THE guys of UHURU have been telling me…
about their single, Thirsty, and what its origins are. Connor and Rob talk about their formation and whether there is a story behind that moniker; whether there is an E.P./more material coming along – they tell me what it feels like getting backing from the BBC.
I ask them what sort of music influenced them growing up and the new artists we need to check out; if they feel they are hitting a creative peak right now; what advice they’d give upcoming artists – the chaps talk with me about their upcoming gigs.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Rob: Yeah, really good. We’ve just come back from the Isle of Wight Festival so we’re both a little tired. But, it’s been really good...
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?
We are Connor Daniel and Rob Jones; we go by the name ‘UHURU’ and we’re an Electronic duo based in Southampton!
How did UHURU get together? Is there a meaning behind the name?
We met at college in Southampton. We were on a Music Technology course and we got talking. Connor had been making music for a while and wanted to start a band, so that’s what we went about doing. There have been a few different line-ups over the years but it’s been us two for almost three years now.
Connor: UHURU means ‘freedom’ in Swahili. I’m half-Kenyan and moved to England when I was six, so that’s the connection. It’s turned out to be a pretty fitting name as we’ve flirted with a lot of genres through the years.
Can you tell me how Thirsty came to be? Was it a quick song to record?
Thirsty is about a situation I’m sure a lot of people find themselves in. For me, personally, it’s about that girl who can treat you however she likes…yet, you’ll still run back to her no matter what. The recording process can vary: I write and produce all our songs in my home studio and once there’s a decent quality demo ready, we then take it to our pals at Numen Studios to wrap up the single in terms of a re-vocal, mix and master.
You seem like you’re hitting a creative peak at the moment! Where do you get the energy and inspiration from?!
I’m in my studio pretty much every day producing beats. A lot of the time a vocal melody will hit me in the middle of the process and straight away I’ll be humming away into my phone’s ‘Voice Notes’ app. I also have like a million song concept ideas on my phone so, if I’m ever struggling for lyric ideas, I can start from there.
Is an E.P. or album on the cards later this year?
Rob: We’re currently wrapping up our E.P. We’ve got a few more tracks to (just) record Connor’s vocals and mix and then we’re ready to go with that. We’re both super-excited for everyone to hear what we’ve been working on. We still need to figure out a title for the E.P., though. It always takes us ages with that sort of thing.
Connor: We’d love an album in the next few years, for sure. We’ve finally released new music after two years and plan on releasing more frequently from now on. Yes, it has taken a while but I’m now super-proud of the material I’ve written and produced (that’ll be hitting your ears very soon).
UHURU have gained focus from the likes of BBC Introducing. Is that sort of support and faith important to you?
Rob: It’s everything to us. We’ve always wanted to hear our tracks on the radio, so to have that support from BBC Introducing is really important to us.
Connor: You never quite get used to hearing yourself on the radio! When Thirsty was given ‘Record of the Week’ by BBC Introducing that really meant a lot.
What sort of music did you all grow up around? Do you share tastes?
I was raised on Michael Jackson, Earth Wind & Fire and Chic. As soon as I was old enough to consciously choose what music I listened to, it was all Hip-Hop - and I’ve been listening to Kanye West for as long as I can remember.
Rob: Our musical backgrounds are pretty different, actually. I was raised on a lot more guitar music: The Killers, Arctic Monkeys; that kind of thing. When I started to discover my own music, though, I was listening to Nile Rodgers and Parliament - some more funky stuff.
Where are you heading on tour? Where can we catch you?
We’re playing in Oxford next month which is new for us, so we’re excited for that. Then, after that, our agent at UTA has a few exciting options for us that we’re looking into - so, you guys will hear more towards the end of the year. Touring is pretty much all I think about and all I talk about; it’s the big one for me.
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
Connor: Is world domination too much to ask?
Rob: Agreed. But, if that’s slightly ambitious, a tour would be amazing - and our first Radio 1 play would be a real achievement for us.
Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
I think when we played at a Holi One Colour Festival at Wembley Park (London) to around 17,000 people. It was a ridiculously big show, the biggest we’ve played by far, and it was just a really good day.
Connor: That was the only show I’ve gotten hideously nervous for…I’m normally pretty calm before gigs but that one got me.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Kendrick Lamar for me…I saw him live at the O2 a couple of months back and he had James Blake supporting him. Kendrick’s live show blew me away and the crowd's energy was mental.
The rider would entail champagne and lobster (the champs for after our set of course!).
Rob: Jungle for me. I’ve never seen them live but I’ve watched hours of live performances from them and they just look incredible on stage.
A rider is not normally a luxury we get but, if we could have one, I think I’d have to go for a bit of gin and tonic for after and maybe a doner kebab for before - just because they’re Heaven on Earth.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Rob: Just keep going. I think that’s what we’ve learnt, I think. We’ve been going for a few years now and it’s had ups and downs but, yeah; just keep going and you can’t really go wrong.
Connor: Practice your craft, whatever it is: singing, songwriting; producing, guitar or triangle...whatever it is, practice really hard.
IN THIS PHOTO: Zach Said
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
I’m a huge fan of Zach Said’s music at the moment. I feel like he’s way too underrated and needs to be madly famous A.S.A.P. I love his writing style: it’s super-blunt and honest and his producers are ridiculously good.
Rob: There's this guy from Tame Impala, Jay Watson. He's got a side project called GUM I'm really into that at the moment. Just really big-synth-'80s vibes.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I work as well so I don’t get that much free time but, when I do, I like to spend it with family and friends. I spend a lot of time in New Forest, which is a lovely place, but music always seems to creep in. I’ve always got my acoustic guitar with me.
Connor: My parents mean the world to me and will genuinely complain if they can’t hear music blaring out my studio so, sometimes, I have to fight them to turn the volume down and unwind! I have a great squad of mates too that I’ve known since secondary school. None of them are in the same industry as me so it’s really refreshing after a busy week to go to the pub and not talk music for a couple of hours…
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Since it’s the day after we played Isle of Wight Festival, I’m feeling pretty lethargic and chilled. So, I’m going to say Daniel Caesar (ft. H.E.R.) – Best Part. The guy has got the most incredible tone and the songwriting is phenomenal
Rob: I think, following the Isle of Wight theme (I think) I might have to go with The Man by The Killers. They headlined and were incredible last night - and this track is a solid-gold tune