This was a hugely significant interview. Following on from eighteen months isolating, sitting in our rooms and zooming – this was the big return of the ‘in-person’ interview. Myself and The Sound Sniffer’s newest recruit, Sienna, met Oskar and Adam from lavender down in Hoxton a couple of weeks ago.
As I was organising the location and that, logistics were typically a disaster. I chose basically a nightclub to do the interview which made the transcription quite ridiculous to decipher. I’m a huge fan of a Dua Lipa remix that was on in the background now though, so it wasn’t all bad.
All four of us perched ourselves at our table and had a really entertaining hour-long natter over a pint or two and here is what came of that.
To begin it all; let’s go back to where it all started, you went to school together right? How did your relationship blossom into becoming a duo?
Adam: We weren’t in the same class or especially close friends in school – we were on friendly terms but never in the same space. It wasn’t until the very end of school and around when we left that we really connected.
Oskar: Our whole year group was friendly with everyone, it wasn’t like loads of different clicks. We had a lot of house parties when we were at school. I was the only DJ at school so would end up playing quite a lot of them. I think, because Adam had seen me playing at some house parties, he knew I had access to Ableton and recording software and was in a band so he reached out initially.
Adam: We weren’t an amazing band but more like the only band in the school. Myself and Oskar played some gigs together, where he would DJ beforehand and our band would blast up afterwards. Weird gigs. We were into different types of music but very much into music. Oskar later recorded the EP for our band – a real DIY thing and I noticed his ability to put beats together and that’s where it all started.
What got you into production in the first place, Oskar?
Oskar: It’s a really far out thing to say but the first time I realised I wanted to do production was when I saw Skrillex at the O2 Academy in Brixton at twelve years of age. During the gig, I remember looking up at him in awe at how he was a musician but not playing any instruments. At the time, this was amazing to witness – my family is not that musical so I knew that if I wanted to get into music, I’d have to get into it on my own.
My fascination went from Skrillex to Skream, Benga and Digital Mystics – the early dubstep stuff. From there I started to teach myself the basics over the internet – making beats that were dodgy, finishing them, uploading them, playing them to my mates and then being like, these are shit and learning why and improving them. I had a little bit of musical theory basis from learning the guitar when I was younger to draw upon. That’s how it started.
When you guys first got together musically, what was it like writing your first song, Peppermint was the first single, was it weird creating music together or naturally flowing from the start?
Oskar: The first time we worked together was with Adam’s indie band and we did say back then that there was maybe something we could do together but we were studying in different cities. Adam in Birmingham and I was in Sheffield. We would message each other every six months – but timings never seemed to work out mutually. It went back and forward for years. I remember one message Adam sent me where he was like ‘Oskar, we should do a project that’s all disco, disco beats’. Six months later I’d send him a message ‘Adam, I’m going to do a Techno EP if you want to do vocals on it’. We kind of didn’t know what we wanted but we knew we’d work together eventually.
Most of the tracks in the beginning were centred around a beat that I had made and I had to work out how to leave space for Adam to do his thing. The more we worked together the more natural it became. Now we can start a song from so many different perspectives. For example, Adam might sit by the mix with his guitar and write something rough – other times, Adam would send me a track and ask me to sample it into a beat.
Adam: Going back to that first session together, we both brought fairly fully formed musical ideas to the table – I’d have chords and Oskar would have beats and it was a showcase where we shared everything together.
Did you ever talk about what your sound was going to be like, or when did that conversation happen?
Adam: We had lots of ideas back and forward before we actually got in the studio, but when we did eventually meet up and record, we didn’t even think about what we were making should sound like at all. It wasn’t a conscious thing but more like, what have you got, combined with what I’ve got.
Oskar: We knew each other’s influences really well – mine focused on hip-hop sampling, J Dilla, Madlib and the golden era sampling stuff, I guided Adam through that world and Adam did the same for me with Radiohead, Bon Iver and American Football. It was never an explicit thing where we wanted to rip elements from our influences but it naturally happened a bit.
Adam: I think because we shared that stuff, when I played something a little twinkly or math-y, Oskar had already heard that sound before and made sense of it. Likewise when he messed around with beats, I was comfortable around the sounds he was producing.
Not quite about the creative process but why don’t you capitalise the first letters of your songs?
Oskar: We made music together for a year before we started thinking about releasing anything. We did it for ourselves first. The reason for this approach is that we wanted everything musical we put out to be like a personal conversation between friends. From my perspective anyway, when I’m messaging friends I’m not using perfect grammar, capitalising everything correctly. We wanted our titles to reflect that personal conversational feel. It might be a bit in-depth a response but we thought it also looked cool.
Adam: We liked the informality of it. I hadn’t thought about this in ages and it was something we spoke about at the very start.
Oskar: With everything we do we want to make it accessible – although constantly emailing Spotify to tell them the small case is intentional can become taxing after a while.
Was there a single moment where you decided music like ‘Peppermint’ was what you wanted to release? It’s certainly new and brave.
Adam: The idea of the first EP was to wear a few influences on our sleeve and introduce it to the world. We thought that ‘Peppermint’ was the most condensed example of what we both do. We saw it as an introduction to our little world. ‘Home:so:long’ came next as another interlude type single that tied directly into ‘Peppermint’ as we made both around a similar time in the studio.
Oskar: We made quite a few tracks before ‘Peppermint’ but it was the first track we got into a zone. It happened quickly where layer on layer fitted naturally. It seemed like the wisest track to release first and looking back, it fit really nice on the EP.
