Meet the sample-crazy funkateers who are finding favour with everyone from Craig Charles to Radio 4
When The Allergies' debut album As We Do Our Thing dropped last May. there was a suspicion that it might do well. The timing felt right: there'd been a headline slot at the BBC 6 Music Festival a few months before the release, there were four years of precision party bangers and classically-trained mixtapes before that, and even more years of hard solo slog on the DJ merry-go-round before that.
With Craig Charles bellowing their name on every broadcast and playing lead singles God Walked Down, Rock Rock and Blast Off in his DJ sets, everything was building up to its summer release - always the best season to dish up a vibe-heavy, cut 'n' paste funk album.
With or without the rose-tinted help of good lady hindsight, As We Do Our Thing was always going to attract a fair amount of ears. But not quite as many ears as they expected. Heralded on release week with a shiny BBC 6 Music 'Album Of The Day' accolade, support gradually snowballed throughout the summer, climaxing in live appearances on both Radio 2 and Radio 4.
And when a pair of fairly unassuming UK hip-hop DJs appear on such million+ listener stations, various things happen. Firstly, your mum has now heard of them, and you have something else to talk to her about. Secondly, they fly in cult California MC Andy Cooper (from Ugly Duckling) especially for the appearances, which leads to a series of hot ticket live shows. Thirdly, their album rockets back up the hip-hop charts to No 3.
Three months later, they've barged into the new year with the same levels of gusto. The last single from the album has just dropped and Craig Charles is already championing a brand new track - Since You've Been Gone, from Jalapeno V/A album Funk Eight - as a heavy hitter for 2017. Plus, it seems they might already have more up their sleeves.
We call up Moneyshot (Roy) and Rackabeat (Adam) to see if they've caught their breath yet...
It's been a crazy trip for you, this past year...
Moneyshot: We really didn't think people would be into [the album] as much as they have!
Rackabeat: There were a few older tracks on there and we were worried people might think they'd heard it before and be turned off. But to a lot of listeners they were brand new.
M: We'd kinda gone from being artists on Juno to artists on iTunes and Spotify. We'd gone from being in record boxes to people's homes.
Via Radio 2!
M: Yeah! We also appeared on the Clive Anderson show on Radio 4 around the same time. It was a few months after the release but after the broadcasts the album went back into the charts - it was No 3 in the hip-hop charts on iTunes at one point.
I cringed a bit at Dermot's grandad-level questions about DJing, mind...
R: Dermot's a cool guy!
M: He dropped knowledge on hip-hop, saying he used to listen an early 90s communist rap group called Marksmen! He had to ask those questions because a lot of Radio 2 listeners would be bemused and befuddled about DJing. A lot of people don't know how it works so he took it back to basics.
Okay, so take us back to basics on your production approach. What's the ratio of played or programmed instruments to samplecraft in your tracks? The tracks have original feels, so I can't decipher the balance...
M: More of it is sample-based than you'd imagine, but usually it's around 10 or 20 samples per track. It's that cut 'n' paste aesthetic, the high-impact energy of mixtapes condensed into a track. We're not going to cheat and just whack a big well-known hook over a fat beat - it's a bassline from somewhere, horn stabs from various places, guitar lines or drums or percussion from another source, etc. Any originality comes from the rappers we've worked with.
Big up Andy Cooper…
M: He was a big factor in the album's success. The video and the double-headed single Rock Rock and Blast Off were what really injected the project. We supported him a few years ago and got talking to him there.
R: We asked about sending stuff to him and he kind of shrugged us off, like, ‘Yeah sure'.
M: ...then we sent him primitive forms of Rock Rock and Blast Off and suddenly a lot of ideas were being fired between LA and Bristol!
R: He's a great producer and it turns out he produced a lot of Ugly Duckling material. He helps us sound good!
M: He plays drums, keys, he's super-talented.
So is he an unofficial Allergy now?
R: He kind of is. We're already deep into writing the next album and he's featured heavily on that.
There's the bombshell! Album two already?
R: Indeed! The first single is ready and due for release this spring. It's full steam ahead, we'd be crazy not to. As soon as we finished As We Do Our Thing we were already writing. Even during the tour in the summer. It's an ongoing thing.
M: The difference is that we're going into it knowing it's an album. You can get your head around EPs smashing four tracks in different moods, but if you're looking at an entire album, there has to be a macro vision of the whole album in context. It's an interesting new approach.
As We Do Our Thing has a flow, though - it doesn't just feel like a 10-track banger ensemble
R: Well, we made some interludes and downtempo tracks and made sure it had a pace to it, but a lot of it was effectively a collection of singles.
So the next one might have more of a narrative?
M: It's more like, once we've made one tune we wonder what the next gap to fill is. We might have a funk banger and a classic hip-hop beat track so we look at what would make sense between the two. We're able to zoom out and fit more pieces of the jigsaw puzzle and try other relevant genres within what we do.
And we get to hear these jigsaw pieces soon, right?
R: Correct. The first one is completely different to anything we've done. It's an 80s disco banger!
The crazy trip continues…
Words: Dave Jenkins