Hybrid Minds, comprised of Josh White and Matt Lowe, have managed to establish themselves quickly since their first album, Mountains, and they’re now seen as one of the best liquid drum and bass duos in the world, maybe even one of the best drum and bass acts full stop. Now a year into their own label and with a huge summer festival tour coming up, Hybrid Minds are releasing a massive second album called Elements. The 24-track LP features collaborations with Linguistics and Grimm, with lots of summery vocal tracks. Matt and Josh sat down with Your EDM last week to talk about their process, what inspires them, and the Your EDM premiere of “Secret Place”, which also featured on Friction’s BBC Radio 1 Show.
You guys have had a lot of singles over the past four years since the release of Mountains on Spearhead in 2013, but this is the first LP since then. What made you decide to release an album now?
Matt: We did have a lot of material sort of ready, but we’re not the sort of people who wanted to just throw together a bunch of tracks and call it an album. Some of the tracks we had got weeded out, and others just fell into place. It took us three years to do this one, so there was a lot of thought that went into it but it also sort of naturally came about with the tracks we thought would work.
Josh: I think it was part of the process of starting our new label. Working on an album is a bit of a big deal and we were quite worn out after the first one so it was nice to have a break and just roll with some singles for a bit. When we started our own label we had a lot of energy for getting another body of work down so decided an album project was the best thing to kick it off.
So this is the first full album on the Hybrid Minds label as well. Did you do your own mastering on it then from within the label?
Josh: We don’t master our own tracks. We always send everything to Beau at Ten Eight Seven to master for the vinyl press etc. Big ups Beau!
Matt: Yeah, we have got a third party mastering company…Ten Eight Seven do a great job. (At this point) it just adds more to the workload we already have…the label in itself is so much work, so we try and keep the jobs (for ourselves) to a minimum.
How involved are you with the rest of the jobs with the label?
Matt: Pretty much everything at the moment. We did take on a label manager just recently because if I’m honest I think it’s more work than we anticipated at the start, so he does a lot of the management now and that’s helpful. Josh does graphic design, which is pretty useful because he does all our branding, our logos and our artwork.
Josh: We do it all really. The artwork, the schedule, the merchandise and run all our own social media and website with little bit of help. We work closely with our friend Gareth who takes care of a lot of the boring stuff like contracts as well as general help all round. He is vital to the label and without him I doubt we would have started it.
And when did you start the label?
Matt: I think just about one year ago.
Well happy one-year anniversary then! Back to the album, there are a lot of collaborations and guest vocalists on pretty much every track here. Hybrid Minds are known for being quite vocalist-heavy, but in this case every song had some kind of collaboration. How did that all work in terms of forming the album?
Josh: Each track has its own story really but it seems to be a process of our writing that a vocalist will pop into our heads when we are making something and we have to send it to them to see what they will do with it. A few of the tracks felt like sequels to similar collabs on the first album which was a really nice thing to do.
Matt: Yeah, I think we’re always sort of looking back to the previous album (Mountains), which was vocal-heavy – maybe not as vocal-heavy as this one – so we ended up using a lot of people from the previous album and singles because they’re so consistent and they just make it easy. Like Linguistics are always great to work with (on “Home”), Charlie P…all these people are so quick and we needed that because the album took so long as it was. It’s never intentional for it to be vocal-heavy. We often write a track that’s just meant to have a verse or two, but then the vocalists; the singers that we use are so good that we don’t end up wanting to change it. It’s like, once you hear it you can’t unhear it. That’s really what happened with “Secret Place” and Tiffani Juno.
Right, that’s the track we’re premiering. So she was one of the people who just ran with the lyrics and you didn’t want to mess with it after that? Do most of the vocalists do their own lyrics?
Josh: We tend to let vocalists have free reign with lyrics and go from there. We find it more of a collaborative thing and find it very exciting to see their take on the music. When we get a new vocal through that’s really good it’s an absolute buzz.
