to the chemistry that goes into Rudimental.”
It was clubs around London which really set the young Amor’s mind racing about the possibility of making music. “All those garage and grime clubs I used to go to as a youth definitely influenced me. I used to go to clubs like Bagleys with fake ID when I was a kid and sneak in. Those were my first memories of raving. Then, I used to go to The Gas Club and I remember seeing the garage guys Sparks & Kie there and that was the first time I saw MCs onstage so that was amazing.”
What’s striking about Home is the amount of great guest vocalists on it. Aside from marquee names such as Emeli Sandé, Home also showcases a bunch of newer names such as MNEK, Ella Eyre, Sinead Harnett, Syron, Becky Hill and Foxes.
“Our album has become an A&R’s handbook,” Amor notes. “Pretty much all the artists we worked with on our first album have got deals now.”
The biggest of those newer names is John Newman, who features on two of the album’s standout tracks. “Piers [Aggett] and Kesi [Dryden] met him in a pub. We already had the idea for Feel the Love and had a rough vocal and is was very different at that point. It was much slower and jazzier. John was singing at an open mic night and Piers and Kesi got talking to him and it went from there.”
The other vocalists were also rounded up in similarly casual fashion. “I used to share a room at the studio with MNEK so that’s how I knew him. We met Sinead and Ella through mutual friends. When we talked about playing live, we knew we needed a singer like Ella who could carry off all these songs so she came down to the studio and it sounded amazing so she became our live singer.”
As a producer, Amor prefers working with new singers. “When you work with people who are more established, you have to work to their brief, so we enjoy working with fresh talent more. We’ve all had that experience where you do a song with someone and the A&R turns around and says ‘make it more dubstep’ or ‘more hardcore but more pop and folk’. One guy said to me ‘I want it really cool and hot at the same time’, which is really frustrating.”
Amor says many labels weren’t too keen on Rudimental at the start. “Believe it or not, Feel the Love got turned down all over the place. We had put out Spoons before that and people couldn’t get their heads around the fact that we could do house and garage at the same time as this drum’n’bass and pop thing. It was driving people crazy. They were trying to put us into specific boxes but we wouldn’t listen to them.
“We were writing songs and not thinking about where they might fit. The experience of being producers stood to us. We knew you had to capture the vibe of the song ASAP. You have to let the music take the direction it takes and trust in the song and the singer.”
As a result of this and their track record in unearthing talented singers, Amor says the plan is to start a label. “We’re in the early days of turning our studio Major Tom’s into a record label. I started the studio about six years ago and when we met the boys and we did the record, it was the obvious thing to do because of the people we know.”
For now, Amor has more pressing matters. “At the moment, my life is Rudimental so all other productions and sidelines are on hold. We’re busy, we’ve done something with The Game and we’re also doing a single with another legendary American hip-hop artist who I can’t name. And we’re touring a lot. It’s going to be Rudimental for the next few years.”