Why Manchester is the new creative epicentre of neo-soul and hip-hop
THEY. are a group that should need no introduction, but for many, they will. The duo remain relatively underheard for many, despite hundreds of millions of Spotify plays, touring with Bryson Tiller and winning Grammys. Today, they dropped 'U-RITE' – a track which confirms that Drew Love and Dante Jones are about to blow up.
Nü Religion, the project which propelled them to the spotlight, serves as the starting point for their new album, Hyena. "Nü Religion was our first release but I always felt that there was a lot of ground that we didn’t get to cover on that project. It was more of a stepping stone towards a larger body of work." Hyena is the group's first full-length, but whilst it will be "familiar" for their quickly amassing group of fans, "it will surprise a lot of people – it has a lot of unexpected turns." The choice of the name for their album is also important for the LA group – "Hyenas are a unique animal. They take a lot of characteristics from the feline and canine family but are their own unique subspecies. We feel like that's an accurate reflection of this project and us as artists."
"Music is cyclical. We have no doubt Rock will make it back to the mainstream."
An apt choice of title, then. The group purvey a similar brooding sound of contemporaries like The Weeknd, PartyNextDoor and Tory Lanez, but despite being reminiscent in vocals and heavy trap-influenced beats, they also contain something very distinct from those names. There is an inherent influence of Rock in their soundscape – almost completely bypassed in the current landscape of R&B and Hip-Hop production today – with guitars employed by the duo in last year's hits' 'What You Want' and 'Deep End'.
They've also worked with Chris Brown, Jeremih and Timbaland – the latter of which the group couldn't help but be in awe of when they linked up in the studio, "We worked with Timbaland shortly before we released the EP. They say “never meet your idols”, but working with him was definitely an exception. He gave us a lot of insight and support. He's still an absolute beast on the tracks too."
"Hyenas are a unique animal. Their own unique subspecies. We feel that they're a unique refelction of our sound, and us as artists."
So is there a new direction this album? "No, our direction is the same in the sense we just did what felt natural. Sometimes that steered us into territory we didn’t explore on the EP but we never walked into the studio with any preconceived intentions". Within what's natural for the group, there’s a distinctly interesting dynamic in THEY.'s influences – citing Vampire Weekend and Nirvana amongst the artists who have shaped their sound.
With Indie and Rock taking a backseat to the wealth of Hip-Hop / R&B sounds emanating in popular music at the minute, they feel it's important to offer something against the grain. "I think it’s very important to offer an alternative take on what’s going on. I love the resurgence that urban music has made, but I always find myself returning to a lot of my childhood influences to cleanse my palate". At the end of the we're trying to channel the spirit within our favorite songs rather than emulate or copy them." They have an interesting and pertinent take on whether Rock or Indie will make a come back, "We have no doubt rock will make its way back into the mainstream. Music is cyclical and when you think about it, a band is simply a group of people coming together to jam, whatever the technology of the times may be. Remember 5 or 6 years ago there weren’t many urban songs on mainstream radio that didn’t feature a pop singer on the hook."
Going forward into a year that is set to be huge for the group, their ambitions remain purely rooted to the music itself. "We are just working to get better every day and let our work guide us to where we are meant to be. This year, we're making a lot more music – and preaching the Nü Religion."
The fervor towards that Nü Religion is something many will be experiencing a lot more of this year. It's about to be Hyena season.
Listen to 'U-RITE' on Spotify below.