Some of us have accumulated some pretty embarrassing stories resulting from meeting people that our friends’ assured us that we’d love. While we often expect these friendly recommendations to not work out, for Saidah Conrad, Eli McBean, and Roly Broere, it may have been one of the best decisions they have ever made.
Accompanied by Liam Clarke, Conrad, McBean, and Broere make up the Canadian electronic hip-hop group, Ain’t No Love. This foursome meshes together hip-hop rhymes, flawless vocals, and bass-infused electronica to create a sound that nearly possesses your body and forces you to nod along to their delicious hooks.
Grooveshark had the opportunity of not only getting the exclusive early release of their latest music video, Champion Babylon, but also we had the pleasure of having a very fun Skype date with these cool kids from Toronto and Montreal. While McBean couldn’t be present for our cyber rendezvous, the remaining 75% of the gang got to spend some intimate time with the Sharks. Saidah, Roly, and Liam gave us some insight into their creative process, their development as artists, and the inspirations behind their latest EP, Tears of Joy, slated to be released this Valentine’s Day.
As a singer, rappers, and producer, who are each of your musical influences.
I think I draw influences from different things and from different artists. But in terms of the attitude that I kind of portray as an artist I’d probably say, this is kind of cheesy, but I’d say Spice Girls. I grew up in the 90’s and when I was 6 or 7 they were the first image I ever saw of strong badass chicks and where I first received the message of girl power.
In terms of songwriting, my dad listened to a lot of bluesy folk and he introduced me to Neil Young. Neil Young always had the perfect melodies, and the lyrics he chose were just insane. I think he blends that a nice balance of abstractness into his lyrics that I really appreciate.
But my main influence in terms of sound I would have to say is Nina Simone. I remember the first time I heard ‘Pirate Jenny’ at age 5 and being scared to death. That song is so dramatic and I remember not being able to go to bed because I was so terrified. Being able to portray those kind of emotions with your voice is something that I would like to do as well.
Well I have gone through a lot of different phases in music but one thing I have listened to my entire life was electronic music. Even from a youngster I was listening to like Dance Mix 95 or 2 Unlimited.
For me my musical influences change almost daily. Truthfully, I draw more inspiration, especially for this new album, from more non-musical sources. I was inspired by relationships, friendships, girls, relationships with teachers, or even relationships with the people that I don’t even know, or even books and literature. For this latest album, I have taken a lot inspiration from books that I’ve read in the last 8 months.
I think that we make the best music when we are not trying to emulate anyone else so I have almost tried to stop listening to music to create or write for this specific album. That way there is no preconceived notions on what we are supposed to be making.
You guys were originally called Wrabeanz when Roly and Eli first came on the scene, however now you guys have released your second EP under the name Ain’t No Love. What’s the story behind that name?
Literally, it would be like text message wars between the 4 of us. Eli might send a list of 4 names and then Roly would be like, ‘Ok, maybe this one’ and I would be like ‘Hell no’ to all of them, and Liam would be like ‘ehhhh maybe these three.’ Then one day someone said Ain’t No Love and then we sat back and really thought about what it would mean in our case. The fact was that we were changing our sound and we were about to change our followers perception of us and we were really expecting their to not be a lot of love from our hip-hop purist fanbase. Ain’t No Love was a name we all ended up really liking and luckily it worked out in so many different ways.
The underground hip-hop scene and freestyle circuit is known to be pretty brutal. Roly, how was it for your guys as young rappers?
There was a lot of freestyling, lots of rap battles, lots of fighting, and lots of racial tension. For me personally, I didn’t really explore or accept the fact that I liked other genres of music as well. I just kind of had the mindset that I am a rapper and I had to be the best at it. I believed that we had to be hard and not back down from anybody. It was just very stereotypical and how you’d imagine kids rapping on the streets downtown would be. But honestly, in the past year and half we’ve really come out of our shell and I realized there is so much more I want to do with music than just rapping.
You mentioned racial tension, your first mixtape with Eli was entitled Black and White, does the title have anything to do with the things you’ve previously mentioned?
Truthfully when we put that out, I didn’t feel being white in rap culture was a handicap but in reality we just weren’t reaching enough people. There was too much of an umbrella over us so no one would make us feel out of place. However, the more and more that our music got out there and started reaching other countries I started to realize that people do have preconceived notions of white rappers, or any ethnicity rapper for that matter. I don’t really care what anyone thinks but honestly, its interesting at the beginning with the Black and White EP, it was definitely something we wanted to talk about.
Saidah, when you began as a vocalist, did you imagine yourself doing hip-hop and how has this experience been for you?
I never really thought that I wouldn’t be in any particular type of group. I plan on doing all types of music. Realistically, I don’t rap, it’s not what I do and as much as I would love to go Jean Grae on a track, its just not what I do. So being in a ‘hip-hop’ group really hasn’t changed anything for me, but I will say that being in Ain’t No Love and having this experience has been amazing.
Liam, though you aren’t doing vocals, you have a major influence over the sound of Ain’t No Love. What is your process in producing music that caters or fits to everyone vocal, lyrical, or stylistic flavor?
I keep it simple. The most important part is just having really good fundamentals, I create a basic beat, usually with really good bass and I just hand it off to them. After that, they’ll give me something back and then I can sort of improve the production around their vocals. It’s a good process, and it kind of evolves over time. It usually runs the course of a month that we’ll work on a track. Sometimes it can turn into a completely different song after remixing.
For example Step Hard, a song on our first EP, it’s entitled Step Hard Remix for a reason. It used to be a completely different song that we ended up throwing away because the remix was just way better.
So how do you guys know when a song is finished?
Liam tells us. (laughs) No, but really….you just know.
Liam, is there any chance we might hear any singing or rapping from you on any of the new tracks you guys are going to release?
You might hear some vocal some but it will be in a talkbox so it doesn’t sound like me.
So Tears of Joy is coming out and thats dropping next month. How does this upcoming EP differ from the previous material Ain’t No Love has released.
Its a more mature sound, and has more mature themes. There is better songwriting, better sound. and better mixes, and its just more refined.
Its a little bit darker sounding as well. We made most of it in the cold months, so that may have had something to do with it. It’s a lot of our darker places that come out.
So how did you guys decide that Valentines day would be the day to release your darkest EP yet?
It just made sense.
Individually, are there any particular tracks you guys are excited about?
Tears of Joy
Tears of Joy, Re-Up, Gone Already, and those are my 3 favorites.
I am really excited for a track called Re-Up. Roly wrote the hook and it is insane. I remember the first time he sang it for us, we were in Connecticut and he had the entire place singing it later. It was crazy because it was just an idea and we hadn’t even recorded it yet. Here we are almost a year later with the finished product and its just so rugged and awesomes and….dirty. I love it!
Santo’s Party House
Friday February, 15
Doors at 7pm
$8 Adv/ $10 Door
96 Lafayette St. New York, NY 10013
We plan on linking back up with Saidah, Roly, Liam, and hopefully Eli this March as they take the stage at SXSW. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out their last EP as you patiently wait for the February 14th release of Tears of Joy.
Check back with the Grooveshark Blog each week for the latest updates, exclusive releases, and interviews with amazing bands like Ain’t No Love.