Whether you listen to drum and bass or not, you’ve probably heard of Rudimental. The Hackney-based four-piece first emerged in 2012 and released their debut album Home in 2013, which was nominated for the 2013 Mercury Prize and three MTV EMAs, and earned them the MOBO Award for Best Album and a Brit Award for best single. The quartet also has a writing credit on Ed Sheeran’s album x and has performed at festivals ranging from Glastonbury to Governors Ball and Bonnaroo. On Friday, the group released its sophomore effort We The Generation (via Major Toms/Big Beat), which expands upon their heavily electronic, yet soul-infused debut. We The Generation incorporates more live instrumentation than Home—an evolution made during two years of touring.
Amir Amor, Kesi Dryden, Peirs Aggest, and DJ Locksmith arrived last week in New York to play at Webster Hall on Wednesday, followed by a show at Warsaw on Thursday. On stage, six other musicians and a vocalist join the quartet, allowing live shows to become far more visually stimulating than other drum and bass acts. The men have rotated through a series of female vocalists, including Becky Hill, Ella Eyre, and Anne-Marie, who together refer to themselves as the “Vaginas of Rudimental.” During the show at Webster Hall, current vocalist Anne-Marie took the stage, and Ed Sheeran even made a guest appearance to play “Bloodstream,” the original of which is on We The Generation.Just before the show, while eating seafood salad, Anne-Marie spoke with Dryden and DJ Locksmith about everything from the creation of “Bloodstream,” the album, and performing to their urination habits.
ANNE-MARIE: Before me who was it?
DJ LOCKSMITH: It was Becks [Becky Hill].
KESI DRYDEN: We were looking for a live singer, so we first met you at a session, about four years ago now, maybe.
ANNE-MARIE: It’s so long ago.
DRYDEN: Yeah, it was trying to rap a new idea—
ANNE-MARIE: It was rubbish.
DRYDEN: You came down with some chocolate brownies—pretty nice, I have to say.
ANNE-MARIE: I make the best brownies. [laughs] But I was singing with Magnetic Man, a DJ collective, and we did the Annie Mac tour. Rudimental was doing the tour too, so we kind of saw each other, but we didn’t speak much.
DJ LOCKSMITH: No, but you were wearing this red dress, I remember.
ANNE-MARIE: [laughs] That’s a sick dress. But yeah, we kinda kept seeing each other around, but it wasn’t intentional. Then you needed a singer to join you on tour.
DRYDEN: Becky Hill was leaving to do her own thing, and Anne-Marie came along…
DJ LOCKSMITH: And she did an audition. I heard about this infamous audition. I wasn’t there.
DRYDEN: Yeah, she came and smashed it halfway through one of the songs— ripped her jacket off and threw it on the floor. Everyone is like, “What’s going on here?!” [all laugh] I was like, “‘Ey, she’s showin’ a bit of flame! Somethin’ a bit different.” It stood out. We all looked at each other and were like, “Yep. She’s got the job.”
ANNE-MARIE: [laughs] So then I did the first show with you in Wales, it was a —I’d never really performed before onstage. I was kinda just standing still, singing the song. It was really awkward. But after, I was sick; I had to watch myself back and learn. I’ve learned so much. I definitely wouldn’t be the performer I am today if I hadn’t of gone through this experience.
DJ LOCKSMITH: You damn right! I hope you recognize that.
DRYDEN: Wasn’t your first tour in the States with us? After Wales, you came with us?
DRYDEN: We went—the States, Australia, Europe. Ever since then, you’ve just come on leaps and bounds. Then we decided to sign you to our label—didn’t decide, we always knew it was going to happen, that you were going to be our first signing. You’re gonna pursue your own career.
ANNE-MARIE: But with the help of you. It was never going to happen otherwise.
DJ LOCKSMITH: Which reminds me, we need to find a new vocalist. [all laugh]
ANNE-MARIE: You’re helping produce some of my album and I’m going to support you on tour. It’s exciting.
DRYDEN: It’s like the way Rudimental moves forward: taking singers, giving them a platform to learn on the road with us, musically, and play in front of thousands of people. You’re thrown straight into the deep end. It’s probably the best way to learn.
ANNE-MARIE: It is, definitely.
DRYDEN: You’ve come a long way from where you were when you first started. It’s almost time for you to fly.
DJ LOCKSMITH: Cacaw cacaw!
DRYDEN: Your wings will be grown! And you’ll be leaving the Rudimental nest!
DJ LOCKSMITH: Party! [all laugh]
ANNE-MARIE: It’ll be so horrible, but it’ll be good because I’m obviously excited about my own career. But I’m not going to enjoy seeing you do stuff without me. It’s going to be horrible.
DJ LOCKSMITH: We feel like grown parents in situations like this, where it’s time for your kid to go to college or university, and in your case, it’s time for you to pursue your own career—move out of our house, because the rent is getting quite high! [all laugh] It’ll be good to see you pursue your own ideas and get your own identity. We [on the other hand] got kicked out when we were about five-years-old, so we had to learn ourselves.