Matt: We don’t consider ourselves lyric writers. We’ll write a track and then we’ll think of someone for that track, but they come up with their own lyrics. If we like it, yeah, it’s great, but sometimes we may ask them to tweak it but…but then like I said, sometimes we start out thinking we want the vocals to be really sparse, but what they do ends up being so good that we don’t want to cut it.
So it sounds like the vocalist then makes the track and that really came into play with “Secret Place”, as the vocals cover the whole track and it almost takes on a pop structure, which is quite different for a drum and bass track.
Matt: Yeah Tiffani is the one on that track and it definitely ended up that way process-wise. We started out wanting sparse vocals we could cut up, but the way she put it together…it just worked so well and we just can’t bring ourselves to strip it back, so it definitely takes on a pop structure. With a lot of drum and bass tracks, especially liquid, it’s stripped back or cut together, whereas we don’t mind having more a verse-chorus-verse structure if it works for the sound we want.
Josh: We found that a lot of the tracks were turning into full songs. I think it’s due to us using vocalists who aren’t bound to drum and bass so they have a different approach to writing which we have found really refreshing in this project. Tiffani is amazing, she always takes me by surprise with a direction she has taken a track in and I always end up absolutely loving what she has done. We won’t always be aiming for a full vocal track with her but she does her thing and we can never pick anything to cut out.
Do you have a favorite track or tracks on the album?
Matt: Yeah, I’d say so…there’s a track called “Inside”, and it’s quite uplifting I think, where we tend to do a lot of sad stuff so it was nice to make something really uplifting. People seem to like it in the clubs as well.
Josh: For me it would probably be “Home”, “Listen” and “Brighter Days”.
With any track, how do you guys like to work together? Do you split tracks up into parts, or collab on everything?
Josh: We collab on the lot. We send ideas back and forth and keep going until something is finished. It’s really good to constantly have fresh ears on an idea. I’m a very indecisive person and for me it’s amazing to have an outside opinion and fresh ears. Likewise for Matt I think. I don’t think our tracks would be half as good if we didn’t send them back and forth so much. Having a break from something and hearing it progress really inspires you to do that extra bit.
Matt: Yeah, I think Josh is very detailed-oriented, whereas I like to just slap things down. I’ll start a new track and write a melody and then I’ll get bored…I just like new things constantly. Josh will go in and work on it for weeks and weeks. We both get a lot of ideas, but he’s definitely the detail man. I just like making melodies. I’d happily make melodies all day long with no drums.
Josh: I enjoy it all really, from playing around with melodies and the fine details. I always want something to be perfect and have the right feeling so I spent a lot of time nit picking stuff and trying to go that extra bit to getting the best result possible.
Sounds like quite a supportive process. Back to “Secret Place”, talking about the drums, it seems to be quite old school, like old liquid with lots of amen break. How did you decide to put that together?
Josh: I can’t remember that well but I think that started with the drums and melody. We wanted to get a couple more ameny tracks on the album to split up the straight beats. For me I really like going in on amens and editing them to high heaven to get a really interesting groove.
Matt: We’ve wanted to make a really good amen track – we’ve maybe had a few in the past, but nothing really modern – we wanted to make a more modern amen track. We took a lot of inspiration from a track Logistics did and how he was using old amens. The amen break on that was so punchy. It didn’t sound old, and that’s how the process started on that. It was a long time coming putting that together.
It does seem like a nice marriage of amens and modern elements, and it’s a great summer track for the festival season. Is there anything else you guys want to say to fans or friends?
Josh: Thank you so much for your continued support. Our fans are the best we could ask for. It’s always so positive and inspiring. You lot are safe as fuck.
Matt: Thanks to everyone who’s pre-ordered as well and I hope you enjoy the album!
The Elements LP releases on Hybrid Minds’s label on Friday, June 23. The album can be pre-ordered in multiple formats by clicking here.