Somewhere between future soul and electronica you’ll find the eclectic, sophisticated and thoughtfully constructed sounds of Uphigh Collective. Having made a name for themselves with their 7” Blend that even got airplay across the Atlantic, the loosely knitted collective of Leuven-based musicians and visual artists certainly has a bright future ahead of them. We caught up with William, one of its founding members, to talk about their latest projects, the challenges of performing analogue and hip hop influences.
What are you guys working on at the moment?
Right now we focus on our new live show which is pretty much finished but still needs some fine-tuning.
Can you tell me more about that?
We really enjoy analogue sounds and the analogue performance: The art of controlling everything on the spot. We wanted to bring that on stage. It was actually quite hard to figure out how to do that, how to connect everything technically and blend it together. But we managed and now we have a new show where we perform everything the analogue way.
Why didn’t you already do that earlier? Too complicated?
Originally we are all bedroom producers and didn’t make songs with the idea of performing them. That’s completely different now. When we went into the studio together and locked ourselves up for two weeks, we constantly asked ourselves: How do we want to perform this? The first thing we had to do was to create a setup that enabled us to play live and produce at the same time. So now we can even jam on stage if we want to. We finally found our flow. I know, for a regular band this is the most obvious thing, but as an electronic band we really had to search how to play our sounds and effects in a live show.
What’s your favourite equipment? Do you also play real instruments?
None of us have a real musical background. We just taught ourselves how to push buttons and turn knobs. That’s one of the differences to regular bands. But when we want to change a sound we cannot just click next, we need to change all the knobs on every instrument. So it kind of takes us back to the 70s when the bands had to really master their equipment. Take the Korg MS 20 for example that we use for the bass – it’s so easy to make a mistake. We also use Korg Monopoly to make random patterns and the main sound comes from a Guno 106. The drum machine is a 108.
You can compare it to a family that grows constantly. First it was just Ducap and me. We did some beats together and then wanted to take it to a higher level musically.
You started as three-piece I-sa and then grew bigger and changed your name – what’s the story?
You can compare it to a family that grows constantly. First it was just Ducap and me. We did some beats together and then wanted to take it to a higher level musically. We met up with a friend who had a jazz background and he would play our keys. That worked really well for us. For two or three years we just played in the basement, did some demos, had fun and got to know the instruments. The guy who was responsible for the keys moved to Barcelona though and we met a few other guys at a beat session in town who were really on the same wavelength. We started jamming together the same night and Uphigh Collective was born.
How did you choose the name?
I used to work in a skate shop in Leuven called Lowdown. My friends were hanging out there a lot. We just turned the name around and made it Uphigh.
You mentioned spending two weeks in the studio, what’s your recording process like?
Now we have a really nice place at the Depot in Leuven. Before our equipment was just in a living room. For ’Blend’ we didn’t really plan the recording, we just made a beat one night, Delvis came along for the first time, took the microphone, and sang. I remember I went down to the night shop to buy some drinks and when I came back upstairs they showed me his first vocals – it was so impressive. He just came up with it on the spot, without writing lyrics or anything. Things rather just happened without planning them back then.
Your first single was pretty souly and your newer tracks go more in the electronica direction. How would you describe your sound?
Now we are definitely working more on the electronic aspect, but it’s hard to describe. We are into many different types of music. One night we do soul music and on another night we are into up-tempo stuff. We are not focused on one thing in particular, but we do try to find our own sound. ’Blend’ came out very fast and I wouldn’t define our sound or genre with it. It’s something we can do and we like to do, but at the moment we are more into electronic-driven and bass-driven music.
You can always hear if someone has a hip hop history, even if the person is making dance music now. It has a big influence in terms of how you think about music.
What musicians do you look up to?
We are really into the sounds of things. You can hear if musicians really look for a special sound and experiment with it. I like when people try to find something of their own. We really enjoy Jimmy Edgar, Africa Hitech or Lazer Sword.
Do you see yourselves as part of a certain genre?
I guess we are located in the electronic corner but the main thing about us is that we all have a hip hop background. We can all enjoy Mobb Deep (laughs). Hip Hop was the music of our teenage years. And we still enjoy that a lot, so you can even today still find some serious hip hop beats in our stuff. You can always hear if someone has a hip hop history, even if the person is making dance music now. It has a big influence in terms of how you think about music.
Who do you like in the Belgian scene?
We learned a lot and got a lot of opportunities from the guys from Infinite Skills and Monkey Robot. They really supported us. They are older than us and were always one step ahead of us. Addicted Krew Sound is a band that influences us because they play next door in the Depot, even though they do something completely different.
I really like Aid Ok, can you tell me more about that?
Aid Ok was actually the starting point of the new live show. Ronaldo was the driving force behind the idea to bring the analogue sound out of our rehearsal room, and while he was trying to find a way to do so, Aid Ok was created. We released it end of August and that was the point when we decided: From now on we’ll only release tracks that define our new sound and that we can perform live.
How did you get together with the On-point label?
We are not signed actually. Alex from On-point had an agreement with Title to put out Caravan on 7’’ and they told him he could choose whoever he wanted for the D side. Luckily he chose us! Alex really liked our stuff and organised a lot of shows for us. He promoted us last year with ’Blend’, but we don’t have any future plans together. We are very close with Title though, he gives us a lot of feedback.
If we can finish this year with some good songs and a good live reputation that we can build on, we’d be very proud.
Is one of your goals to find a label?
Yes, definitely. We are still fine-tuning the new songs and transforming them into studio versions. We only put out two tracks to give a glimpse of what’s coming. But yes, if someone is interested, we are open for business.
What music would you consider grey?
Where do you really want to play one day?
Worldwide Festival, definitely. The location is unbelievable, it’s at the beach, in the middle of the summer. I was there last year and that’s when I said to myself: We have to play here one day!
What are your plans for this year?
We’re currently working on a few remixes which will probably be released in September and also a dubplate with two new tracks for djs to play this summer. If we can finish this year with some good songs and a good live reputation that we can build on, we’d be very proud.uphighcollective.com