breaching the peace
In the middle of a Hackney estate, Sophie G James finds herself talking winter coats and notes-to-self with Andreya Triana and the ever-energetic Ben Westbeech, the man behind the now-infamous electronic dance moniker, Breach.
Andreya Triana and Ben Westbeech by Piczo
Given the drizzle outside, there's something remarkably warm and sunny about our get-together. The pairing of these two artists does, it seems, make perfect sense; their natural musical rawness (not to mention, charisma) sits perfectly in the electronic music sphere where both of their passions lie. Both are seasoned vocalists, talented live musicians and touring extraordinaires. Both have a historical love affair with drum & bass. And both are remarkably talented.
The heat-du-jour surrounds their collaborative track Everything You Never Had (We Had It All) where old school is fused into something vocally rich and dance-floor infectious. Forthcoming on Atlantic, the track has already made the Radio 1 playlist and continues to sate the appetite of the underground hands-in-the-air house-hungry.
Singer/songwriter Triana has previously appeared on records with artists who need little introduction including Bonobo (the immaculate Eyesdown and Stay The Same), Mr Scruff and Flying Lotus. Similarly, the now Amsterdam-dwelling Westbeech has caused a stir in recent times with his transition from drum & bass vocalist (Number 1 by Clipz & Die back in his Bristol days), live vocalist and band format (two albums including Something For The Weekend signed to Strictly Rhythm), to his brand of inimitable bass-heavy house music, with this summer's Jack taking the airwaves by storm. With his own label Naked Naked releasing artists such as Dusky and Midland, and a forthcoming DJ Kicks compilation in November, it's little surprise that Westbeech and Triana is a meeting of musical minds that matches.
First thing first, how did your relationship come about? How did you start working together?
A: I've known about Ben for friggin' years from the whole Brownswood thing, so, yeah, kind of crossing paths there really.
B: We played the National Portrait Gallery once together and I was like... 'Oh my god she's amazing! I don't want to come on after this - she's too good.'
And how is it working together?
B: It was fun! Andreya came to Amsterdam, we hung out, we had a laugh, we went to a barbeque. She can't ride a bike… honestly, it was like watching a five year old without stablisers - it was hilarious.
A: I can ride a bike... I was just a bit shaky.
To be fair, I fell off my bike when I was in Amsterdam. So the track itself, Everything You Never Had, how did the collaboration come about?
B: It started as a remix. I basically remixed the tune 9 months ago, then we re-licensed and re-named as Breach ft Andreya Triana.
A: I guess it's just crazy how these things come around, you know, it takes off by itself. It's really mad I reckon.
What's the context of it, what's the title about?
A: It's a track I wrote about my mum. She had me when she was 18 and she was a single parent. It tells that story of growing up in south London, in Brixton, and it's just about the fact we didn't really have anything, we were really poor, but she was amazing and there was a lot of love. So I just thought, even though at that point we didn't have anything, in a way we had it all.
B: I think that was the lyric as well… I was doing the remix in the studio and started messing around with an ending, and put these synths down and made it into this really euphoric thing, and I was searching for a vocal that I hadn't used, and I hadn't used that part - 'When we were nothing, we had it all' - it really took me back to, you know, early rave days. That's kind of what you want to hear when you're on the dancefloor. Even looking back on my life, I was ten times happier when I had nothing, like all this stuff I've got now it's like, fuck me. I just wish you could go back to doing Es at Bagleys when you were 16 - it's as simple as that you know. And that's kind of the energy of the track and the vibe - the simpler days.
What I really like about the track is that when I first heard it, I didn't know it was in relation to your mum. It could've just been in reference to a relationship. What was the idea behind the video?
B: Everyone thinks it's Andreya in the video! It's about someone going into their own headspace in the rave - going through all the parts of a raver or someone on the dancefloor immersed in music, immersed in that world, really getting into it… You know what it's like, being on a dancefloor in your own space, you're just loving it for the music and being in the moment - it's a snippet into that.
Andreya, what was your clubbing experience growing up?
A: I started going out when I was like 16 or 17, I used to sneak out, me and my mates used to plaster our faces with make-up and have these fake IDs, and we snuck into the local club in the West Midlands; it was called Tramps and it was disgusting [laughs]. There were different rooms; the R&B room, the house room, the pop room, etc. and I would just be there on the R&B dancefloor from the moment the club opened 'til it closed.
So the R&B room was your one?
A: That was the one! It was just loads of old school Aaliyah and Jodeci. I think that's why I really love the video for Everything You Never Had. I really identify with the way that she's dancing and I've definitely had lots of those moments in my life. So that's where it started with me. Before that though, my dad's a Rastafarian, so he used to take me to loads of crazy dancehall and Rastafarian do's.
What projects have you got coming up?
A: The main thing is the second album. I've been chipping away at that for about two years now, so it should be hopefully be released next year.
Aside from EYNH and its reflection on your childhood, what other experiences do you draw on?
A: The thing is, I really like talking about love and relationships but in different ways - there are so many other relationships than just 'this is my boyfriend', you know. I've written a song about grandparents coming over from Jamaica during the windrush generation and their journey, I wrote a track called Song For A Friend, which is about hurting when a friend is hurting. I wrote a song just the other day about how frustrating it can be sometimes when you're working in the music industry and it can be so up and down day to day. I'm drawing from all aspects of life.
So Ben, what's the story behind DJ Kicks? How did you select the tracks to make it a cohesive body of work?
B: DJ Kicks has got so much heritage as a mix series that it was a daunting prospect having to do one. It came at a really busy time in my life touring as well - it was all pretty mental. I just went digging for lots of vinyl in Amsterdam and pulled tracks from my contemporaries. I kind of wanted to make a ubiquitous mix, a mix that you can listen to at any point. I think DJ Kicks is funny, because it's not just a mix on soundcloud, it's a physical piece of history that's always going to be there. So that definitely comes into play. You think, 'am I going to be happy about this mix in 10 years time?'
Are you feeling positive about the music scene these days?
B: Yes, I haven't had a better year. I'm amazed at how things have gone. To have a track like this on the Radio 1 Playlist - I never thought it would happen, you know. So that's been a really big pleasant surprise.
And you're gigging all over at the moment aren't you, Andreya?
A: Yeah I've been playing a lot. It's kind of funny, people are saying 'Ah the music industry's dying on its arse'. Come to a show! Go to gigs! It's absolutely buzzing, there are people so passionate about live music and supporting artists and buying records and stuff. Maybe not to the same extent that they were, but to me it's just so alive - and so much amazing stuff is happening. It's really exciting.
DJ Kicks is released 18th November, EYNH is released 24th November.
Text Sophie G James