“When you don’t fit in a box, how do you target your audience? How do you target your demographic?”
T8PES released his eponymous debut album on Friday 24th May, following a rafter packed launch party at The Castle & Falcon in April. But the man behind the moniker, Jimmy Davis, is no stranger to a stage or two – having been a stalwart of the Midlands music scene for years, with artists including Ed Sheeran citing him as an influence.
Now recording and releasing as T8PES, his new 8 track LP stretches from rap to hip hop and rave to grime – featuring collaborations from Luke Truth, Ricardo Williams and Holly Fitzgerald to name but a few.
Flowing with honesty, self analysis, harsh truths and dark humour – alongside the occasional roll call of Birmingham’s evolving club scene – T8PES is a deeply personal journey and a melodic memory lane stroll through the highs and lows of Davis’ bittersweet life experiences.
Having reviewed the album for Birmingham Review back in May, Abi Whistance and the Leeds based music magazine To the Local invited us along to their interview with T8PES – ahead of his support slot for CityLightz at the O2 Academy Birmingham.
There’s a reason I struggle to get into grime et al, and I know I’m the top dog of sweeping generalisations when I say this but it all just feels a bit shallow. For me there is nothing relatable about gang tiffs, stacks of bills and a burning desire to be a Hugh Hefner-type. And from the mainstream circuit this is pretty much all I’ve picked up on.
I’m no expert in the realms of trap, rap and hardcore either. But I think that’s probably a good thing. So with little emotional investment in the genres, I can objectively say that T8PES is on to a winner for both novices (like me) and your more well-established grimeheads – with this debut album feeling exciting for a sound that I thought was one swift kick away from the bucket.
Walking the tightrope between love and hate treacherously close at times, T8PES has crafted something that perhaps shouldn’t work, but just does. Acid house and grime don’t exactly go hand in hand at first inspection, but the combination leaves me questioning why the hell I hadn’t heard this kind of thing before.
In actuality, I guess I have. But it’s the nostalgia and familiarity of this eponymous album that earns it the title of ‘a good listen.’ Fans of The Avalanches gather round and bring your 12” of the Mondays’ ‘Hallelujah’ whilst you’re at it, T8PES is mixed with enough pre-millennium dance hits to keep you going all night… even without those eccies.
But it’s not just the familiar nineties sound in tracks like ‘How Much Do You Want It’ and ‘Gotta Believe’ that gives this album the wistfulness of a time gone by, it’s the discussion of the trials and tribulations of teen-hood too. A mature reflection on growing up, T8PES has written a record that’ll strike a chord with most – tackling difficult themes of drug use, alcoholism and the effects of bad influences, featured on an album that feels like a coming-of-age tale.
I think it’s important to note that this may be one of the most well-produced debut albums I’ve heard in a long time too. Home cooked electronica and remixing have been polluting the scene for a while, making it a bit too easy to publish rubbish and a hell of a lot harder to find the gems. And I’m not saying that a Soundcloud system lockdown needs to be put in place to stop the sick bucket of low-quality artists from (God forbid) overflowing, it is pretty indisputable that the cornucopia of self publishing platforms have made it more difficult to identify the best of the best.
I can’t really whinge on about that for too long because the cream supposedly always rises to the top, and T8PES has sailed right up onto my radar with this debut album. But what it truly boils down to is a radio-friendly combination of EDM and rap that manages to keep a hold of the substance so many others lose in the process – with stand out production, and some solid variation in sound that leaves something for everyone here.
Not to blow anyone’s trumpet or anything – but I think we’ve just hit the grime jackpot.
‘Hope & Pray’ – T8PES featuring Holly Fitzgerald
T8PES is out on general release from Friday 24th May. For more on T8PES, including links to online sales, visit www.t8pes.com
NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.
To learn more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here. To sign up and join the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here.
There’s probably a music journalist handbook out there that would help me with genres and comparisons, one that is updated every year to keep the lexicon cutting edge. I mean, seriously, who coined ‘trap’ music…?
But one of the joys to this job is the constant evolution, especially when it comes from an arena of intelligence and not some attention/chart grabbing pretender.
Enter Mutes, closely followed by a list that will include My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, a couple of curveballs and an apologetic recognition as to the list itself. Sprinkle some clever metaphors, make a reference to Sub-Pop, throw in an opiate analogy and – if you’re feeling brave – a joke about revolving doors and band members. Mwah…. we mean it with love.
But it’s been just shy of two years since the James Brown led ghost in the music machine (…stir in some existential philosophy) released No Desire, the somewhat bold and beautiful debut album from Mutes. And now they’re back with Round Two. The as-of-yet unnamed new album (in the public domain at least) is set for release sometime soon, we think, we hope, but there is one single already dangling like the proverbial carrot – check out ‘Swallowing Light’ below, being performed live at the Hare & Hounds back in July 2016.
Now the more observant of you will note this is nearly a year before Mutes’ ‘dichotomy of extremes’ debut album came out, sans ‘Swallowing Light’ – so questions, questions, questions…
Now if we were to jump a gun or two, heaven forbid, it could mean that the ambient swirls and prolonged rabbit holes of No Desire have been set aside for the simple ball kicking grunge rock that Brown & Co can deliver so well. Which would be no bad thing. Or it could mean the sophomore LP is a reworking of some tried, tested, loved and live tracks from the Mutes back catalogue – with some new nuggets thrown in. Or it’s a coincidence, or an accident. Or it’s all a ruse and the rest of album two is a spoken word diatribe about penguins.
But with an album promoting gig at the Hare & Hounds on Wednesday 13th March, you’ll probably get a sneaky peak and hopefully some clarity soon enough. Or not. But you might. In the meantime, I’m going to dust down my Roget’s Thesaurus and frayed copies of DIY, so I can be rhetoric ready for when the album does arrive.