[INTERVIEW] COLD CALLERS - Viper
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[INTERVIEW] COLD CALLERS

The UK’s music scene is diversifying radically. If you’re into electro feeling hip-hop there’s an artist for that. If you’re into afrobeats with a bit of UK grit there’s an artist for that. If you’re looking for some real hip-hop with jazzy and soulful influences then the Cold Callers are the collective for you. Growing up in an area where all the odds were against them to break through, they did. The Guardian recently wrote a ”ones to watch” piece on them. A segment of the paper where they have acknowledged artists such as IAMDDB, Rex Orange County, Kojey Radical and Mabel. I am confident that the Cold Callers will play a very crucial role in the new waves of music coming out of the UK music scene. The collective is made up of two artists: Toch UQ and Timi B. They’re cool, suave, young and ridiculously talented. They recently dropped their second project ”Swallowed By The Sun.” Their new EP is a great showcase of what they can do and the direction they’re heading in. I had the pleasure of interviewing two of the most promising artists from the UK. Cold Callers…remember the name and watch this space.

First things first Cold Callers-Where does the name come from, where are you guys from and how old are you two?

Toch UQ: I’m 20
Timi B: 20, Hemel.
Toch UQ: Yeah, from Hertfordshire
Timi B: Started recording in a youth centre [called] XC, in our local area.
Toch UQ: The name comes from the feeling of being judged before being heard. So if you’re a cold caller you’re usually treated with disdain. But they don’t really know what you’re selling first. They don’t really know what you have to offer before turn you down.
Timi B: Kinda felt that way coming from Hemel. Seeing as there’s not much of a culture there for the kinda music we make.
Toch UQ: When we were promoting we felt like cold callers.

So the name comes from the actual idea of being cold called…

Toch UQ: Yeah. Door to door salesmen.

So you guys felt like you were door to door salesmen and not getting the respect you deserved?

Toch UQ: Yeah…
Timi B: Yeah…Yeah…
Toch UQ: Not even the respect
Timi B: Just being given attention. Literally being given the time of day. Coming from an area like that. It’s not London but it’s close to London there’s not much of a real culture there.
Toch UQ: The same way in which people put ”No cold callers” on their door. It’s like they don’t even want to hear it.

So your first EP ”As The Sun Sets.” As a duo collective, how do you go about creating projects together? What was your creative process like? 

Timi B: So we did that at the beginning of summer. Most of it was recorded in Toch’s shed. More times we just vibe off each other, maybe freestyle, or we send tracks back and forth.
Toch UQ: It always starts with a beat and then we’ll sing melodies. Record them into our phones and then get words to those or a word will stick out from a melody that we’ve already got. ”As The Sun Sets” is like a perfect introduction to our collective and what we’re into and what we want to create.
Timi B: We wanted to try to capture like a summer vibe. A vibe that takes you to a place kinda thing.
Toch UQ: And it’s so short because the summer’s short.
Timi B: Yeah we purposely wanted it to be concise.

So there’s actually meaning behind having just the 4 tracks? They’re representative of how short the summer actually is…

Toch UQ: Yeah I don’t think the number of tracks but it’s definitely short because of the summer.
Timi B: Yeah, nice and concise. Capture a vibe.

The EP was dropped in September and the name of it is ”As The Sun Sets.” Being that it was dropped at the end of summer and the name is like a roundup of the summer was that something you guys planned? 

Toch UQ and Timi B: Na…
Timi B: Not at all.
Toch UQ: But the name was fitting. Yeah because the summer was ending. And it says that at the end of ”Summer Lovin” as well in Timi’s part. ”Summer’s nearly over though.”

So you are a duo collective but what are your individual creative processes like? 

Toch UQ: Yeah I’ll get a beat or make a beat and then a concept will come from the feel of the beat for me. Also, melodies come quite naturally for me but words don’t. So if I’m singing I’ll try sing words if possible and it usually comes out as a feeling. But if not, I’m always writing down concepts on my phone. So I’ll just feel like this beat caters to this concept and then go from there.
Timi B: Yeah, similar. Also if a concept is too hard to come by I might write a 16 or something to gain inspiration. Because like he [Toch] said melodies come easy to me but words may not. So like if I write a 16 then I get loads of concepts in that and then use that to help my melody, so yeah…
Toch UQ: It’s never the same, to be honest.
Timi B: Yeah it’s never the same, exactly. It varies all the time. Sometimes you can just hear a beat and know exactly what you want to do on it.

Do you think that you work so well together because you work similarly?

Timi B: I feel like there’s just an understanding.
Toch UQ: I’d say we work better apart actually, these days.
Timi B: Even when we’re together, we’re not together. It’s weird. We’re both in our own corners so it’s like we work alone but together.
Toch UQ: So for ”As The Sun Sets” Timi would stay in the studio and I’d take the laptop.
Timi B: Yeah we wouldn’t be in the room. But it’s more of an understanding of what to put on the track.

I didn’t know you guys created like that. I just assumed you created together. 

Toch UQ: We used to. And then I dunno, all those tracks we used to do together, they’d always stop if you know what I mean. It’s because we both love to do melodies.[Now] If someone lays down their melody first their verse, the other knows how to come through after. But how we used to work is we’d both be in the same room singing these melodies that could both be the chorus if you know what I mean [And it would kind of clash]. Or we just won’t know which way to run with.
Timi B: I think when you’re doing stuff [with other creatives] you need to sometimes give someone leeway to go first so you can know how to fit in the pocket because it’s very easy to clash and not know where to go. With everything, not even just music, videos, everything.

