Interview: The Scribes Present Ill Literature
Published on October 10th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
UK hip hop trio Ill Literature have been rolling in positive press attention for their recently released album The Scribes Present Ill Literature – it was named as Album of the Month on Riviera FM and has received critical acclaim from BBC Introducing – so Rocksucker fired off some questions to the group (namely lyricist/beat-maker Shaun Amos, bassist/multi-instrumentalist Jake Galvin and singer/guitarist Jack Joyce) to find out a little bit more about their whole operation. First, though, check out the thrilling spooktacle that is this video for the LP’s colourful lead single “Monsters”…
What’s the line-up of the band? How did you all meet, and how long has the band been going for?
Jake: As far as I remember, I had just finished recording some bass lines for the new Scribes album (which coincidentally is going to come out after this release!). We were getting a bit restless after recording one night and ended up making something completely new. I gave playing guitar and singing a go, and that track turned into “Heavy Wait”. From there me and Shaun both pooled our resources of musical talent together to create this massive collaboration.
Shaun: The core members of the ill Literature project, involved in the recording and writing, are myself on beats and raps, Jake on bass, guitars, singing and a bit of keys, and Jack on guitar, singing and at one point an electric organ I got for free out of our local paper!
On top of that we’ve got a host of other musicians that have contributed: Jamie Rowland on synths, Josiah Manning on guitar, grand piano (and mastering the record at Momentum Studios), not to mention my fellow band mates from The Scribes, Jonny Steele with a couple of rap verses and Paul Lacey with some vocal scratching.
We all met on the South West music scene; Jake played a few bass lines for The Scribes and was formally in a band with Jack called “Spoken In Sonar”. The three of us got together for the first time in the studio about a year ago and it was musical love at first sight!
How would you describe your music, if pushed?
Jack: Like hip hop I guess?
Jake: It’s hard to pin point it, but I wouldn’t say it’s straight up hip hop. It has definitely got an indie side to it with the guitars and some of the choruses.
Shaun: I’ve always liked the term hippedy hop: hip hop drum beats, funk-based bass lines and melodic instrumentation over the top. It’s hard to say really as I think the album covers a lot of ground musically!
Where are you based, and what do you use to record with?
Jake: This album has taken a year to make, and that’s purely because we all live in different cities! The main crew is split between Plymouth, Bristol, Southampton and Brighton! We all lived in Plymouth once upon a time, but we started work on the album just before we all moved away for different reasons. I’m sure if we were in the same city we would be on Ill Literature volume 3 by now…
Jack: I’m in Brighton at the moment, but back in Plymouth soon! It was all recorded and mixed at Shaun’s home .
Shaun: Yeah, I’ve got a little set up at home that we did pretty much all the work in. Bits that we couldn’t do there like the grand piano were recorded at Momentum Studios and Josiah Manning did the mastering there too.
Are you signed to a label? If so, how did you come to their attention?
Jake: We’re doing everything off our own backs at the moment but there’s talks of taking it further as we speak.
Shaun: It’s all very preliminary and a bit hush hush, but we’re in talks with an awesome American independent label regarding the project, so we’ll see what happens!
Is there a full album in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it? (Feel free to be as abstract as you like…)
Jake: It’s taken a while, but I finally feel like Ill Literature is a full album. It may only be nine tracks long but it’s a good length. Not too short to be considered an E.P yet not too long simply because we could have fit more tracks onto a disc.
Jack: This is a full album!
Shaun: Yeah, I’d consider this a full album, certainly more to it than an EP!
Where can we hear your music online?
Which have been your most exciting gigs and/or overall moments so far?
Jack: I went to see Steps when I was 10. No joke. It was great.
Shaun: Generally I’d say supporting De La Soul or playing Glasto, but in terms of this project, I’ve got to say I almost openly wept with joy the first time I saw the video! BeFree Media filmed and edited it for us, and I’m blown away with the results.
Jake: I was flown out to Texas to play at SXSW (South by South-West) a few years ago which was a definite highlight for me.
Got any more coming up? (Gigs, that is…)
Shaun: Ill Literature is very much a studio project at the moment, though you can see The Scribes this month at Plymouth Oxjam Festival on Oct 21st , supporting The Herbaliser at The Trinity Center in Bristol on Oct 26th and at PCAD/Loki Ink Halloween on Oct 31st. I’m going as Snake Plisskin from Escape From LA due to a recent charity shop purchase of an awesomely bad-ass leather duster jacket!
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
Shaun: Perhaps not obscure, but I currently love Macklemore, a US rapper. I listen to an embarrassingly small amount of music to be honest!
Jake: I’ve been into an American rapper called Blu for a long time now. His 2007 release Below the Heavens produced by Exile still remains in my top 5 list. It’s worth giving shout-outs to Tiron & Ayomari, Shad and Thundercat though (among a ton of others)! They all represent the same sort of musical background I’m into.
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?
Jack: The Beatles. Omar Rodriguez Lopez (including The Mars Volta work). John Frusciante (including Chilis work). Lou Reed (including The Velvet Underground work) and Bonobo. What a hard question! My music tastes and moods vary daily. Hourly. Minutely.
Jake: OK my list is going to be a little bit of a mix, but my top five is:
Jamiroquai, Incubus (and their bass player Ben Kenney’s solo stuff), Blu (and all his projects), Reuben, and finally Limp Bizkit. I’m a sucker for that band…
Shaun: Blur, definitely, probably Macklemore too, Super Furry Animals without a doubt. Maybe Pharoahe Monche as well, and finally, Urusei Yatsura. I’ve just realised I think our album sounds like the freakishly deformed love child of those five as well, so that’s a bonus!
The Scribes, thank you.