alphabetising success

An interview with Jacob Savage & Jamie Hartley

Electronic-pop duo alphabet. is made up of Accelerated Pop student Jacob Savage and Leeds-based DJ/Producer Jamie Hartley. Focusing on the pursuit of “writing and producing great music”, the attention surrounding them is growing quickly. Already picked twice as a BBC Introducing track in 2014, and having song ‘Just Another Day’ played by the likes of Fearne Cotton, Scott Mills and Greg James, their first 5 months working together have been nothing if not fruitful. We caught up with them to learn what it is about their music that has been making waves.


 
So, tell us a story – how did alphabet. meet? 

Jacob Savage (S): We met in October 2013 through a mutual friend who runs a radio station – Jamie was there doing a show and I had some session work, and we sort of got chatting and one thing led to another! We started making music, and the track ‘Just Another Day’ was released in December. It got picked up by BBC Introducing in Leeds pretty quickly, and then by Radio 1 as their Introducing track for the week.

 

Sounds like its been gathering momentum pretty quickly – I noticed you’ve been working with a few different artists on remixes as well as having released the track? 

Jamie Hartley (H): Yeah, we’ve had some interesting e-mails! Me being a DJ, I know quite a lot of other up-and-coming producers in Leeds and I just put it out there on my Facebook: does anyone want to remix this tune that we’ve done? Loads of people got back, people I didn’t even know, so we just thought “why not”? We sent out the stems got some really great remixes back.

S: Some of those have been put on quite big YouTube channels as well, and Jamie’s own remixes have been doing well.

H: My remixes give the track more of a house/upbeat feel, because obviously the music we make is quite down tempo.

 

Yeah, ‘Just Another Day’ is quite intense! Did you write it with the idea of having it remixed in mind? 

S: I don’t think it was until we’d actually written the first tune and got it back that we thought “actually this is a really good way of getting music out there”. Because I personally listen to a lot of remixes and then want to go and source the original song.

H: I’m kind of the opposite – I’ll listen to tunes and then try to find remixes to play in clubs, so it’s exciting to hear someone else’s take on a tune that you wouldn’t have even thought about. We’ve had some back where we’ve thought, “Wow, how did they get that out of our tune?!” It’s exciting in that way.

S: It means the tracks don’t die as quickly as well, because after they’ve been released there’s still remixes a few months later, so there’s a bit more longevity to them.

 

And you’re working on a new track at the moment? 

S: Yep…we’re on vocalist number four now (laughs)

H: It’s a tricky track! We had it nailed down, but then we met up with an A&R guy who said that he loved the tune, but he felt the singer needed a different sound. It was pretty invaluable advice, in the sense that the first tune had a voice that you can hear on the radio, its got that almost commercial sound to it, whereas the vocalist on the new track was a little bit left field.

S: It’s such a good voice and I still really like it – it’d be perfect for an album track, but obviously as we’re looking for the next release it’s not ideal for something like this. We’ve done quite well picking vocalists so far – Jordan (ILA) who sang ‘Just Another Day’, she’s had quite a lot of offers from it, and Charlotte who sang on ‘Kite Runner’, she’s doing work with T. Williams down in London off the back of this track – he heard her voice on it and really liked it.

 

So, what do you look for in a vocalist? 

S: I think we’re doing right in how we’re picking them – a lot of them are love hate voices, real marmite ones!

H: We like that because it gets people talking about them – I think that’s better than hearing something and going “ah, that’s alright” but then moving on to the next thing. A lot of them are people we know or heard before, but we’ve been approached directly too. A London management company heard our track and got in touch to set us up with a male vocalist – he’s going to come up for a couple of days next week and we’re going to do some writing with him and see whether we work well together.

S: It’s quite nice to break the Leeds bubble in that way – have people coming up from London to see us and get involved with us rather than us feeling like we have to gravitate around the capital ourselves.

 

How important is that collaborative element to alphabet.? 

H: It’s been about that from the start really – we always wanted to be the baseboard for loads of different artists getting involved with our work, we want to experiment with different voices, with different styles and try and encompass them under alphabet.

S: With a lot of electronic music you tend to see people hide themselves, and I think we had to make the decision whether we wanted to be more open, so now I like to think that we’re good at engaging with others. If anyone wants to do a remix, all we have to do is email them and send them all the files they need which is much easier than trying to grab them off the internet.

 
I know you said it was similar interests that drew you together, but are there any inspirations you share?

H: When I first met Jacob I remember speaking to him and, I can’t remember how it came up, but it turned out we were both big fans of The XX, and other acts like James Blake and London Grammar, and working together came from us both saying “you know, I’d love to try and make some music like that”. It helps as well that we have such different backgrounds in music, with Jacob being classically trained and me working in the electronic music industry for so long – but we both still really appreciate and enjoy the new wave side of things.

S: I’ve collaborated with a lot of people, and I always had the feeling that every time you add someone to a collaboration, you’re diluting the end goal by how ever many parts you’re adding.  It’s not been like that so much with us. Whenever we’ve set out to do a song – before its been materialised we both know what it’s going to sound like before it’s going to be finished, which is very exciting.


Find out more about alphabet. here 

 

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