Friday 6 March 2009

Sober & Dribbla
have fast become B365 favourites, their unique blend of apocalyptic beats married to lyrics examining the dark underbelly of life being a truly refreshing change to the stagnation present in Hip Hop currently. They are a divisive act in that it seems people either love them or hate them - but for those that know there is great reward to be found in their work. Debut album Freaks Speak Dark hit the ground running with a salvo of raw aggression that was incendiary; now follow-up The Butchers Ball is ready to drop and is already planted firmly on the B365 stereo and is refusing to budge. Check out the album review coming soon, but in the meantime we caught up with the duo to discuss the state of Bristol Hip Hop, Dutch Football Hooligans and how to deal with haters.

B: What are the origins of Sober & Dribbla? Where does it all start for you?

S&D: We met in Replay Records when Sober worked there. He came to my house and played me some of his beats that were pretty much straight up Hip Hop beats in the classic sense. They were really good and he liked my off-kilter raps, and so Sober and Dribbla was born!

B:Your music seems like an amalgamation of sonic ideas that are not just rooted in the Hip Hop template. Do you even consider yourselves Hip Hop in the traditional sense of the term? Do you see yourselves as something different?

S&D: We make Hip Hop, but we listen to a lot of other music. We basically study as much as we can and it comes out in our music. I think when you listen to good song-writing from any genre of music, it can help you understand how to write better songs and try new things. When people start experimenting with other sounds not related to what is thought of as the Hip Hop sound, they tend to jump ship and start saying they’re not making Hip Hop anymore but that’s not us. We are just offering a different take, but for us it still is Hip Hop - it’s just our style and take on it.

We are taking it one direction while others take it to other places. Hip Hop needs to have experimentation in it for it to keep growing - whether people accept that or not is a different matter. I don’t see why people limit themselves so much especially in Hip Hop - there are endless possibilities to explore, and you can still be rooted in the Hip Hop sound. What’s good to us about UK music is that it tends to draw on many different influences and I suppose in a small way we are just following that pattern.

B: You've commented in the past that the music you create steps away from a sample-based structure in favour of a self-produced sound. Was this a deliberate move to shy away from the confines of how to create Hip Hop and give yourselves a distinctive sound that sets you apart? Do you feel sample-based production is a creative dead end?

S&D: We bought a Micro Korg which seemed to unleash something within Sober! There was no real thought behind it. Sober didn’t have enough time or money to keep digging for records and so we got the Korg. It was the best thing that happened for us. People seem to think we are anti-samples but we aren't - we just don’t use any samples to make our songs. Sober plays it all. If something sounds good then it’s good no matter how you put it together, so sampling is definitely not a creative dead end! I think maybe there was a hint of rebellion early on where we just wanted to take our music somewhere else. On the whole though there wasn’t really any motive apart from good old fashioned practicality! We do what works for us but others obviously prefer to use samples. It is all about the end results and making music in a way which you enjoy.

B: Your lyrical content is dark, violent and sexually aggressive - but also laced with a melancholy edge that gives your delivery poignancy. The world you inhabit in those lyrics seems irredeemably bleak. What influences your world view and the way you transfer that to your lyrics?

S&D: It just comes out in a certain way. To us it’s not that bleak; I may have been feeling a certain way when writing and that feeling translates into songs. Like everyone I get p*ssed off or melancholy, but luckily I have an outlet to describe those feelings. I try to describe things in a different way and I use certain imagery (violence/sex) to hammer points home, or create an air of discomfort or sometimes it’s a metaphor for something else. I do create a world in my lyrics and when I am writing I write a lot and really immerse myself in that world.

When I wrote this album, I did feel alone and I did feel confused and sad for a number of different reasons. The songs became my escape away from those feelings because I had control over something, and I could address everything i wanted to in the songs that couldn't’t do in real life. The more passive and silent I was in everyday life it seems I became more outspoken and aggressive in the songs. There are moments in this album when I am definitely saying what I didn’t have the heart to say in real life. They did become a slightly unhealthy outlet for me. I think things did seem bleak at that point and I think I was suffering some healthy dose of heartache and looking back on the songs you can hear that. There are sad bits, angry bits and more sexual bits and then there are moments of clarity where things might actually turn out OK. Its all there and I suppose they are components of someone who is repairing themselves after being hurt.

I get quite obsessive about writing when I feel like I am heading nowhere or things are going badly, not so much because it makes me feel better but because my songs let me wallow and bitch and they have time for me. I can control everything and end it how I want, which you can’t do in life. In my songs I am everything but in the world just another unspectacular 25-year old man. We don’t try to make bleak sh*t and we don’t feel it is like that - it’s just how we describe normal human experiences. The music is one side of us but there are other sides as well.

