WORDS: Alex Caslano
“In all honesty I hadn’t expected 2014 to really pick up the way it did! It was like one minute we’re just finishing off our new EP and the next minute it’s getting rinsed on the radio.” Considering it’s only March you can understand Barrientos’ excitement when asked about what’s been a rather prolific start to the year. Hooking up with his production partner Illyus Brown at the tail end of 2013, it’s unlikely they could have predicted the overwhelming response to their debut release. But then, with Glasgow Underground's Kevin McKay fighting their corner, they’re in good hands.
It was after Illyus remixed Kevin’s ‘Ease Your Pain’ last year that the idea of collaboration came about. “He gave me a call after that and suggested that myself and Ivan should hook up and get working on a few tracks” recalls Illyus. “He must have known somehow that we would click; Ivan did wine & dine me first though”. His prediction was of course correct. As ‘Do Anything You Wanna’ filtered through the various promo streams it was quite literally jumped on by Radio 1, with everyone from Danny Howard to Skream offering support. They even bagged an on air interview with 1Xtra’s Sarah Jane Crawford who made it her ‘smash of the week’.
And it’s not difficult to hear why. A self professed ‘club banger’, the EP’s lead track is bass heavy and employs an infectious vocal hook (lifted from a G Unit single no less). It’s dancefloor ready and instantly accessible, making it something of a hot prospect for this year’s Miami Winter Music Conference and the following Ibiza season. But while their debut may have got them off to a roaring start, they’re keen to keep things moving, with Pete Tong already supporting a peak time remix of Grum’s news single ‘Tears’. With another EP for Glasgow Underground in the pipeline and talk of back to back sessions behind the decks, this duo are ready for take off…
Check out Illyus and Barrientos’ debut EP for Glasgow Underground below, as well as their remix for Grum’s new single ‘Tears’:
We also caught up with the dynamic duo recently, discussing worldwide exposure, how the pair work together in the studio and the renaissance of Kevin McKay’s Glasgow Underground:
SG: Now, neither of you are strangers to this blog and you’ve both been producing excellent music for a good few years now; going into 2014 did you feel like things were really starting to pick up momentum in terms of exposure? Has it surprised you how quickly things have progressed?
Barrientos: For me I guess it felt like momentum was picking up a little bit at the time my ‘Feel The Waves EP’ came out back in September - the Radio 1 support back then really did help turn people’s heads. In all honesty I hadn’t expected 2014 to really pick up the way it did! It was like one minute we’re just finishing off our new EP and the next minute it’s getting rinsed on the radio. So yeah, really surprising for me.
Illyus: Similar to Ivan, the Radio 1 support came on my ‘Morris Audio EP’ (which came out late last year). I never realised how many people get involved and take notice once you get someone like Pete Tong playing your tracks. Late 2013/early 2014 both of us just had a bit of a laugh in a few sessions and came up with out first GU release. We never expected people to enjoy and support the tracks as much as they have. Doors have just opened from there.
SG: Your first collaborative EP is out now and it’s been supported by a huge range of DJs, including most of Radio 1’s dance fraternity; how does it feel when you hear the likes of Pete Tong drop your tune? Do you notice the Soundcloud stats spike after that type of radio play?
Illyus: The radio plays are great for both of us; can’t beat getting the seal of approval from the leading guys in the industry. Honestly, such an appreciative feeling. The Soundcloud numbers go mental for a few days, especially when we got the daytime play; people that you never expected to be into our music or even have Soundcloud send you nice messages and want to support straight away (my family in particular are all of a sudden house heads). All of it is great motivation and helps put in even more hours.
Barrientos: It’s an incredible feeling, especially because a few of the times I haven’t really known the tracks were going to be played, so you get this mad rush of texts and Facebook messages with people asking “did I just hear you on the radio?!” and it sort of makes your head spin! I am eternally grateful for the plays though, it really does mean a lot to me. Definitely helps with Soundcloud and Facebook fans too – it’s really humbling to get a few nice messages sent over from people who have just discovered your music.
SG: As mentioned, you’re both hugely talented producers in your own right, but this hook-up seems to have spawned something entirely different. This is a question you’re probably going to hear time and time again, but how did the collaboration come about?
Barrientos: Kevin McKay! I guess that says it all really. I had heard Illyus’ music before and it wasn’t soon after his remix for Congaloid came out that Kevin had sent us over an email suggesting we should work together. So we got together in the studio, messed about with sounds over a few sessions, then we sort of got into a really good flow of writing and producing. Probably the most productive I’ve been for a while now.
Illyus: Yeah, we have Kevin to thank for that one. I sent Kevin a few demos and as Ivan mentioned, remixed his Congaloid release for him. He gave me a call after that and suggested that myself and Ivan should hook up and get working on a few tracks; he must have known somehow that we would click. Ivan did wine & dine me first; I made sure I got a free Soba lunch. Then we got to work.
