“The plan is, there is no plan” An Interview with BIGkids (16/10/12)

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Over the past 18 months Ben Hudson and Rosie Oddie have been working on a wonderful pop collaboration in the form of BIGkids. Debut album Never Grow Up is a collection of brilliant pop duets where Ben’s musical experience and Rosie’s raw talent shine through. I clambered up the steep staircase inside The Joiners and crammed into a tiny dressing room with Ben, Rosie and their band mates. It was more of a social gathering as they all played on their iPads and drank Corona. They made me feel very welcome as we spoke about everything from how they met, to festivals and the recording of their debut album. Enjoy!

How’s the tour been so far?

Both: Good!
Ben: We’ve been the length of the country, we’ve drunk our own volumes in Jack Daniels. What’s been my drink of choice? Beer I think on this tour, I didn’t use to drink a lot of beer but I don’t do as much running around as I’m sitting at the piano so I just drink a beer. For me Jack Daniels tastes too much like bananas.

I’ve never noticed that!
Can you quickly explain, for the readers, how you guys met and formed BIGkids?

Ben: You’re sitting in a glamourous dressing room backstage at The Joiners, low lighting, a band of musicians strewn around the place, but it wasn’t always like this. [all laugh] A crate of Corona and a packet of Extra. I guess BIGkids has evolved out of Rosie and I meeting in Camden, just thinking ‘lets make some music together’ just mucking about in the studio as two ten year olds would go and play at each others houses. think about the N64, we did that with music, as kids do with no real purpose, just for fun. We just didn’t stop and a year later we had more than enough songs for an album. It didn’t really have a name until we decided to put the stuff as an album. Now the guys have bolted on for the live band and the album is on iTunes and Rosie’s made some videos, it’s funny how things can into existence like that.

What can we expect from tonight’s show?

Rosie: Loads of fun, loads of energy! We’re gonna play our little hearts out, it’s gonna be good.
Ben: And it’s great to do a headline tour because you get to play for more than 25 minutes, so we’ll get to play most of the album.

How has the album been received since it’s release last week?

Rosie: It’s been great! The people who probably hated it wouldn’t have been coming up to us, so so far it’s been really good! Loads of people have been saying they haven’t stopped listening to it.

Yeah, I’ve had it on repeat! It’s a really great album.

Rosie: Awww! Thank you so much!
Ben: Good! Thank you!

Can you briefly explain the writing and producing process, was it just you guys messing around with ideas?

Ben: Hmm, the record sounds kind of old fashioned in ways, doesn’t it?  In the old days you would sit at a piano, you’d write a song and maybe do a cheerful recording to demo, to demonstrate what the song might sound like and on the strength of that someone would pay for you to go into a studio. For most of the album, for those who are interested in the behind the scenes stuff, we did that backwards. We started in my studio making something that sounded like a finished record but didn’t have a song on top of it, which is very much a Hip Hop, RnB way of working. You make the beat, you sample stuff and that creates a sort of a space, a place. We then just sort of dive in and populate that with our characters. I guess that’s been my background recently is more the Hip Hop side of things. If we both like the way the track sounds before we’ve even written on it then all we have to do is..
Rosie: ..write some cool lyrics.
Ben: and just hang out on top of that.

Did you have an idea of tracks you wanted to become singles when you were writing it?

Rosie: No idea! We still don’t know what the next single is gonna be, we’ll wait and see what people like. We really haven’t lent a thought to it.
Ben: We’re pretty anti-commercial with the whole thing.
Rosie: We’ve just literally done it! ‘Heart Sing’ has been the single because we thought it was the most appropriate one.
Ben: I think we’re kind of more excited about doing videos and stuff. Because really that’s the way you give a track emphasis is by giving it video, getting some remixes done. 

How has this process been different to working with the likes of Kanye West and all the Hip Hop stuff, how has it been different?

Ben: In almost every way. Apart from the way that I just described in terms of working back  from the beat, the record. Although saying that, interestingly when I’ve been out there working recently, working with those guys they’re moving more towards having an idea at the piano, funnily enough! I’ve never done an album of duets with a pocket rocket from north london before, so it was always gonna be different to anything i’ve done before. In fact we just had a laugh and we’ve worked really quickly which is similar to how the guys that i’ve worked with in the states work so you know generally you’ve got a song done in a day or two, written, recorded and produced. That’s the best way to do it! All of our heroes, that’s how they did it back in the day, you know? Whether it’s Van Morrison or Marvin Gaye or David Bowie, half of the time, came up with an idea when they came back from the club, if they remembered it in the morning it was probably a good one! they fiddled with it in the morning, maybe jammed it with the guys in the afternoon and went to the studio and recorded it and then let somebody mix it. I bet that a lot of your favourite records were made like that, just a cool idea, didn’t hang around, didn’t fuck with it.

Do you have a favourite track from the album to listen to?

Rosie: I think ‘Don’t Give Up On Me’ is my favourite one still.

