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The Scribes are a multi award winning hip hop three piece whose unique blend of beatboxing, off the cuff freestyling and genre-spanning music has created a live show quite unlike any other on the scene today, with appeal ranging far beyond traditional hip hop fare. The Scribes are hotly tipped as one to watch with live dates across the UK and Europe, as well as sharing the stage with the likes of Macklemore, Wu Tang Clan, Dizzee Rascal, MF Doom, Rag N Bone Man, Example, Lethal Bizzle and The Wailers. Faultline chatted with the group recently for an in depth dicussion surrouding the groups histroy and much more! Their latest release "The Totem Trilogy Part 1" is out now.
Reference for Answers – J: Jonny Steele A: Astro Snare I/S: Ill Literate
You’ve collaborated with some well known, established rappers and producers across your discography, what makes your sound appealing to these collaborators?
J: We’ve shared stages and rocked mics with everyone we’ve collaborated with. Understanding how we take a track and perform it live and the effort that we put into a live show probably comes across well. We have an mutual appreciation for the art and that’s easy to see for anyone we’ve worked with.
I: I think we strike a nice balance musically between being polished and keeping that raw edge that is classically hip hop. That plus the work we put in on stage and in the studio hopefully get’s people excited about what we do and has definitely opened a few doors for us to work with some absolute legends. If you’d have told me when we started we’d ever be doing tracks with guys from Jurassic 5 I’d have never believed it! We also try not to be constrained by being on-trend or on-genre, so maybe we give people something to work with they’ve not heard before!
If you could work with anyone (artists/ rappers / producers/ musicians of any description), who would they be, and why?
J: I’ve had dream collaborations before of artists we look up to and would love to work with, especially artists I’ve grown up listening to (and been fortunate enough to play on stages with!). I love wordplay You’ve Pharoahe Monch, Lupe Fiasco Aesop Rock, Nas etc but once we’re in the field of artists/ producers/ musicians that I’d love to make new sounds in general, there are far too many to list!
A: I would like to be in the studio with Black Milk from Detroit. I would learn so much from him, his drums are mixed so well! As for a vocalist, definitely Marvin Gaye!
S: Damon Albarn, I grew up mad into Blur and Gorillaz had some absolute belters! Production wise probably Madlib or Dan The Automator, love both of their sounds in totally different ways. Guest vocal wise I’m loving Prof’s work at the moment so I’d definitely get him to jump on board.
How much do your new releases affect how you think about the past; are you constantly re-imaging and updating how you think about your older songs when you perform them live?
J: Once we start working on a new project, anything we’ve created before that point is garbage. You can listen to things over and over again which can be problematic for a longer project, which is why returning to the EP format is refreshing. You get time to actually enjoy what you’re putting before the novelty wears off.
A: The material on this EP is a new approach to an old craft! As equipment changes, so do users. As a producer, I tend to move onto the next track once a song is completed, I don’t dwell on what I could have done differently too much, I just try to better myself with each track I produce, I always want to push the boundaries of what I do!
S: True that! Our songs tend to evolve through live shows more during the creation process, but once they’re released we’re ready to move on to the next, keep it fresh! We do often add a few tweaks to the live performance of tracks while on the road, maybe a bit of call and response or something we do as a one-off at a show that works well. I still listen to our older releases very now and then, it’s mad to see how far we’ve come, but we switch things up so often that I don’t think any sound overly dated, just different! Except maybe the very first LP…..
The EP has an eclectic vibe, showcasing a few different styles. Did you have an overarching concept or theme for these tracks; and indeed for the future releases parts 2 and 3?
A: As far as part on goes, I sent The Scribes a beat CD a year or so back and the rest is history! S: We loved the beats man! We whittled it down to the 5 that are now the songs on this EP and are so happy with the result! Astro Snare has such a distinct sound they kind of came with a running theme already in the music, this mad hop hop boom bap funk mash up that’s in every track on the release, it was so easy for us as vocalists to make something of the beats, they’re so full of energy and emotion man!
J: Each EP we’ve chosen a variety of styles but a consistent theme through each which is why we enjoy working with the producers we’ve chosen. Where Astro Snare is at home with funk laden synths, he’s at home with dub laced and soul tinged hip hop all with certain bass-driven bounce that spurs on the energy for live shows. And next EP, I’m not sure I can tell you yet, but it’s a shift again. You’ll see. Oh, you’ll see…
You’re veterans of the live scene, hotly tipped to “step up to the big league at any time”. Do you measure success in the typical way of “having made it”, or do you just focus on making music?
J: Am I bitter, is that what you’re asking? Huh? I’m not crying, you’re crying! Honestly, we work so much, we don’t take much time to look at what we’ve managed to achieve in the however long we’ve been active, but we’ve been good man! To get to a point where people know your music and eager to get to your shows is still incredible to be honest, considering we make whatever the fuck music we like for us, and if the crowd happen to like it, that’s a bonus. We’re gonna be having a damn good time regardless!
S: I think that’s the only measure of success you can have as an artist. You can worry about appealing to the modern sound, or about getting big bookings too much, we definitely focus on making music that we would want to listen to and putting on shows that we would want to see. We’ve been very blessed in that it’s worked out well so far and we’re so grateful to everyone who comes to see us or downloads our music or buys a CD, but deep down you’ve got to be personally happy with your output to feel like a success!
Who do you consider your contemporaries and what do you do differently to set yourself apart from them?
J: That’s a tricky one, it started out with us watching the acts we’d look up to in our scene like Blak Twang, Blade, Jehst, Klashnekoff, Foreign Beggars etc. The more shows and importantly the more festival shows we did, we learned to switch up our sets depending on the crowd, being able to freestyle entire sets and engage more with the crowd makes for a more interactive show so we’d start looking at how live bands dictate their sets and what works for DJs controlling the crowd, there’s always a lot to learn.
S: I’ve always seen us as being more in the style of golden age acts like De La Soul, Ugly Duckling, Jurassic 5 in terms of live performance, but with a more modern and wider ranging sound. I honestly think it’s a combination that’s just not seen anywhere else, so it definitely helps us stand out.
A: I don’t see others as a comparison, I just want to produce music for anyone who wants to listen! You can’t really compare yourself to others too much as we’re all strong in different ways.
You can travel back in time to catch any gig, where are you going and why?
J: I’m gutted I never got to see Prince live anywhere at all. I’m going becuase he’s Prince goddamn it! A: Time travelling? I’m going to Woodstock. Who wouldn’t? Why? Freedom!
S: Oh man, I don’t know! I don’t watch a lot of live music outside of what we see when we’re performing to be honest! Can I go back and see Andre The Giant instead? Or, failing that, I think Nirvana would be a mad gig!
Your sound is extremely polished yet still experimental; is pushing the boundaries and creating alternative music a mission statement, or simply a consequence of your combined influences and preferences?
A: I drew from my experiences and inspirations to create that sound. Pushing the limits is what we should be doing every time, not time for killing so I’m killing no time!
J: The latter, we’ve grown open to so many sounds and genres that each release can musically take a new turn but still remainly unapologetically us, as we create what we like!
S: Yeah man for sure, we’re definitely into different things as individuals, so we’re each bringing something different to the table. It’s not something we do consciously, I think it’s just that mixture of different parts blended together that has defined the way we’ve always worked together, and that’s resulted in an sound unlike anything else that still retains a recognisable element of Scribes-ness!
Interview by Theo Wildgoose