In The Middle with Hybrid Minds

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Drum and bass duo Hybrid Minds stopped off in Leeds last week as part of their Outline UK tour to play a packed-out show at the O2 Academy. Writer Hollie Griss sat down with one half of the pair, Matt, hours before the show, to talk music production, indie influences, and a sell-out show at Printworks.

So you’re in the middle of your UK tour right now – how’s it been so far?

We’ve done two dates so far – Brighton and Manchester – and both were really good, very memorable. Tonight is the Leeds O2 Academy and we can’t wait because it’s the biggest club we’ve played in Leeds. We’ve only played the smaller-scale clubs before, like Old Red Bus Station and Mint, but we love it in Leeds.

How did you get into music?

I grew up in Birmingham and there’s a pretty huge drum and bass scene there. I used to make a lot of dancefloor-orientated music but then I met Josh and we shared a similar taste in music. We were both playing heavier stuff but at home we’d be listening to chilled stuff, so then we started making more melodic music. The first song we ever released did really well on UKF. We couldn’t believe how many listens it was getting; it was hundreds of thousands and it all snowballed from that. 

And how does the music-making process work for you guys?

Generally, one of us will start an idea like a melody or some drums, and then we just send it back and forth and keep working on it until we’re happy. Sometimes music gets left in the vaults for years. At the minute we’re digging out tracks that have been sitting in a folder for about three years, and we’re only just starting to get vocals sorted for them. So it’s pretty much a lot of online production because we live so far apart and it’s not really viable to be in the studio every day. 

We used to get into the studio a lot more together, but I think the reason we don’t now is just because of life commitments. We both have kids now and it’s really difficult to find any time for anyone, let alone just getting in the studio. We actually did this week but it’s very rare.

Do you find your best music comes out of those times?

I’d say it used to but now we’re so comfortable with each other and how we make music that it’s the same thing anyway. And with today’s technology, you may as well be in the studio together. I can make a basic melody and send it to Josh and he can hear it within ten seconds and go ‘oh I like that, but maybe change that’. So it sort of works like you’re in a studio together anyway.

You collab with quite a lot of artists as well – how do those come about?

We used to try to find people we’d never heard before, rather than using the popular, go-to singers. I mean we definitely did that as well but we also liked to find someone who wasn’t really huge and show them off to our audience. We still have that sort of mentality: if someone’s not well-known we don’t really care. We just want to make good music, whether that’s with someone who’s not well-known or someone who’s well-known. 

And I suppose those are the times when me and Josh do meet, when we meet singers. We were in session with Holly Humberstone this week. She is amazing, she’s like 20-years-old, and she’s just come off tour with Lewis Capaldi. We meet up a lot with vocalists. 

Going back to your tour – how did it feel to sell out Printworks in less than 2 hours?

It’s crazy. We like to apply a science to everything we do and try to figure out why it works, and if we can’t it just blows our minds. We’re the sort of people that will look at stats on Spotify and make sense of stuff like that. We’d just done a show in London at the Electric Brixton and it sold out but it took a long time, and now selling out a much bigger venue within hours – we just don’t get it, it’s crazy. We’re still trying to wrap our heads around it and we’re just not going to be able to I don’t think. I mean we’re really appreciative obviously but Printworks for us was sort of an endgame plan, like the end of our life cycle, to do something that big. So now we’ve done it we’re like, what can we do now? We’re in limbo. But I’m sure we’ll think of something.

You’ve released quite a lot of singles over the last couple of years, but are there any plans for an album soon?

We’ve definitely been thinking about it. We’ve got so many tracks, it’s hard not to. We haven’t sat down and said ‘this is our album’ but we have gone through all the tracks to see how many of them we really like, and I think there’s 19 tracks or something like that. But we need to get to work on finishing all those. We aren’t the sort of people that will just combine fourteen tracks and say ‘here’s an album’. We spent so long with the previous ones, moving the tracks about and making them transition from one to the other so it’s seamless when you listen to it. We want to pick the right tracks and make sure it’s a nice balance.

If you had to make a mixtape of the artists that most influence your music, who would feature on it?

It would probably be a lot of non-drum-and-bass, to be honest. It would be people like Daughter and Ben Howard. We don’t discriminate when it comes to styles of music: we don’t care what it is, we like it all. But it would be mostly those sorts of people – we’re massive fans of indie music basically, people like Bon Iver and The XX. We’ve always try to bring an indie vibe to drum and bass. I don’t feel like anyone else was really doing that before, so I suppose that’s our niche.

All photos by Kate Wassell.