SG: Listening back through some of your individual work, Ivan you came from something a bit deeper and more melodic, while Illyus you were sounding a bit techier two years ago; what were the early sessions like between you? Did a sound grow organically or did take a lot of experimenting?
Illyus: At first it took us a few sessions to get a flow going; we were initially messing around and trying to find a sound/style that would suit both of us. Once we got into a stride we haven’t really looked back and are able to write tracks pretty quickly now. We are able to utilise each others strengths quite well; it’s almost like we know when the other should take over and add his little bit of something.
Barrientos: I tend to find when you start working with musicians that you haven’t previously worked with before, it takes a bit of time to sort of suss each other out with regards to how far you can push it creatively. It was definitely a good few sessions before we found a stride that works for us both – I think we eventually got to the stage where we knew what type of music was going to work for us and then it felt much easier to get working on tracks.
SG: If we talk about the new EP, both tracks are picking up a lot of heat and employ some rather big basslines; was it your intention to set out and make two club bangers? And can we expect a similar formula for future releases?
Illyus: 100% that was the idea. We are both DJs and wanted DJs and crowds alike responding to our first release. I really have a soft spot for ‘The Times We Shared’ due to the fact that most people always ask about the A side plus the fact the moody atmosphere it brings appeals to me. As you know, I like my vibes so not everything we are working on are straight up dancefloor driven - watch this space I guess.
Barrientos: Yep, we absolutely had the intention of writing two club bangers! I wanted to have two new tracks that I could play out peak time and something that I could imagine other DJs wanting to play out too. It’s a nice formula for now, but I think we are going to mix it up in the future. Expect a few deep, vibey cuts sometime!
SG: As we’re sure you’ll agree, it’s a great time to be making music in Glasgow and there seems to be a great buzz about the city; do you feel like there’s a good community spirit and support for aspiring producers? And do you think the wider media are starting to recognise this explosion of talent?
Barrientos: I’ve always really liked the community aspect of music in Glasgow – I’ve always been really grateful for the help I’ve received from other producers and I’ve always tried my best to help out anybody who gets in touch with me. I think that sort of model is important in music as sometimes it’s easy to become stagnant when producing. Having someone to just sit and chat music with can really inspire you.
Illyus: I suppose because of the support network in Glasgow Ivan & myself got together and a partnership came of it. I always feel in Glasgow everyone supports each other in different ways - whether it’s checking out someone’s gig or helping someone with a production session. Everyone is just a text away. There are so many people active and doing well for themselves that Glasgow as a city is hard to ignore these days. Without a doubt the city’s music scene is thriving.
SG: Kevin McKay’s Glasgow Underground is having a bit of a renaissance at the moment; how much has Kevin’s experience and influence helped you through this process? It must be feel good to be on a label with such heritage and history in Glasgow…
Illyus: I must say, a guy like Kevin and the way he runs GU is hard to find. I have experience of sending out umpteen demos and it’s hard to get a constructive response - one thing Kevin always gives you, especially when your idea is way off the mark. Being part of GU is a great accomplishment for both of us, it’s always great to be part of something which is homegrown. You just have to look at producers like Mia Dora, Those Beats & Mash to name a few that come from Glasgow and have done great things on GU.
Barrientos: He’s been a huge help – Kevin is always very candid about the music you send him and that can sometimes be rare to find these days. So when you send music to Kevin and he gets back to you with something like “this is massive”, then you know you’re on the right track! I’ve always felt really proud to be part of Glasgow Underground and the music being released is getting better and better. Just wait until you hear the new Mia Dora EP…
SG: Clearly it’s still early days for this project, but what can we expect from you as a duo over the coming year? Are there more releases planned and have you considered DJ’ing as ‘Illy & Barry’ the tag team yet?
Barrientos: All we talk about in the studio is how much we want to play B2B in the clubs! We just signed to TFA booking agency and you can book us either individually or together, so hopefully as time goes on we’ll be able to start doing gigs together. We were meant to be playing Bath in April but unfortunately the club burned down; we'll be playing down in London at the end of May however so we’re definitely looking forward to that.
Illyus: Ivan said it all really. We have a few individual gigs coming but because of the excitement about this project we have managed to arrange it that we will be playing B2B at most of them. I would say every idea we come up with individually or as a team gets thrown into the ‘I&B’ hat. As mentioned, we’re really excited about what is happening and do feel as a team we are stronger. Release wise we have another GU EP we are working on (bit of a spin on this one), we also have the Grum remix coming out in April and currently in talks with a few other labels - all will be revealed soon.
Illyus and Barrientos ‘Do Anything You Wanna/ The Times We Shared’ is out now on Glasgow Underground. Their remix of Grum ‘Tears’ is available April 14th.