If you know anything about house music then you’re bound to have come across Tom and Ian Griffiths’ sensualistic disco-matic sound. These Bristol based boys have been slamming the decks with some of the strongest creative and cerebral four-to-the-floor music for close to four years now.
Their sound cultivates an exclusive hold on a vintage sound. Providing music lovers with something almost ethereal, yet passionately illusory. With beefy attention to basslines, sided with some of the most faultless vocal mixing in the genre, Icarus is swimming leagues ahead of any other talent in house music to date. Their latest release ‘Love Has Come Around’ embodies a euphoric disco-tinged appeal matched to some intriguing production elements. Sampling the early 80’s Donald Byrd cut of the same name, it applies a neat twist to an instantly infectious hook.
These Bristol boys are ever expanding and evolving in their approach to creating a topnotch house music sound that is manifested with each new release. It’s easy to come to the conclusion that Icarus has established themselves as incredibly talented producers, DJs, and label bosses.
We had the chance to talk with Icarus as they just released their latest EP, ‘In The Dark’.
Electronic Groove: Welcome guys! How has the underground been treating you these days? Please tell us a little bit about your musical journey so far?
Icarus: Thanks to you. It’s been quite a long journey, I guess! We both showed an interest in music from an early age, when our older cousin introduced us to the music of Michael Jackson. I think that sparked something in both of us, to be honest. It made us want to make and play music. We started trying out different instruments throughout primary and secondary school before settling on guitar (Ian) and bass (Tom). We were both into a lot of different styles of music growing up, anything from house to heavy metal! We played in various covers and originals bands through secondary school and college before both choosing to study music at degree level. That’s where we both found music production and Djing, which became a bit of an obsession. Especially buying vinyl with our student loans! We continued to play in function and originals bands whilst studying but when we’d both finished our degrees it seemed pretty clear that we wanted to pursue music production pretty seriously. Since then we’ve been involved in various projects together but Icarus is the one that felt ‘right’ and subsequently ended up being something we’ve pursued to this point
EG: I remember seeing a post on IG that showed that out of 7 billion people in the world 1.7 billion are Djs. That being said, how difficult is it to break through as an artist in this industry? Does an artist need to identify with a genre in order to get noticed?
Icarus: Interesting statistic! It’s definitely become very fashionable to be a DJ nowadays. In answer to your other questions, it’s hard. It takes a lot of persistence and belief in what you’re doing. And yes, sometimes fitting within a certain scene or genre can help your career, as people know what to expect from you. That’s not really how we operate though, as you might be able to tell by listening to our back catalog! We’ve always written fairly eclectic music but it still all falls under the broad ‘electronic music’ umbrella. We just keep doing our thing and hope that it connects with people!
EG: Well, you’re definitely doing that with your latest release ‘Love Has Come Around’, it’s something else in terms of disco-tinged house music. Can you tell us, what was the inspiration behind creating it?
Icarus: Ian heard the original track (of the same name) by Donald Byrd playing in a shop in Bristol and made a note of it on his phone. We do that a lot with ideas. We’ll note down tracks for inspiration or even sing little melodies into our phones to come back to when we’re in the studio. We chopped the track around in Logic and started playing some chord & melody ideas over it. It just came together pretty naturally from there. We didn’t have a preconceived idea of how we wanted it to sound when we started, we just went with whatever we liked and we’re happy with how it turned out!
EG: I know you established your own ‘Fly Boy’ record label a couple of years back. How are things going for you as far as having your own imprint?
Icarus: We love it! It actually started at the same time as we started Icarus. We always wanted to have our own label and it felt like the right time to start it, so it can grow alongside our project. We really enjoy finding and working with new artists and helping them with their music and careers in general. We’re lucky enough to work with some really talented producers and vocalists. We’ve just released FLYBOY014 and we’ve got loads more lined up for the year. We’re excited to see the label and the roster growing!
EG: It is becoming more and more apparent that collaboration fosters continuous personal growth in this industry. What artistic connections have you made that have served to benefit your own development as artists? Can you name some artists who you’ve come to consider as mentors in the industry?
Icarus: Great question! And very true. We feel working with other producers/writers and people within with business side of music is all beneficial to helping you grow in all aspects of your career. We’ve worked with quite a few different people over the years and we take inspiration and learn from every one of them! Working with other producers is also a great way of learning new tips and tricks in the studio. I don’t think anyone in particular has ended up becoming like a mentor to us but we’ll continue to work with a large range of people, for sure.
“We just keep doing our thing and hope that it connects with people!”