B: Dribbla's short stories have been a recent development, extrapolated out of the lyrics you write. Do you see that developing into something bigger? Would you like to expand these ideas into a novel, or is the writing just another creative release for you aside from lyrics?

S&D: I love sitting down and writing poems, songs and stories. My imagination can run riot and makes me feel good. I would like to write more short stories and a novel but it is really hard to make a good one! To make three sixteen-bar verses is hard enough but writing 6 pages of A4 is even harder then to write a novel - that in my mind at the moment is very daunting! I do want to try it though. I have written all the songs for the next album already, and I don’t like not having anything to write. It goes back to being able to lose myself in my own world where I am in charge and am not pestered!

Trying to write dialogue is so difficult and just making every line right is a real skill. Even the less-regarded novelists are f*cking good in my mind, just because it must take so much work to do. I am not confident enough just yet to go for the novel, but for now I am going to write some more stories. It seems I am trying to write love into my life at the moment so I will probably just keep pursuing that avenue for now. I want to get better at writing generally because I enjoy writing whether its a story or a song. The more you practice the better you get, and its good to try different disciplines because it can only really help make the lyrics better and the more lyrics i write the better the stories are because I stumble across ideas that I like to pursue in more depth than you can in the song. In a few years I would like to be described as the international bestselling author from the critically acclaimed Hip Hop duo Sober and Dribbla! That would be amazing! Ha ha!!

B: There seems to be a division of opinion with regards to your music. This Is Hip Hop reviewed Freaks Speak Dark last year stating "they are some of the worst beats I’ve heard" and "terrible lyrics in a monotonous drone" amongst other criticisms. Others claim your approach is "one-dimensional". It seems your music elicits a real love / hate reaction in a lot of people. Whats your response to that? How do you deal with that kind of negativity?

S&D: It fuels our fire! We both get a bit depressed then we get f*cking angry! We make music for ourselves, its just something we really enjoy doing together. So if someone doesn’t like it, that’s their opinion and they are welcome to it! We understand that our stuff is not for everyone; it's pretty dark and uncompromising so you can’t expect for everyone to like it, but no one man with a keyboard can stop us! We just keep moving forward, making what we want to make.

The only people we have to please is ourselves - no one else really matters. Also for every bad review, there have been some really good ones. At least people feel something when they hear it - it's important that the music causes some sort of reaction. It’s just one persons opinion at the end of the day - so f*ck ‘em! We never made music for them so it doesn’t matter. It is hard to remember that sometimes though, but you get used to it.

B: All your music up until now has been released for free. Do you consciously support the distribution of free music as the future for the industry? Other local artists in the same scene charge for their music, so what sets you apart?

S&D: If a label wanted to pay us then that would be great, but at the moment we make the best music we can and then give it to the world for free so as many people who want to hear it can. Everyone likes free sh*t! Its about getting the stuff out there and it just seemed like a good idea that as no-one has heard of us, we should just let them have it. In our position free music works because it's all about getting people to hear it as easily as possible, so you can build up a fanbase.

If you are on a label how are they paying you if the music is free? How does the advance get paid back? Something has to suffer in order for them to give music away for free, yet still pay for promotion and the actual recording and all the other bits - and we all know that the artists are probably the ones taking the hit. But as an unknown UK Hip Hop act it is important people can access the music easily. It’s sad, but that’s just how it is - we would love to be selling lots of records, but its hard enough to get people to download it for free.

B: Bristol has always been a stronghold for Hip Hop but in the last few years its slipped off, only to mark a slight comeback in popularity last year. There's a lot of backbiting that goes on here that a lot indulge in, but few will admit to. You yourselves aren't welcomed by everybody in the local scene. What's your view on the state of Hip Hop in Bristol, and the Bristol underground music community as a whole?

S&D: Bristol has a lot of f*cking good musicians from all genres, and people are making a lot of good music here. We are outsiders and don’t really care too much about being accepted - we are cool with the people we are cool with, and that’s all that matters to us. I know who I respect and I hope I show that respect to them; anyone else is just another person. I occasionally check forums but really It just makes me angry so I avoid it - Sober thinks that sh*t is all boll*cks as well, so we stay off them. Talking sh*t on a forum seems a pretty unproductive way to spend time.

The scene here is really upping its level and people are very f*cking serious and making some really good music. There is also a great depth of styles here - there are lots of very different crews and bands etc and that’s a very good thing. No matter what you want to hear, you can come to Bristol and hear it done to the highest level and that is the most important thing - none of that other sh*t matters.

B: Sober you moved to London recently after a long time in Bristol. Was the reason for that because you felt marginalised here? Was the Bristol way of life something you wanted to move away from? How does London differ to Bristol?

