Interview: Surreal

Take a huge pinch of a wise-beyond-his-years writer/rapper from LDN and add an equal dash of a producer/multi-instrumentalist from Brighton.  What do you get?  Something rather loud, abstract and dream-like.  The result in its earthly form as band, Surreal, is an experiment in its early stages of trials that has seen everyone from the likes of Hot Chip and UK’s new band scouting guru, Steve Lamacq, dipping in and out with their lab coats and taking samples of the fresh, fruitful and, as Lamacq said himself, combination that is “sexy, slick and without an ounce of unwanted fat”.

Check out the interview below with Surreal’s voice, Laurence, and download the track “Idle Pop & Prancing Stars” to come to your own conclusion why Surreal will persist and take everyone’s interest with them as they near their album release at the end of this year.

LSD:  You are based in Brighton but born in London. How did you and Tim (the other half of Surreal) meet? Did you click instantly on a musical level?

Haha well in a not so rock n’ roll manner!  We actually met via gumtree.com (it’s an all purpose networking website where you can get anything from a baby sitter to a motorbike). Tim was looking for production work and I sent him a demo and from there we had a chat over an ale and got straight to work later that week.  I had moved to Brighton just to get a break from London I felt creatively I needed a fresh start, things were going well rap wise in London but I felt I hadn’t found my voice yet, I thought getting away from the same old faces and dramas might help me evolve.  For the first 2 to 3 songs we worked on updating old tracks.  The songs that were written were just a case of Tim applying some of his vision. He managed to just ad a touch of class and by the time we were writing together things were clicking.

LSD:What would you say are the biggest similarities and differences between Brighton and London (both musically and culturally)?

For me I actually moved to Brighton purely on a whim, I felt in London as a rapper you are automatically pigeon holed. I found myself doing well on the UK hip hop underground circuit, and I felt I was in danger of being over influenced.  I didn’t want to wake up in five years and have found I had written a hip hop album – not that I have anything against hip hop it’s a true art form – but I really felt like more of a song writer trapped in a rappers body. And I think in Brighton individuality is its charm.  For a boy growing up in London its all about where you belong and who with, and that dictates everything from the clothes you wear to the music you listen to. That being said once you have found your voice and you have a strong enough identity then London is definitely the place to show it off! I still love it there and consider it home.

LSD:  How long have you been rapping for? How did it come to be that you would rap as a part of Surreal?

Surreal has actually been my ‘rapping’ name since about 13. I used to MC to garage music at house parties and local raves but I couldn’t get much content into the lyrics as the music was so fast, so by slowing it down to hip hop tempo I found I was able to tell stories and make people appreciate the words. My first mix tape was called ‘surreal living’ – I was 14 it was recorded in my bedroom with a tape deck the sound was terrible! But mates seemed to like it, they would all sing along with me when I performed.  So then a few years later, after about a year of Tim making all the music for ‘Surreal’, we thought the name should represent the project not just me.

LSD:  What was the score with Steve Lamacq’s support of your work? How did it all come about?

We were played by Tom Robinson on ‘BBC Introducing’ and a few weeks later we got an email saying Lamacq had made us his unsigned artist of the week. So I was interviewed live on air and they play listed our track. It was really out of the blue

LSD:  As far as your live performances go, where have you performed recently that made you really think the audience got your message? Where would you like to go next to spread your word?

We played on a night called Glitch Kitchen in London and we had added a few new surprises to the set i.e. me playing electronic drums.  Also, there wasn’t a stage so things just seemed to click and I felt like people were really getting my lyrics but also dancing like mad!

LSD:  Are you amongst the artistes that treat their work like a 9-5 job or do you let the process flow much more organically?

It has to come to me, I can’t force it, I let an idea build up and up until I’m ready to almost throw it up on the page.

LSD:  Your first major show was in front of a sell out crowd at a Hot Chip DJ gig – wow. You’ve had an incredible amount of success so far! Do you feel like your music gets more respect because it has rapping on it or is that purely a coincidence?

The Hot Chip show was great amazing crowd and as our first proper show it really threw us in the deep end! I think the rap thing can hold it back sometimes people have misconceptions of a rapper so I always would rather someone just listened to it with out telling them it’s a rap project.

LSD:  You are going to be in and out of Berlin over the next couple of weeks. Have you spent much time there and what is your take on the reason why so many musicians and artistes flock here?

Again individuality is the key! If there is a place that is as big and as beautiful as Berlin and it promotes quirkiness and individuality then the artists will flock!

LSD:  Will we see much more of you in Germany in the future?

I hope so, we had a lot of success with our track, ‘Artois’ and I love it here so, fingers crossed we’ll tour soon!

LSD:  ‘Idle Pop & Prancing Stars’ is taken from the “forthcoming” album. How forthcoming is it?

Hopefully this year, we keep writing new material so there could be a follow up soon after

LSD:  What else is on the horizon for Surreal? Oh, and what’s the deal with the name?

Gigs gigs gigs is what we are going for over the coming months the live set is getting real tasty!

I wrote a song when I was 14 called ‘Living Surreal’. All about reality and how most of what I was doing at the time was trying to keep me out of reality so I called that living surreal. The name just stuck.

Free Mp3: Surreal – Idle Pop & Prancing Stars