manchester-based swing ting release the summer’s best slow jam featuring gemma dunleavy
From a basement club night to an award winning record label and production outfit, Swing Ting chart their journey so far, and drop another single from their debut EP Junction.
Nine years have passed since Balraj Samrai and Ruben Platt founded Swing Ting, the taste-making Manchester club night that grew into a critically acclaimed record label and in-demand production outfit. Back then, the two were crate-digging students who bonded over a shared love of dancehall, hip hop and R&B. “Sometimes it felt like people were playing a lot of Neptunes and Timbaland-era stuff ironically. But we really loved it for what it was,” explains Balraj, who arrived in the city from the Midlands.
Swing Ting’s soundsystem anchored outfit soon swelled. Their sweaty monthly bash in city centre club Soup Kitchen welcomed dexterous genre-hopper MC Fox as a core member, while the collective’s roster of residents came to include the reggaeton and bass-fusing Florentino and garage and grime-leaning Murlo. Their record label too presents a uniquely balanced catalogue, notably releasing the British-made dancehall and bass hybrid sound of Zed Bias-led Madd Again!. Meanwhile, their picks from abroad are similarly pioneering blends of disparate influences born within a localised scene -- New York’s FDM courtesy of Epic B or the experimental dancehall of Jamaica’s Equiknoxx.
“As a result of being in Manchester and being in what is quite a multicultural music scene you get exposed to different kinds of musical cultures getting combined,” the Yorkshire-hailing Ruben says. “So before we properly figured out how to do it with the label and our music, Swing Ting as a club night is where we worked out how to blend different styles of music.”
In reply to why they waited until December 2017 to release a unified body of work they say the project was steered by a desire to work with vocalists they met and connected with organically. Junction’s tracks with Alexx-A-Game, Blvk H3ro and Equiknoxx’s Shanique Marie draw on connections Balraj made on trips to Jamaica and fall in line with the club-ready remixes they’d been gaining increasing praise for. The Gemma Dunleavy featured Addiction you can watch below on the other hand, is somewhat of a departure. Gentle guitar cushions a soulful vocal from the accomplished Irish singer, while the skittering drums are a nod to Swing Ting’s original love for R&B.
“They sent a track a couple of months after [we met] and I wrote a song over it and sent it back,” explains Gemma over email. “The guys then completely reworked the instrumental into a different track under the vocal, and it worked so well. I was buzzing when I heard it was going on the EP with so many other deadly artists.”
As it turns out, the song was the catalyst for the whole project. “We really loved it but we didn’t really know what we could do with it,” Balraj says. ”But once we started doing the Tyler Daley and MC Fox one we realised they sort of sound like they could work together. They still sounded different, but like they could be coherent.”
Of course, it was also their own long-standing partnership which produced such a unified body of work, all the while taking on different styles and collaborators. “We’ve been working together for so long now it’s kind of like locked in, especially in the studio, it’s almost absent minded, there’ll probably be more than one thing happening at once,” says Ruben.
The success of the EP and the growth in their confidence as producers has marked a change in their approach to music making, with Balraj’s most recent trip to Kingston resulting in an Alexx-A-Game mixtape produced in just two days. “I’m definitely now of the school of not being a perfectionist and getting something to as high a standard as I can do in the time frame possible. I think if you keep working at lots and lots of stuff you get better at completing it,” he says. But equally, he’s pleased that the long-view approach to making Junction has resulted in a project that’s proven to be an antithesis to the throwaway culture of music consumption. “It’s been nice to see this out a little bit. Now it’s out on vinyl that’s doing quite well and we’re adding the videos to it, it’s cool,” he concludes.
Addiction by Swing Ting ft. Gemma Dunleavy is out now.