“Easiest way to describe us would be a guitarist and a beat maker but I think the stuff we make is greater than the sum of its part”. And that’s facts!
Are you a fan of J Dilla’s intricate beats and sampling techniques? Do you get goosebumps every time you listen to Bon Iver’s emotional vocals? Trust us, you are in for a treat with lavender (yep, all lowercase). Last month we had a lovely chat (via Zoom – social distancing what’s up?) with Oskar ‘the beat maker’ Rice and Adam ‘the guitarist’ Jackson to get to know more about their latest project and here’s what we found out…
Despite attending the same school since they were eleven years old, it wasn’t until they were seventeen that Adam and Oskar properly met and started sharing their passion for music. Oskar recalls, “Adam’s band at the time, Ken’s Beijing, who were a sick band, came to record their EP – there aren’t many studios where we are from – and Adam and I set up some studios in people’s living rooms and stuff, which ironically has been really useful for what we are having to do now. So, I recorded that with them and that’s how we met. [Also] I couldn’t drive at the time. Adam would drive to my house, pick me up and on the way there he would play me all the stuff he was listening to [while] I would plug my phone into the aux on the way back”. Guess what was on shuffle? Definitely loads of Radiohead, Mac DeMarco, Madlib, KAYTRANADA and (way too much) J Dilla.
In 2018, Adam and Oskar moved into London around a similar time, Oskar rented a recording studio in Hackney Wick and invited Adam over to see if they could vibe and do something together. As Adam says, “Even when we went to uni in different cities, once every six months one of us would message each other being like ‘we should try and make something at some point’ [..] It was always like, ‘one day maybe we’ll get together and try something’ ”. The first few sessions were a bit awkward, “we always say that it was just really lucky that we managed to do that because [during] the first few sessions we kinda had to learn how we work with each other and then once that clicked it was really easy and we made loads of tracks really quickly”, Oskar adds. And here we are, lavender is finally a thing now! And one you don’t wanna miss out on, if you ask us.
What is really interesting when it comes to the (currently) London-based duo is that both Adam and Oskar have a career in the music industry. While Oskar works in music PR, curating public relations for artists and festivals, Adam is part of the Sofar Sounds team and spends his time organising gigs in the most intimate and unique places around town. Working in the business, knowing the ‘behind the scenes’ and having connections within the industry has definitely been feeding into their music project, they agree. “Me and Oskar are just like super fans of music, we are obsessed with music, so it’s not surprising that we both ended up actually going into careers in music. At Sofar, I love it… my job is to listen to loads of music, go to gigs and make them happen, which is my number one passion anyway. It’s just such a good place, you are surrounded by insane art. It’s the most inspiring situation you can put yourself in to then try and create music because you have been exposed to so many ideas and so many different sounds and different genres”. When talking about the way they pick the artists they want to collaborate with, Adam also adds:
“There’s some people that Oskar has worked with before on a previous project of his and I have been going to a lot of gigs around London and I have seen amazing artists, so it’s kind of cherry-picking whoever we think would suit the lavender vibe and, when we can, get them into the studio and see what happens. [..] And everyone we work with, we have a few further sessions with and then we get connected with more people. It’s just nice, family vibe!”
While in the process of building their working careers in the music industry, lavender also found their manager, Cas. Oskar met Cas while attending the Music Business Management MA at the University of Westminster and it was Cas that put him in touch with the managers at the Hackney Wick studio in the first place. He is also the reason why lavender have now started to release music. As Oskar explains, “[At first] we just made a track and it wasn’t like ‘we are gonna start a duo, this is gonna be a band’, we just a made a track. [..] And then we made probably like fifteen tracks and Cas came back to me saying that he was looking at getting some more management clients. So I sent him the lavender stuff and he was like ‘you need to release this and you need to get these features and do this the right way’. If he hadn’t been involved, I don’t think we would be at this point now. [..] So just getting those opportunities to have those connections has opened a lot of doors for us and definitely made it more accessible”. And that, you guys, shows the importance of finding a manager that believes in you, connects you with the right people and helps you maximise your potential.
(Disclaimer: Cas didn’t pay us to say this. We wouldn’t say no to a free dinner though, just saying)
We know what you must be thinking right now…
’Okay okay cool, this is all really interesting, but what about their sound?’
Say (think) less!
You know those artists that are able to combine hip-hop, R’n’B and indie influences in one track? The ones that can organically and harmonically merge different genres into one song and make it sound like everything you were hoping for? Well, lavender and their first single Peppermint definitely fit into this category. Produced and mixed by Adam and Oskar, the track includes vocals by Adam — “I’m still not super confident in the vocals myself, but Oskar makes it sound like I can sing!”. The mastering was done by João Carvalho, Toronto-based and Juno-nominated producer who mastered the recordings of many groundbreaking artists, including the instrumental jazz/hip hop group BADBADNOTGOOD. The final result? As Oskar puts it:
“We wanna be careful about saying ‘it sounds like J Dilla’ cause that is sacrilege for me. But that’s definitely where the inspiration comes from and I think you can hear that on this track in the way the samples have been chopped and hopefully the way the drums sit and the swing on them. And I think from Adam’s side, the vocals for me sound like Bon Iver and the way the guitars are layered are really reminiscent of Mac DeMarco and American Football, just like the way each idea individually is quite a nice melody and then when you add them all on top of each other you get a real, rich wall of sound”.
Warm and joyful, Peppermint is a breath of fresh air on a sunny day, perfect for drinks in the park with friends at sunset or a late morning stroll around Soho on a summer day. But there’s more to it. What makes Peppermint stand out among the thousands of lo-fi, chill vibes tracks that are uploaded to Spotify every single day is its dynamism, which we can expect more of in the future, according to Adam. The unexpected switches in the tempo that you can hear throughout the whole track can sound a bit odd at first, but they actually make the song even more enjoyable and varied, keeping the listener entertained. As Adam says, “I listen to it now and I don’t even notice the tempo change cause I am so used to it, but I love when people listen to it for the first time and they are like ‘woo, did that just speed up?’ and I think that’s kinda the vibe we were hoping for, we want people to notice that… hopefully it doesn’t shock people!” Talking about the reason why they picked Peppermint to be lavender’s first single Oskar adds, “We’ve got a whole EP that’s basically finished now and the reason why this was the song that we picked to release first is because it kinda quite concisely shows what lavender is. The tempo change is part of that, the layering of samples and guitar, the rhythm of the drums, the swing in the drums, all of it, for us is the perfect description of what lavender is, to introduce people to us” . Sooo, there you have it folks!