Mr Jukes, the funky solo alias of Bombay Bicycle Club frontman Jack Steadman, returns for his second album The Locket – and this time he’s teamed up with an MC named Barney Artist for a full set of jazzy hip-hop. Carl Marsh hears what makes the pair tick.
This, the second Mr Jukes album, also has Barney involved full-time. How did you write the songs together – beats first, or lyrics?
Barney Artist: I think Jack had the beats usually. Sometimes I’d write at home in the studio or at home. On my side of things, Jack is an incredible songwriter. I’ve never really worked in a capacity with an accomplished songwriter that understands the vision, and this is my first time doing a project with one producer. You can hear that Jack has the controls – he’s the one steering the car – and that gave me the confidence to be like, “alright, cool, let me try this”. On the flip side, Jack learnt a lot about rap and where I’m coming from. As a writer, I’ve grown so much, and with skillsets I will take with me forever.
What’s the biggest thing to go in your skillset then, Barney, that you can take away from writing with Jack?
Barney: Do you know, I think Jack really taught me about the idea of space. Because rapping is not like singing, where the skillset is your voice in terms of notes and stuff – it’s words. A lot of the time, because the sport of rapping is usually quite competitive, we try and cram as many words as possible into a verse. And Jack really taught me about the idea of letting things sit – say something and let it sit. Let it marinate, and then make that come back, as sometimes less is more. So I’ve really learned that I don’t need to fill in loads of words in that space.
On the flipside, Jack, what have you taken away from working with Barney?
Jack: Apart from obviously, the enthusiasm and just waking up and really looking forward to the session, the big thing was how I’ve always thought that the last word of each line has to rhyme – Barney opened up this whole world, zooming in on the entire thing. Not only having rhymes within the lines, but even if it doesn’t rhyme, it has to flow in a way that fits.
So even now, when I listen to tunes that I love and I’ve heard millions of times before, it’s like hearing them in a whole new way. I’m looking at the lyrics and zooming in on them a bit. It’s funny how you unlock this new thing that was there all the time, but you just didn’t perceive it.
Thinking about how different Bombay Bicycle Club and Mr Jukes are, both musically and genre-wise – where does Jack’s love really lie?
Jack: I think they complement each other well, which Barney was touching on – how you can approach a hip-hop song with the same type of ear as writing a folk song. It’s all about songwriting and dynamics. And then I think an indie band can benefit from having the kind of production that you might put on a hip-hop track, especially with drums and bass. They can really coexist, even though they do sound very different.
Barney: But I think his DNA is through both. One amazing thing is that even though Bombay is indie and Mr Jukes stuff is funk/soul, I believe the DNA that he will put in both will still resonate. It wouldn’t be weird if you heard a Bombay Bicycle Club song after a Mr Jukes song. It’s like a distant cousin: it’s still family, and you can still see the lineage in that.
Jack: Like that weird cousin that turns up to family events…
And with you, Barney, do you fancy making some indie music now?
That’s it! This is Barney’s Bicycle Club. They won’t know any different [laughter]. That was the whole plan along, Carl. I was just trying to infiltrate the band. I wanna get the big money, mate. I’m going to get those headline shows.
The Locket by Mr Jukes & Barney Artist is out now on Virgin. Info: here
words CARL MARSH
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