S&D: Finding work in London is a bit easier - I just wanted a change of scene. It wasn’t really about music at all. Bristol is a great place and I loved being there, but after a while I felt a change was needed. London is just bigger and there's just so much going on everything is increased, it's a lot more intense! I just needed a change and to have a different view. It was a personal thing, I just wanted to see something new.

B: In some of the tracks from The Butchers Ball I hear a sonic link to some of the new breed of producers making their mark in Bristol like Guido or Gemmy, but still with your own distinctive style. Who or what influences you both? And who do you rate on the scene right now?

S&D: Influences:
Nick Cave, Joy Division, Nine Inch Nails, Burial, EL-p, Rusko, Sickboy, Radiohead, Kate Bush, Van Morrison,The Cure, Bjork, Benga, Wiley, Outkast..The list goes on! Turroe, Rogue and Milestone Lots of books, reading really helps writing and getting ideas. Films, Clothes, Girls, Music! Awkward because he is doing something different and doing it really well! Olo Worm are an amazing band here. Dave from Se Fire and Koast! Again not just because of them being good – they know why! Shamil Tanner because he takes amazing photos and is doing really well. The Dubstep scene throughout the country is wicked, and its definitely influenced the production of our stuff. It’s nice to be around to appreciate it.

We often talk about who our heroes and inspirations are, and when you’re younger its all the people you see on the television etc, but increasingly it’s becoming people we know and are friends with or family members. We could list off a million different bands and people who are making good stuff at the moment, but as our music becomes more personal so do our influences - like I write a lot of songs where my grandfather creeps in at the moment. His mind is sadly failing him and I wish I knew more about him and asked him more questions. That whole concept of the people you love in your life and their stories and experiences is inspiring and influencing me at the moment, mainly because if we don’t ask the questions now you will miss your chance and I find that extremely sad.

It's amazing when you talk to someone and they suddenly tell you a story about this or that it can completely change that person in your mind. It restores your faith in the modern world when you just hear a good old-fashioned story about an event in someone’s life and it often brings you closer. Everyone seems a bit afraid to get deep about sh*t but that's when you really discover things about people. Just day to day living is a very big influence. Just having good people around who are doing good things really is the main source of inspiration for us at the moment. We still find it inspiring to see local old school heroes about inspiring others, because they built this and they are the reasons we are doing what we do. When our friends find happiness with their partners or with what they are doing that makes our f*cking day because it gives us hope.

B: You're music is 100% produced by you and you alone. Would you consider collaborations in the future, or is it important to retain your identity by keeping the creation of your music between yourselves?

S&D: Our only guest we have ever had is Turroe - and for us that you can’t really top that! We just have quite set ideas with what we want from the songs and we try and make albums with a vague concept behind them for consistency, so I think it's difficult for people to come in from the outside and understand where we are going with it. I usually have the album written before we start recording and as I am lucky enough to be full of ideas (or sh*t), I don’t really want anyone else on it - I want the beats to myself because Sober always makes new stuff that I’m not expecting to hear so I don’t want to share! As soon as other people get involved things often f*ck up, so it's best to keep it between us but we have an idea for a collaboration for the next one. Its about the collaboration working not just because so and so is a mate, it has to benefit the album and sound and if it doesn’t we won’t use it which may cause offense.

B: There's rumours you have a following in the world of Dutch football hooligans. Is that true or just online bullsh*t?

S&D: Just rumours, we have met a lot of different types of people along the way and it's quite funny the different types of people who like our music. We just played in Belgium, and a few of the people there were on all types of different things. It seemed that some of those people particularly enjoyed our music. However there is no football hooligan connection to our music. The music has enabled us to meet all types from all areas and places which is one of the great things about it.

B: What's next for you and where do you see the future of Sober & Dribbla taking you?

S&D: The Butcher’s Ball is to be released via our website on the 16th March. We have various shows and interviews coming up, so little by little we hope our reputation will grow and hopefully more people will get into our music. We are going to record the next one during the summer, it is going to be an album of love songs and ballads which should be interesting - it will still be done in our style but we just keep adapting and changing. It sounds cheesy, but Sober and Dribbla is about us two being mates and we love making the music we make because we do it as a team, so I think as long as we are friends the future is bright no matter what happens with the music.

B: Any words of wisdom for those just starting out in music?

S&D: Don’t make music that tries to appeal to demographics or what record companies might like. That is pure bullsh*t and there are too many people doing that already - you know who you are and you will fail and we will be laughing when you do! If you believe in what you are doing and are genuine, it will come out and other people will believe in it. Make what you want to make and don’t limit yourself - there is a whole universe to draw inspiration and ideas from, so don’t give yourself boundaries.

B: Give us a Top 5 (of anything).






The Butchers Ball is available to download for free on from Monday 16th March.


Anonymous said...

see you two at the thekla tonight!