DRYDEN: We kinda had to learn on the road and make it up as we were going along. But we had each other, so it made it a little easier, rather than being a solo act where you have no one to bounce off. We’ve known each other for a very long time, so it was easier to bounce off. We went to see live shows, got to see live performances—I remember seeing Dizzee Rascal, Labyrinth even. Labyrinth was a big eye opener. That opened up our minds to what our shows could be.
ANNE-MARIE: So what about the new album?
DRYDEN: The new album’s a bit of a progression from the first one. We’ve been on the road together for the last two years. Our chemistry has grown and it’s really brought this soul and funk up a bit more on this record.
[sound check begins]
DJ LOCKSMITH: It’s gonna get a bit loud.
ANNE-MARIE: ‘Ey! Shut up! ‘Ey, Martin, shut up!
DJ LOCKSMITH: Sounds like we’re in East London—Martin, shut up, fuck off! [all laugh] But where were we…We The Generation, our album… Our first album gave us that platform to express ourselves and bring more of a live element as well as a soulful element into it, but not forgetting the electronic side. At the same time, we felt like we built a whole new generation of music and found a whole new generation of artists. With that said, we found Anne-Marie, and you feature heavily on our live show as well as quite heavily on the album. You’re going to be one for the future. But that’s a new generation of artists coming through. We’ve still got older generations coming through as well on this album. You’ve got the late Bobby Womack, Donald Fagen, George Clinton, Max Romeo, even. There’s so much on there, so there’s a wider collective feel to the Rudimental album We The Generation.
DRYDEN: I think also the way we write a lot of music these days—we just go in the studio, get all the instruments out, and have little jams together. There’s a good few tracks on the album that were written that way. There was one day where we spent about 10, 12 hours in the studio, just pressed record, got everyone in, and just had a fun day jammin’ our ideas together. Then at the end of the day, we went through it a bit, like, “Oh, that little bit was good. Let’s take that. That bit is good…” Before you know it, we’re building them into full-blown songs. I think that’s definitely helped to bring out the soul, that kind of method. It’s kind of a traditional style of writing music, really.
ANNE-MARIE: And Ed Sheeran, how did you collaborate with him? You have quite different styles of music. Is that why? Because I think that’s a good reason why: You’re complete different spectrums.
DRYDEN: Yeah, it’s definitely something we like to do. We met Ed a few years back, before he was successful, just playing at small venues in and around London. We never actually worked with him back then, but always planned to. Then we got to L.A. and had a writing session with him. We wrote “Bloodstream,” and that was an amazing day. We were there for two or three days and we wrote a good number of songs. There was a pretty crazy studio session, where we got there, and about half an hour into the session The Game phones Ed and says, “I’d love to work with you.” And Ed was like, “Oh, cool man. Where are you?” And he’s like, “L.A.,” and Ed’s like, “I’m in L.A.” Half an hour later, we were in a session with Ed Sheeran and The Game. Then Ellie Goulding popped by—all sorts of random people showin’ up.
ANNE-MARIE: That’s why it’s good to be here and make music, because everyone’s so creative. Loads of artists are here and up for collaborating.
DRYDEN: Yeah. So the next day, it was just us and Ed Sheeran and we wrote “Bloodstream” together. Our version was actually the original. He got it reproduced for his album, which not many people know. They think our version is the remix. But it’s all good, ‘cause we got to work with him again, and wrote “Lay It All On Me,” which is a great moment on the new album.
DJ LOCKSMITH: That sounds a bit sour!
ANNE-MARIE: Like, “but that’s all right…”
DRYEN: It is a bit frustrating when you’ve got the original and people call it a remix… Anyway, yeah, so “Lay It All On Me” was a song we had been working on for a little while and Ed Sheeran heard it for the first time when we were on tour with him last year. He loved the core idea of the song, so we brought him to our studio in London and finished the song together. That’s when it really came to life. It’s a great track on the album to show us in a new light.
DJ LOCKSMITH: We’re playing it for the first time in America tonight.
ANNE-MARIE: I know everything about you. I’ve known you for so long. I don’t know [what to ask]… How many times a day do you pee? [laughs]
DJ LOCKSMITH: It’s not that kind of magazine!
DRYEN: Keep it music please! [all laugh]
DJ LOCKSMITH: I’m on my third one this far.
ANNE-MARIE: Are you as excited about this album as much as you were your first coming out?
DJ LOCKSMITH: I think even more excited to be honest, because the second album is the one that keeps you in the game for a little bit longer. At the same time, I feel like our hearts and souls have gone into this. So many times when you see acts get onto their second album, they’ve been swayed by all the influences in their previous album. It’s not that we’ve drifted from that [original album]—we’ve kept true to ourselves and we’ve stayed stubborn-but we’ve managed to create what we believe to be some of the best music we’ve ever created. We just can’t wait to share it with the rest of the world.