Rudimental have a new single out today. Good news for fans of their optimistic dance-pop; bad news for their Sunday League football club. Since the band took a break from heavy touring in September of last year, producer/keyboardist/centre back Piers Agget, hype man/midfield general Leon Rolle (aka Locksmith) and keyboardist/striker Kesi Dryden have been free to play on Hackney Marshes every weekend and helped the team to win the league. Now the London quartet (producer/guitarist/more of a yoga man Amir Amor, born Amir Izadkhah, completes the line-up) are beginning the build-up to a third album, and will no doubt be in huge demand again as one of the best live acts in the business.
“Basically for the past four years we’ve been on tour without really stopping for more than a week or two here and there. We were due a break,” says Agget, who has also used his time off to get ready for the birth of his first child in about three weeks’ time. “A bit of normality was needed, bringing it back to where we started rather than running around the world.”
We meet in Major Tom’s, the band’s recording studio since their inception – three small rooms marked by a scruffy “M.T.” sticker on a Hoxton doorbell. There’s a ship’s wheel by the window and a surprising photo of Agget and Dryden in gowns and mortars, being made Honorary Masters of Music by their alma mater, Leeds Beckett University. It’s hard to believe that they’ll be livestreaming a party from this tiny space tonight, celebrating the launch of the new song, Sun Comes Up. “You’d be surprised how many people we can get in here,” says Dryden.
“Come down if you like, but it’ll be a bit messy,” adds Amor.
James Arthur will probably be there. The resurgent X Factor winner is the soulful voice of the single, a mid-paced song about surviving a break-up with the summery, tropical feel of much current dance music. “We wanted to work with him from the very first time we saw him on TV,” says Locksmith, who is, as he is on stage, by far the most talkative member of the group. “We didn’t care where he came from. We thought his voice was amazing, unique.”
He’s the latest in a long line of guest vocalists for a band that occasionally uses established stars such as Ed Sheeran, Dizzee Rascal and even Bobby Womack, but is better at unearthing your next favourite singer. John Newman voiced their first number one, the explosive mix of gospel and drum and bass that is Feel the Love, in 2012. Fiery Ella Eyre sang their second chart topper, Waiting All Night – Single of the Year at the Brits in 2014. Having watched their early touring singers leave them to be solo stars, now they’ve set up their own record label, also called Major Tom’s, to keep a closer eye on subsequent collaborators.
Their first signing is Anne-Marie, the bubbly voice of their single Rumour Mill who was last heard on Clean Bandit’s number one, Rockabye, and last seen supporting Ed Sheeran around the arenas. “We’re like a guidance and mentoring service,” says Agget. “She joined us around the end of 2013 and there are so many audiences that fell in love with her singing Rudimental songs. It was only a matter of time for her to get to where she is now.”
They say they mostly enjoy being the band in the background, with the various frontpeople getting most of the attention. “It’s actually a blessing not being as famous as our singers, unless you’re trying to get into a club. I usually have to google myself,” says Amor.
Anne-Marie will also be on their new album, which is “about 80 per cent done” but not coming til early next year, they say. They’re enjoying making this one near their homes, going to the studio on their bikes, instead of writing it on the road like its predecessor. “This is like a homecoming, back to our roots, feeling what it’s like to kind of be normal again. Or as normal as we can be,” says Amor.
It feels like they’re back where they belong. Few bands can be more “London” – multi-ethnic, joyful, welcoming to all-comers on their albums and the packed stages at their gigs, with the Hackney Peace Carnival mural opposite Dalston Junction station on the cover of their double-platinum debut album, Home. One of their new songs is called A Toast to Our Differences. “Celebrating our diversity is a key message of the band,” says Agget. “Obviously we’ve all got different heritages, we’re from London’s multicultural melting pot. We wrote a song about it that sums up the feel of the band, especially in this time that we live in. There’s a lot of emphasis put on dividing people at the minute, so we’d like to celebrate our differences instead of getting angry. That’s our vibe.”
Locksmith takes up the idea: “The key message of this album is about togetherness, bringing people together from all walks of life through the music that we create. With what’s going on in the UK – the terror alerts, the fire the other day – this is a time when everyone needs to come together. We’re not saying we made a record because of all that. It’s what we believe should happen anyway, but even more so at the minute.”
The sooner they get back to the stage the better. When Feel the Love hit number one in our Olympic summer, a blast of euphoria that captured a giddy national mood, London felt like a very different city from today. “It was a different time in 2012, everyone was in a happy place,” agrees Dryden, “but I’ve noticed recently a community vibe in London that I haven’t seen in a long while.”
For the rest of this year, the only place to get the full Rudimental live experience – horn section, ever-changing singers and all – is at the V Festival in August, where they’re second on the bill to Pink. Look out for them in DJ guise though. They’ve been putting on warehouse parties under the name Ground Control. I ask if the DJ sets help them to work out which new songs are worth keeping. “We just like throwing parties, to be honest with you,” says Agget.
They are making changes to a sound that was already diverse, however. The handful of new songs I’m allowed to hear include These Days, a mellow piano song featuring US rapper Macklemore. “Look out for some big house and D’n’B bangers,” promises Locksmith. “We love to go out to raves and we want to be part of that still.” The band continue to take pleasure in shaping unproven talent, and are hoping to put some new signings to Major Tom’s on the album, but Locksmith is most excited about working with Roy Davis Jr, a Chicago house veteran he’s been listening to since he was 12.
Whether or not Sun Comes Up is a hit will determine how quickly they get on with releasing that album. If not, they’re perfectly well set up to keep going as label bosses, DJs, producers, songwriters and even festival organisers. Their Wild Life festival near Brighton, put together with fellow dance act Disclosure, has just enjoyed its third outing. I remark that all this activity is unusual, when most musicians want to avoid the paperwork and just make music. “Oh don’t get me wrong, we definitely avoid the paperwork!” laughs Locksmith. While they’re back in town for football and fun, the world can wait a little longer. Right here we could do with getting on board the Rudimental party bus again.
Sun Comes Up (feat. James Arthur) is released today on Atlantic. Rudimental play Aug 19 at V Festival, Hylands Park, Chelmsford (0844 844 0444, vfestival.com)