EG: So, I’m curious, is there any sibling rivalry when it comes to how you put a set together? Or is it just a perfect ebb and flow of music between the two of you?
Icarus: It’s maybe not perfect! 🙂 We don’t really fight, or argue about music anymore. In fact, we never really have. When we’re DJing in a club or at a festival you do have something inside you that sort of wants to ‘outdo’ the other one with your tune selection but it’s mainly about creating a good set that works for the crowd and also represents what you’re about as an artist/DJ. If we’re doing a mix for radio or online then there’s probably a bit more back and forth verbally about what tunes should go where.
EG: What’s it been like being signed to Pete Tong’s ‘FFRR’ label? It must be a very good experience to work with such an industry icon. How did that union come about?
Icarus: Being associated with such a well-respected imprint is obviously an honor for us. We were lucky that Pete heard our music some years ago now and wanted to work with us on a long-term basis. Having him involved with our project is both humbling and invaluable for us.
EG: What makes a strong transition from one track to the next and how do you see the relative importance of establishing a flow versus creating tension through suspenseful breaks in a set?
Icarus: We think both of these things are important. Too much of the same dynamic in a set can become quite repetitive and boring but at the same time, too many breaks in momentum can make it hard for the audience to get into what you’re playing. We try to keep things moving for certain segments of a set, then throwing in the odd well timed (hopefully!) breakdown can be really effective.
EG: How do you prepare for a live set versus a podcast/mix pre-recorded one? How much does the feel of being in front of a live audience make when it comes to creating a certain vibe?
Icarus: These two things vary quite considerably. When preparing a podcast style mix we have a lot more time to try things out and consider what selection of tunes really captures what we’re about at that moment in time. Then you can find the best way of putting those tunes together. When you’re in front of an audience, reading the vibe of the room/tent/space is pretty important. In the past, we tried pre-planning sets and that’s worked well sometimes but if you’re in front of an audience that aren’t feeling that exact mood or style then you can come unstuck. Now we always go on how it feels to be in front of a crowd. Obviously, as an artist you have to represent yourself and what you’re about by playing the music that you like, but we feel tailoring what you play to the situation you’re in is important too. Plus, it’s way more fun!
EG: What’s your perspective on the relationship and the balance between technological advances, music and the art of DJing? Is it important for artists to have a fundamental understanding of knowing how to play vinyl for example?
Icarus: Overall we think the advances in technology have been a positive for music. Obviously some people will disagree and there are valid arguments for and against new technology in music. For us, it’s made processes more creative (sometimes), easier, faster and certainly more affordable. Saying that, it’s meant that ‘the market’ has been pretty flooded with a lot of people making music and putting it out there themselves, and sometimes that can have an impact on quality but you just have to dig through the noise and find music that you like. Overall it’s meant a lot more people who may not have been able to make music before can now do so, and that’s surely a good thing. Plus, the old processes are still there if people want to use them. As for DJing, again we think it’s positive. We both learnt to DJ using vinyl but we now use USBs in CDJs. Learning on vinyl was great and we’re glad that’s how we started mixing but in this day and age we don’t think it’s essential that a DJ has the skills to mix using vinyl. Really, it’s about selecting great music that works in the environment you’re playing in and having the necessary skills to mix those pieces of music together in a way that creates an atmosphere. However, you want to do that is cool with us!
EG: What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?
Icarus: There have been a few to be honest but a big one for us was performing live last year for BBC Radio 1 in Ibiza. We did two tunes in front of Cafe Mambo with a vocalist and horn section. That was pretty special! Another one would be recently doing an ‘Essential Mix’ for Pete Tong. That is a huge honor for us and we really enjoyed putting that together.
“As an artist you have to represent yourself and what you’re about by playing the music that you like, but we feel tailoring what you play to the situation you’re in is important too”
EG: Icarus is an interesting Greek mythological character. Can you tell us why you chose to have this be your artistic title?
Icarus: I remember sitting in our old studio (which was the vault of an old townhouse in Bristol) for days on end trying to come up with a name we liked for our new project. I’m not sure what led us to Greek mythology but we thought the names used sounded interesting. When we found the name Icarus it just seemed to grab us. We liked the story and you could definitely apply it to a career in music so we went with it.
EG: What does your international tour itinerary look like? Any possibility of landing anywhere in North America any time soon? Please, recommend two DJs to our readers which you feel deserve their attention.
Icarus: We’ve just signed a new duo to Fly Boy called ‘My Friend’ who we’re very excited about! Got to give them a shout out. Also, there’s a DJ called LaLa who runs nights and plays at FLY club in Edinburgh, Scotland. Last time we played there we caught her set and she created a proper vibe!