How long did it take to make ‘Peppermint’?
Adam: I think we did it all in one night, although with some tweaks at a later time.
Oskar: I made the beat on the train to the studio from my University. Got there, played it for Adam and we agreed to work on it. It was probably between 10pm and 4am that the song was created. It didn’t really change much after that first session.
Adam: It just spilled out and it was a great feeling which led to a bit of impatience whereby we just wanted to show it to everyone.
Do you both create in bursts of creativity or do you create consistently?
Adam: We have created so many songs, and not all of them have come from that free flowing space. I feel like all the stuff we end up releasing has to have a feeling and have happened naturally.
Oskar: We have a lot of tracks that are specific to certain places in time working together. Peppermint, Home:so:long, Blue and Constantly are really reminiscent of a time recording in Hackney Wick. We moved to a new studio in Brick Lane and as soon as we moved in there’s four or five tracks we’ve made that reflect our time there – each new environment we find ourselves in contributes to a new style or sound. There is a constant level of output though with some particular times becoming a creative peak.
You signed with Foundation FM recently – what are they like and why did you want to work with them?
Oskar: We had interest after the first two releases dropped. We felt at home with Foundation FM. We went through a lot of meetings with A and R’s who we felt didn’t quite understand our project as a whole. Foundation FM seemed immediately like they did and the way they do things suits what we are after.
Adam: They are a really good bunch of people – it’s a brand new label, they hadn’t released anything before we started and we liked the idea of building something with them. The radio station is incredible, it all just felt like a nice partnership rather than something intense that we’d be offered elsewhere.
What will your live act look like? What can we expect?
Adam: Glad you asked, we’ve been cooking up a live set.
Oskar: It’s the most exciting thing for us at the moment. We both have really strong influences obviously and for both of us, there’s certain elements of what they do live we want to capture. The hip-hop energy, playing rare bootlegs. Also bringing Adam’s indie feel – the live instruments. We’ve been working on bringing both together over the last three months. It’s been a slow process. We are really excited.
Adam: Our original plan before the pandemic was to release Peppermint in April and launch it with a house party where we would play live. Then, we had a basic live set – playing the songs live but it wasn’t ideal. Having had all this time to prepare, we have worked hard to make the songs different, have different versions so that they are living and breathing. We want people who are fans to be interested and engaged.
Oskar: We want the live set to depict to an audience the way we make music together. There’s elements where Adam will play keys and guitar and I’ll be playing a push pad, playing bass in parts and even singing (with a strong auto tune, of course). We want the live performances to feel like people are watching us in the studio setting and get the feel for what we do.
Adam: We will play all the gigs that will have us. I’m really excited for people to see it soon. We hope to do some DJ set things too as ultimately we are just big fans of music and sharing music.
Since you both are active on the London music scene – give us one musician you recommend for us to listen to.
Adam: Yeah cool, Caleb Kunle – he is a lovely guy first off and is sitting on soo much good music and I think he’ll be very popular soon. He is very pure with his artistic intention, when his music starts to come out, he will be doing well.
Oskar: He makes a wide variety of sounds and works with a band called the Euphonics. They haven’t got anything out just yet but it’s definitely worth checking when they do. The band is amazing and Caleb works great with them. He pulls from the same sort of influences as we do but from a different perspective. He has an incredible voice.
Adam: Shout out to Caleb.
You care about the personal aspect of music making and the process, which of your songs would be the most personal?
Adam: It’s got to be ‘First Bagel’ I guess, which isn’t out yet. It is written about us and is our love letter to the forthcoming EP. It’s the most ambitious we’ve been in our writing and producing. You might understand when you hear it and we are very proud of it. Personal.
Oskar: It’s a track in three parts. The first part we made when we moved to the new studio in Brick Lane. The middle part was when I got Covid actually and couldn’t go to the sessions and Adam went alone and expressed frustration that we had stalled.
Adam: The middle bit was like in the middle of winter too where I would cycle to the studio and do weird all-nighters, get there at 7pm and leave at 5am. I couldn’t finish it.
Oskar: Adam was convinced the song wasn’t finished and demanded more from me – I made a sample for the middle part and sent it to Adam. The final part then was added with us both in the studio doing all night sessions. First Bagel was one of the first times we both sat and wrote lyrics together. We don’t often do it.
Whats the stupidest argument you’ve ever had?
Oskar: I hate spoken word poetry. Adam loves it.
Adam: Be fair now, Oskar hasn’t seen anything other than a Nationwide Banking Advert which obviously is never going to move anyone.
Oskar: We argue about this a lot.
Adam: The ironic thing is, the track we will be releasing next honestly has got spoken word on it.
Oskar: It hasn’t…. it has a beat….
(Queue a five minute argument about Spoken Word….)
Oskar: Another argument that arose is when I wanted to buy Birkenstock Boston sandals. I don’t know why I asked you for your opinion Adam, because I don’t care what you think. But I asked…
Adam: The one time he asked me for fashion advice. They were shocking.
Oskar: I also asked my friend Isobella who also thought they were horrible. I was looking for validation and none was forthcoming.
Adam: I’ve since given my blessing, it means a lot to him.
Catch Lavender live in London soon if you are into great original music! New EP coming soon.
About ‘The Sound Sniffer’
The Sound Sniffer is a music blog that’s still only a baby – Founded in early 2019 by Kevin Coakley, a music writer and ghostwriter. ‘The Sound Sniffer’ also runs gigs and showcases in London since Oct 2019. The showcases are picked from artists found in the blog’s submission inbox.
Check out my Interviews HERE