This year and the last have seen the release of several acclaimed albums from New Zealand Drum ’n’ Bass groups, not only here but also offshore. With this in mind, coupled with the strong, ceaseless output of material courtesy of local imprint Loop Recordings, there is perhaps no better time to highlight the release of Wellington Drum ‘n’ Bass duo The Upbeats’ debut effort.
Last week Jeremy Glenn, one half of The Upbeats, took time out of his busy schedule to meet me at the Purple Onion café, kindly refuse my offer of a drink, and talk excitedly about touring, the release material overseas and The Upbeats self-titled debut album.
The duo is Jeremy and long-time friend Dylan Jones, who, despite the relatively short lifespan of The Upbeats, have been creating beats for a number of years. I use the term “creating” loosely, as Jeremy points out the initial rudimentary manner in which the two have since progressed. “We met six years ago at Wellington High School, we started mucking around, making beats and that,” explains Jeremy. “I mean it was sort of Drum ’n’ Bass I guess, but it was really bad,” he laughs.
Jeremy (22) and Dylan (23) are still relatively young in the New Zealand music scene. Two years ago, after taking the genre seriously in a committed direction, they have achieved a number of merits that have helped to create a buzz around the release of their album. This includes signing to UK-based DJ Digital’s label Timeless. Certainly one of, if not the most, respected figures in the British Drum ’n’ Bass scene, Digital toured New Zealand with Salmonella Dub and MC Mana of Rhombus last year. It was through MC Mana that Jeremy and Dylan first got in contact in contact with Digital.
“MC Mana said we should send some tracks, so we sent a CD,” says Jeremy. “He sent us an email maybe a month later and said ‘Hey, like what you’re doing, I wanna hear more, send us another CD,’ so we did.” After sending more tracks that the pair had been working on, Digital emailed Jeremy and asked him to call. “He said, ‘Would you be interested in doing something for our label?’ We were pretty hyped.”
The pair had already been making a name for themselves in Wellington and other parts of the country. It was around the time of their success with Digital that they signed to Wellington-based label Loop Recordings. Their debut album shows off a considerable knowledge of the genre while also exploring different moods and sounds. “If you listen to the album, there are five tracks that aren’t Drum ’n’ Bass at all, downbeat tracks and that,” Jeremy explains. “[Dylan and I] are listeners of pretty much all music, so we make a lot of different music, a bit of hip-hop, a bit of downbeat, breaks, stuff like that. We take different influences and try and incorporate into our Drum ’n’ Bass tracks and come up with something new. I don’t like listening to a Drum ’n’ Bass record that’s just hard dance floor tunes the whole way through.”
The album was written and produced at the flat Jeremy and Dylan share. “We both handle production duties equally, I’ve been doing most of the live DJing up until recently,” says Jeremy. “We’re just starting to do the duo thing now. At the album release party we had Megan, one of the vocalists on the album, singing, I was DJing and Dylan was playing keys and a bit of guitar and effects.”
The album release at Indigo Bar sold out, and saw an enthusiastic crowd getting into The Upbeats two-hour set. Following this Jeremy played Destinations in Christchurch and the last night of Orientation in Dunedin. On the Friday night I talked to Jeremy, it turns out he will play support to ex-pats Shapeshifter at Studio Nine before playing Queenstown and then Auckland on April 17. When asked what he thinks about the current Drum ’n’ Bass scene in New Zealand, Jeremy is positive. “I love it, everywhere I play I have fun,” he exclaims. “Especially the little places I play in. Places like Queenstown and Dunedin are two of the places where I’ve had the most fun.”
Like New Zealand’s Concord Dawn, Shapeshifter and Bulletproof, The Upbeats are expanding their Drum ’n’ Bass mark on the world stage without necessarily going through the gut-wrenching motions of breaking into the NZ pop charts, or sounding like the feelers (…make it stop) for people to take notice. Including the vinyl release of Basket Case on Timeless this year, The Upbeats have inked deals with Protogen Recordings in Germany and three US labels (Hostile, Incite and Habit Recordings) not including four tracks released on various labels through US-based Vicious Music Group.
Jeremy is stoked with what The Upbeats have been able to achieve so far. From bedroom producers to the world stage it all seems surreal. “A year ago, we couldn’t have believed we could be here in a year’s time…. It’s crazy.” The album is out this month on Loop Recordings and after their show in Auckland The Upbeats plan to play back home before long. History would suggest you get in quick before this group takes off.