Ben: For me, just from a narcissistic point of view I’m really enjoying ‘Good For You’ at the moment because from a production point of view for me, I feel like it’s quite a successful mimic of that late 60s/early 70s sound. But I managed to do it all in my little studio. It’s mainly getting the right instruments, you’ve got a paino from the 20s, I’ve got this piano that the tuner told me is worthless btu I love it, because it’s so knackered and out of tune, he was like ‘yeah you wanna chuck that out’ and I was like ‘do you wanna get out!?’ [laughs]Do you know what I mean? So I’ve got this old piano, I’ve got a 50s drumkit, I’ve got some 50s/60s/70s equipment so you plug all that in and try not to fuck it up. So yeah for me, ‘Good For You’. I’m like ‘did I make that?!’ it’s nice to have those moments, where you’re like ‘did I make that? cool!’ and you pat yourself on the back and you should do that occasionally. Just not all the time [all laugh]

How about live?

Rosie: Live I think ‘Stuck Like Glue’ is still one of my favourites. Or ‘Let’s Do This’ is a good one, or ‘Drum in your Chest’ [all laugh]

All the songs!

Ben: I like playing ‘Let’s Do This’ because it was a piano part that I found very difficult and then I was like horse whisperer on myself, ‘you can do it’ and I just figured it out and we’ve had a couple of sticky bits with harmonies and stuff where we’ve broken through them and now we’ve nailed them, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rodgers style. Do you know what i’m saying? Where you get to those points in the set where you’re like, ‘Oh god, I always used to fuck this up!’ and now you can do it and it’s double the enjoyment. Having two lead vocals is a challenge. 

How was your festival season? I know you played at Bestival. Was it good fun?

Ben: Loved it!
Rosie: It was so much fun! We had such a laugh.
Ben: I managed to blag a ride in a power boat. From here to the Isle of Wight and Rosie sorted us out with the three blind mice costumes. Probably looked a bit better before we went onstage! Probably looked a bit more like mice [laughs] Rosie: We had red contact lenses which meant we couldn’t see anything when we were onstage! We were literally, actually blind. So that was a bit mental but it was good fun.

Where did you get your inspiration from for ‘Never Grow Up’?

Ben: Two things really, one we were just getting to know each other in the studio and just having a laugh. We hadn’t met before so the whole fun process of just hanging out with someone that you would normally do, we did that while we were making the album so it was always fun and I guess we worked quickly and for both of us doing duets opened up a whole new scene of concepts that you can write songs about. The arguments, you know, the make up, break up, lets run away together, whether it’s good for you saying ‘everything in life is bad for you except for me’, it’s like ‘all those carbs are gonna make you fat, end up giving you a heart attack’ it’s like everything we do people are telling us it’s bad for us, man. Some Romeo and Juliet shit in there, some true romance stuff is in there, those were the things we were referencing, Baz Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet, we would just watch films in the studio with the sound down. True romance. It’s even influenced what we’re wearing onstage like wife beaters and hawaiian shirts. Tarentino, think about Pulp Fiction, how does that film start? A boy and a girl in a diner about to hold it up.

How has this compared to tour you have both done in the past?

Rosie: I have never done a tour before!
Ben: She’s like ‘We’re in Birmingham this is amazing!’ ‘We’re in Manchester this is amazing!’ ‘We’re in Glasgow this is amazing!’
Rosie: There’s a DVD player in the van! [all laugh]

That must be cool though, because you [Ben] have done it a lot before and Rosie’s done nothing.

Rosie: I’ve done nothing!
Ben: She’s keeping me young.
Rosie: I’m just irritatingly over excited all the time.
Ben: It’s just been such a laugh though. Trust me. Normally within a few days of being on the road someone gets grumpy but we have just not stopped laughing for the last week. You know, the band are an amazing bunch of people and everyone’s having a laugh. I hope we get to do that big American tour or we get to go to Japan or Australia or around Europe. ‘Cause it’s just gonna be such a giggle. 

That’s really awesome! What do you guys think the future holds for you?

Rosie: We’re just gonna keep going and see what happens. We literally started BIGkids not having a plan and BIGkids will continue on not having a plan.
Ben: The plan is there is no plan. I think you can have principles, we wanna do this kind of thing, we don’t want to do this kind of thing. A couple of people have been like ‘so next album?’ and it’s like ‘hang on, we only put the other one out a week ago!’ We’re not doing a Rihanna and putting an album out every nine months. We wanna do something different. If you know anything about me you’ll know that I don’t wanna repeat myself so if and when we do another album it’ll be quite different somehow. Whether it’s just us and an orchestra, I would love that! I would love just sitting at a piano, writing ten songs then going and recording it with an orchestra in Prague or capital studio in LA or Tokyo or something bonkers. [band laughs]They’d get to be in the orchestra of course! Playing a gong at the end in a loin cloth painted gold. Can you imagine doing an old school, ten duets with an orchestra?

That would be amazing. It’s so cool that you have so many possibilities now.

Rosie: Yeah! God knows! Might be dead next year.
Ben: Let’s hope not. [all laugh] Rosie: I’ll be dead by the end of this tour! I feel like I might be. 

BIGkids’ debut album Never Grow Up is out now.

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I’m Megan Downing, an English Literature graduate from University of Southampton. I am the Music, Arts and Culture Editor for The National Student. I am the Membership and Communications Officer for the Student Publication Association, I write about music for 7BitArcade, and contribute regularly to The Culture Trip. I have a passion for live music and this is where I began in student journalism. Reviewing a gig or festival is still where my heart lies four years on. I will be starting at MTV as a News Intern in June 2015. One thing you should know about me is that I have an unhealthy obsession with Kevin Spacey.

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