Shortly before their show at Electric Brixton, the crew from UV Festival met up with this year’s headliners Him_Self_Her, to talk Ibiza, Crosstown Rebels, Amaretto and err…East 17!
UV: Hi guys, thanks very much for speaking to us ahead of headlining UV Festival. Could you tell us a little about yourselves and how “Him_Self_Her” came into existence?
Leon: Oh how our lives changed forever!
Claire: We were both DJs separately on the same scene for about 10-12 years, and met because we were getting booked on the same nights in and around Leicester.
Leon: Yeah, sometimes I would go on before Claire, sometimes Claire would go on before me. But I think the first time we actually ever met, was when I came to see her playing with D Ramirez at Loughborough Uni.
Claire: I think we realised we were on the same page musically. I was producing tracks solo, and I said to Leon to come into the studio and see what we come up with. Then ‘Gone Too Long’ was one of the first tracks we came up with and turned out to be our second release!
UV: “Gone Too Long” is an incredible track and was your breakthrough, off the back of that you were signed to Crosstown Rebels. Do you still love it?
Claire: We love it and we hate it. It’s starting to do our heads in a little bit, but at the same time we’re very thankful for where it has got us….
Leon: We kind of get to a gig and think “do we need to play it? Maybe we can play one of the remixes for once”, but when we start you can just feel it in the crowd.
Claire: It’s the first thing people ask for, as soon as we start playing.
Leon: And it’s crazy for us, because we made it so long ago. And when it started dying down, Crosstown re-released it and it brought the buzz back!
UV: Crosstown Rebels is a huge label to be part of, how did that happen?
Claire: Do you know how that happened? Somebody deliberately played ‘Gone Too Long’ as the last track in their set before Damian Lazarus went on, because he knew he’d like it.
Leon: And it worked!
Claire: Yeah, Damian emailed us directly to ask if he could have a copy, and we were like “can’t you buy it from Beatport, it’s only £1.73?!”. We also sent him a follow up track with the same vocalist which he signed.
Is that coming soon…?
Claire: Well…they held it back a little so they could re-release ‘Gone Too Long’, but it’s coming in late August, early September.
UV: Your biography has the tagline “House Music with Feeling”, how would you describe the Him_Self_Her Sound and the manner you imbue your songs with feeling?
Leon: Most of the time, the vocal does that. The backing tracks are really simple, to build around the vocal. But lately, we’ve been trying to evoke that feeling without the vocals.
Claire: It think the reason we do that is from clubbing, as we’ve had those moments on the dance floor, when it’s all about how moved you are by the music. So we try to recreate those moments.
Leon: There’s nothing like going home after a night out and thinking, “fuck me, what was that track they played, it was so good”? So we try to make all our tracks like that, and the only way you can do that is with feeling.
UV: How do you approach working in the studio together when you are composing and arranging tracks?
Leon: Vocal wise, that’s pretty much been down to Claire for the last two years. But I actually helped write one recently didn’t I?
Claire: Some lyrics? Last week, yeah you helped to write your first lyrics! But this is where I always sneak in the same thing – Leon used to be a Jungle MC!
Leon: Ah, yes, I started as MC Breaker when I was 14 as a Garage and Jungle MC.
UV: Starting young then?!
Claire: His lyrics were terrible…absolutely terrible!hahaha, But in our last track, he actually came up with some good ideas and I was just changing them into something a little more poetic, haha.
UV: Do you have any favourite pieces of equipment that you rely on?
Leon: It’s funny, because you see a lot of producers saying they use this and that, but it’s more plug-ins for us.
Claire: Yeah it’s more software based. We’re trying to get away from that a little bit, but when you have something that you’re good at and you can work with, you often keep coming back to it. We use ProTools for recording vocals, then bounce them into Logic for production.
UV: Does your writing process differ when you are making remixes? We are huge fans of your remix of Imogen Heap’s Headlock.
Claire: It’s quite similar actually, because when we do vocal tracks we just get some rough loops, write some vocals, then create the backing track around the vocals. We do something similar for remixes.
Leon: When we do remixes, we often try and just the vocals from the original. We’re not one of these people who get’s a remix in, change a few parts and have it finished within an hour.
UV: We were in the crowd for one of your shows in Ibiza at Sankeys last year, which was a ridiculous night!
Leon: I have to be honest, I’m surprised we were both still standing at that point.
That makes at least 3 of us in the room…
Claire: We did a closing set that night, finished at 7am, and went straight to the airport to fly back to Stansted. We then drove back to Leicester where I had to teach the next day.
UV: Are you hitting the White Isle again this year? And which do you think are the most exciting nights in Ibiza at the moment?
Claire: We played Sankey’s last week, but we’re working on getting back out again before the end of the summer.
Leon: The one place I want to go is Music On.
Claire: Everybody is talking about Music On this year. So for the few nights we’re over there, we’ll probably try and sneak in.
UV: What are your aspirations for you guys for 2014?
Claire: We want to see what happens with this next release through Crosstown Rebels. We’re really excited about it as there are two remixes, including one from Francesca Lombardo which we’re really excited to hear, and we’ve done two versions of it so we think it’s a very strong release. So we’ll see how that does and go from there.
UV: Who are your musical inspirations?
Claire: We’ve got really different musical backgrounds actually.
Leon: Yeah, I’m a proper Leicester lad and Claire’s classical…
Claire: I’m not classical, but Leon used to listen to George Michael and East 17! But he’s got a lot of knowledge of Old Skool and DnB.
Leon: Yeah, Trance, Hard House and Breakbeats, i like all kind of music.
Claire: See I was more into Portishead, which is why we remixed those cheeky little tracks. But Trip Hop, Massive Attack, and Tricky, all that type of music. My dad brought me up on classical, blues and jazz.
Leon: Opposites attract!
Claire: Well if we both had the same tastes and backgrounds, then we wouldn’t bring different ideas to it. But I’m not attracted to you though…give it up!
UV: Have you got any tips of up and coming artists?
Claire: We really like Francesca Lombardo. We’ve been talking about her for a while, so it’s amazing that she’s remixing our track. We also liking &Me at the minute, everything he makes is so good. He’s like the master of suspense dance floor tracks.
UV: Final question, do you have a message for all the people attending UV Festival this year?
Claire: Go crazy, drink Amaretto, and eat the cakes that we throw at you!!