King Krule, and South London’s suburban music scene

Originally published via Noisey (Oct 2013)

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Amane, the latest signing to Rinse FM’s label, is staring out the window of a flat in South London. He looks out on to a concrete emporium, cement and steel meshed tightly together in a labyrinth of tiny roads that buzz with the sound of Oyster card bleeps, police sirens and arguments. It may not seem like much, but for the musicians of Southwark, Lambeth and Lewisham, this is a fertile habitat.

Ever since 19-year-old Archy Marshall, aka King Krule, became internet famous, he’s been giving a leg-up to his friends and schoolmates with small appearances, side projects and collaborations. Archy has helped build a scene of sub-urban brooding producers centered around the grey streets of South-East London.

Amane moved to London when he was only 16. He spent his days combing the back streets of the West End with a pair of headphones for company. Soon, he started writing music to accompany him on his city wanderings. “It’s quite lonely living here, particularly on your own,” he says, twitching his fingers as he sits on his bed.

Amane has played in King Krule’s band on occasion and is also a main figure of Jamie Isaac’s live set-up, lending his hand to sax and keyboards when needed. But his focus is on his own forthcoming EP, his first release with Rinse.

Amane is just the latest King Krule collaborator to start making music on the terrace-house-lined roads of Peckham. He lives just a few streets down from another former Krule band member turned solo artist, Jacob Read.

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I meet Jacob, AKA Jerkcurb, in his student dig in Surbiton. He’s just moved here from East Dulwich to study an art degree at Kingston. Sitting down inside his small homemade studio space-cum-bedroom – he sticks on a playlist of fine-tuned musical oddities – music that helps him concentrate and think at the same time, he says. From Oscar Peterson to Blossom Dearie – much of Jacob’s music taste is unrecognisable, but as it soundtracks our interview I start to see why he finds it so fascinating.

He starts out by talking about life back in South London, two years ago, where films became a monologue for his life. “I’ve always liked to make music that doesn’t sound like it would come from me,” Jacob says. “I wanted to distance myself. What I like about films is that they capture something that’s different from what I see every day.” Writing his own contemporary soundtracks for cult films like Lost In Translation, Jacob played as he watched, recording anything he played. It’s these weird soundtracks, and minor chords that formed a major part of Krule’s breakthrough single, “Out Getting Ribs”.

“I’ve always wanted to make music that isolates the audience,” Jacob tells me, stuttering as I ask him why. “There’s a lot of ego that comes with a band, and I think a lot of the time you see that, rather than see the music. I’d rather people heard my music in the background.”

When King Krule first played to him he felt something very different. “I first saw Archy perform when he was like 14. But his music seemed much older. When I first saw Filthy Boy [another of Archy’s side projects] perform, they were 16 and sounded like a bunch of 40 year olds from Texas. I guess that was what attracted me to them – the fact that they were from the same area as me but sounded like they weren’t, they contradicted the sort of teenager stereotype in their music – that element of escapism.”

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Jamie Isaac, another young South London resident and bedroom producer, is also an established character of the scene. His first EP, “I Will Be Cold Soon”, was a cold, distant mix of electronic music influenced by the likes of Mount Kimbie and Paul Desmond. “I kind of like the idea of pretending to be happy, but feeling shit. It’s a bit arty-farty, maybe it’s a cliché of being a 17-year-old boy, I don’t know. But I love the idea of having a sense of uncertainty, and still being quite uncomfortable.” His uncertainty feels very similar to that of Jacob’s.

“I first started writing this music in September 2011, a series of events seemed to lead me towards it,” says Jamie. “I kind of had this other kind of music that I tried, more guitar-based stuff with really ambient beats and I was really into it at the time. But in the back of my mind I could sense I wasn’t feeling it. I got angry, and thought I better calm down, so I took a year out of song writing. And then in September, I thought of Jamie Isaac.”

Jamie’s recording space is dramatically different from his peers. Looking out onto the garden of his family home in Bromley, it doesn’t seem to fit the intensely urbanised image you get from his music. Instead, he gets his inspiration elsewhere. “I always take a picture of places that look really strange, on nights out, or when I’m just travelling, then I’ll bring [the photo] home, put it up and write metaphors about it.” Many of these photos are drunken camera phone shots of New Cross, the Amersham Arms, office blocks and scenes from long train journeys around the city.

“There’s a romance to the bleakness and isolation of this city. It comes from that sort of isolated feeling you get from growing up in South London, being in a place so loud and in your face,” says Jacob. 

“Take Elephant and Castle shopping centre,” says Ojan, the frontman to Haraket – a South London band with a big taste for jazzy influences and heavy electronica. “I remember back to the 90s as a kid, it being bleak but beautiful. When I listen to Aphex Twin, it takes me to that same state. I want people to feel affected in the same way I am by Aphex. I want people to be transcended into a weird place. I want history to repeat itself.”

Prospects seem bright for this young collective – but it’s difficult to say whether it’ll just be another winter fling like the world of dubstep. Krule’s great new record proves it works in long format – but time will tell if the others can maintain the same passion for the genre. After all, everyone I spoke to for this piece was under the age of 20 and most seem to loathe being in the limelight.  

This music could only be made by this generation, at this point in time. With the digital world taking over, it seems to recount the naivety of a childhood without the Internet – and how the over-exposure to media has created the feeling of being subdued in information, lost and alone in a city with 20 million other people. “We’re not all that different from any other 18-year old who’s been through some stupid down state,” says Jamie. And he’s probably right. But no one else is making music like they are in South London right now.

For more brilliant, brilliant work on this – check out Ryan Bassil’s piece on the new independent British music scene – http://noisey.vice.com/en_uk/blog/the-music-scene-in-britain-is-amazing-youre-just-looking-in-the-wrong-place

Link up the dots, come holla at Steez this Saturday 

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