Emma Ratcliffe spoke to Becky (one third of Leeds-based artists and producers Deuce & Charger) about collaborations, influences and plans for 2014 and beyond.
Tell us a little bit about Deuce & Charger?
Well, we're three people who love music first and foremost! We work as a team, writing and producing songs in a variety of styles. We are currently working with an ever-expanding family of collaborators from all sorts of musical styles and backgrounds. It's a real melting pot of creativity which makes the process very exciting. Our collaborators so far include Benn Moore, former Nightmares On Wax vocalist Phoenix Pearle, Bianca Gerald, rapper Weezy Jefferson, new solo artist Yo Preston and The Witch Hunt. We're also really excited by a few others that we hope to confirm soon.
How did Deuce & Charger get together as a production team?
We have been in various bands together in the past including Heads We Dance. We built our own studio during that time and this allowed us to work under our own steam. This in turn lead onto the idea of doing different things. About three years ago we started working behind the scenes as writers and producers for other pop and dance artists. We have worked with a variety of interesting people, from X-Factor live show contestants to cutting-edge pop/electro artists such as Queen Of Hearts. We have also been asked to pitch tracks for mainstream pop artists including Katy Perry and Kylie Minogue. It's been a fun and interesting ride but we've decided it's time to step out of the shadows and release some music in our name now!
How would you describe Deuce & Charger's sound?
It's a combination of traditional melodic songwriting with catchy hooks and studio-based production tricks and techniques. We like to use a lot of organic sounds like strings, piano and electric bass but cut them up and process them in modern ways. We also like to mix live drums with break-beat and soul drum loops. Ultimately, we switch up our style to complement the songs we're working on - the aim is to create varied tracks that are positive and exciting to listen to while also bringing out the personality of the featured singer. It's really exciting because the songs work well together as they have the consistency of our writing and production, yet each song has its own feel and character as it has the influence of the different featured singers. It's a great project to be involved in.
Who are your biggest influences?
Always a tough question as nobody likes to be seen as one-dimensional! We listen to everything from Wham! (love a bit of George!) to Chase & Status to Motley Crue, but our biggest influences are the classic pop records that commented on their social and political context like Marvin Gaye's 'What's Going On?', Prince's 'Sign O' The Times', Curtis Mayfield's 'Curtis' and Janet Jackson's 'Rhythm Nation'. We're also really influenced by what Massive Attack achieved in the early 90s by bringing together a whole range of different artists to create a unique sound that represented Bristol at the time. We're doing a similar thing with Leeds-based artists now and showing the diversity and creativity of music in Leeds. It's like a celebration of the different people and artists in our local area.
Can you each describe what role you play in the group?
We're a very collaborative team. We each have complementary skills which allow us to bring something different to the party and work really well together. With regards to my personal role, I cover drums and percussion mainly as I was the drummer in Heads We dance. I also help with vocal direction when we work with singers. I like to push singers to get the best performance out of them so that we have a really great sounding and engaged vocal performance. I also offer the boys production and mix ideas, as well as melodic ideas and harmonies.
Who writes your lyrics? How are you inspired?
Pete writes the majority of our lyrics although we all comment and offer ideas. Our featured singers sometimes also offer their ideas and opinions, but really it's Pete that writes the lyrics. It's good really that the lyrics are all written by Pete as it ensures that consistency I mentioned earlier between all the tracks.
You'd have to ask Pete what inspires him but most of the time the lyrics develop from the atmosphere of the melody and the song in general. Often, this is inspired by the social commentary records that use personal experiences to comment on broader issues but sometimes it's just simple words which work with the track.
How does your new release 'Always Broke' capture the Deuce & Charger sound?
'Always Broke' is a great introduction to the Deuce & Charger sound - it's got the epic strings and live/breakbeat drum combination along with a big pop melody and evocative social commentary lyrics that everyone can relate to. We all know how it feels to not have enough money and hopefully the song captures that feeling. It's great that the song provides that shared feeling whilst also delivering a positive message which is being broke won't stop you from reaching your goals and realising your dreams. It was the track the really inspired us to release music in our own name and encouraged our collaborators to get involved.
As mentioned, Deuce & Charger's new single 'Always Broke' features up-and-coming solo artist Benn Moore, do you have future plans to collaborate with other artists?
Yes, the idea is to have a different singer on each track and we have already recorded three other songs with three very different singers. We're loving the collaborative process as each singer adds something different to the track and brings a fresh perspective and set of ideas. It's so much fun feeling like we're part of a big team too, we're all in this together and doing what we love. We're always looking for singers and rappers with a unique voice so if anyone is reading this and wants to collaborate - please get in touch!
And are there underlying messages embedded in your songs and lyrics?
Yes, as I said before our aim is to create pop music that reflects real life while putting out a positive message. It is possible to combine big melodic choruses with lyrics of substance - it doesn't have to be all about being "in da club" as comedian Kevin Bridges says in one of his sketches! (Check that out by the way if you haven't seen it, it's very funny, I love Kevin Bridges!)
Who is your target fan base?
People who like good music. Simple as that!
What's next for Deuce & Charger? Where do you see yourselves in a year's time?
We are continuing to search out the most interesting collaborators to work with. We have quite a few exciting options at the moment and will confirm details very soon! In a year's time we will have an album's worth of material ready and hope to get a live show together with all our collaborators - it will be like a big family reunion party! The live show will be really exciting and is something I am personally really looking forward to. It would be amazing to have a different singer for every song we performed in our set - it would be like nothing else around so hopefully would be quite a spectacle!
Finally, how would you describe your music in three words?
Positive, energetic, evocative.