I think how you guys work is a great example of understanding and respect. I’ve had to work with other creatives on projects and at times it’s very difficult because some people believe their agenda is better than others. I think a genuine and mutual respect for whoever you’re working with will result in the most harmonious and best quality project/product. In order to do this, sometimes you need to let members of your team take the lead and guide the project in a certain direction. 

Timi B: I think we’ve kinda learnt that because we both have the same idea of what we want.
Toch UQ: That’s probably where the five years of school came in.
Timi B: We were listening to the same stuff while we were in school. Into the same kinda culture, that definitely helped.

So you studied together for about 5 years at Townsend (St Albans) and JFK Catholic School (Hemel Hempstead) respectively. And then you went on to study at different universities. Do you feel like that separation, from being together probably every day to seeing each other much less than that changed anything for better or worse? 

Toch UQ: I think it was for the better. Definitely for better.
Timi B: I don’t see much of a difference to be fair.
Toch UQ: Yeah it wasn’t a [real] difference.
Timi B: Because we still saw each other a lot. And like we said, we work alone together so sending tracks still kinda worked. And yeah better because we got to grow as individuals I guess and experience our own kinda lifestyles.
Toch UQ: Because we were already doing everything together it was good to have the space.
Timi B: Yeah definitely better to be fair. Because yeah sometimes you need the space.

So your new EP ”Swallowed by the Sun.” Did you guys go about working on this EP differently? 

Toch UQ: Yeah. We were both at uni so we literally were’nt together for any of this. Timi B: Actually…Weekday…
Toch UQ: Weekday I sent though.
Timi B: Yeah, but I recorded it at yours. But yeah basically we weren’t together for the whole EP. So yeah, different.
Toch UQ: It’s like we both knew what we had to do still. Because of how we worked in summer we knew what we had to do.
Timi B: The foundation was laid already. It was kind of easier because we had producers wanting to work with us and stuff which was different from the first one where we had to search on youtube and stuff. So yeah, different.

So do you think you’ve honed in on your sound in this project more than the first one because you’ve had the personalisation of working with producers 

Timi B: Uhm, a bit but not really because we’re different and like to do different things. So there’s different sounds on this one and on the next one, there will be different sounds.
Toch UQ: In a way, we’re still not building sounds from scratch, well I produced ”Weekday”, but we’re picking fully formed beats we like instead of collaborating to create them.

So you produced one of the tracks on the EP?

Toch UQ: Yeah and then two from El.Train, two from WIZE.

How was it working with El.Train? 

Toch UQ: Yeah it was a good experience, beats we’d search to find were finally being sent to us.
Timi B: WIZE as well. That was like us going to his house and him playing us beats and us being like ‘yeah that and that.’
Toch UQ: That was good.
Timi B: Yeah that was very good. That was quick.

So this EP ”Swallowed by the Sun.” Did you record it in Toch’s shed again?

Toch UQ: Some of it, some of it in my uni room.
Timi B: Yeah I recorded ”The Mood” at yours actually.
Toch: Yeah so some in the shed some in uni rooms.
Timi B: But basically still bedroom [studio setups].

Congrats on recently being in the Guardian’s ”Ones to watch.” That’s a huge accomplishment. Being quite new to the UK music scene, how do you feel the reception has been with you guys especially considering you guys are on a completely different wavelength to what is mainstream in the UK right now. 

Timi B: Like we normally say. We’re not really looking at just the UK. Yeah, it’s something to think about but our concern is greater and people will gravitate towards it once it’s there.
Toch UQ: Yeah we don’t really think about it at all, that’s the mad thing. It just doesn’t phase us.
Timi B: I don’t feel like we’re part of that scene either.
Toch UQ: Yeah we wouldn’t just release on the platforms we have in the UK because it’s not really who we are. But we’re still into that scene. We DJ’d at uni so we’d see all of them perform or we’d play their music. Music’s music man.
Timi B: But in terms of being a part of the scene. I dunno.

Is there any artists that you feel are in the scene that you could say you’re apart of in the UK. People will categorise you because as humans we love to do that. They’re not going to put you in road rap or grime. They’re going to put you in this growing alternative hip-hop scene with artists like Kojey Radical and Loyle Carner…

Toch UQ: Little Simz, Jay Prince.

Yeah. They’re going to put you in that category of artists. I’d even say A2. 

Timi B: Octavian.

Octavian for sure. What do you think about that scene and how it is growing? Is there anyone there you’d like to work with? 

Toch UQ: What do I think about that scene? I think it’s not really a scene because it’s too different. Too diverse. Yeah, it’s very scattered. I’d say like Little Simz, A2, Octavian and Kojey Radical is a scene. They’ve got like a trap-influenced hip-hop sort of going on. But yeah other than that na. Would we like to work with them? Yeah, definitely!

What do you think of the current state of Hip Hop and black culture/music right now? 

Timi B: Black is in right now. I feel like people are very on supporting anything black-the culture in general. So I feel like, [it’s] growing gradually over here and everywhere to be honest, hip-hop in general and more. It’s definitely pop now, Hip-hop is pop. I heard a statistic the other day like 6 songs out of 10 in the top 10 are hip-hop songs. Crazy. So yeah-hip hop is in. Black is in.
Toch UQ: What do I think about the scene…I think that not many people like to think anymore. So they don’t wanna really make thought-provoking or life-changing music, there’s nothing wrong with it but a lot of it’s party.
Timi B: Microwave music. But I feel like because black is in, there’s gonna be more space for different types of black culture to breathe. Rap will make a slow come back. I hope so anyway. We’re now seeing a time where everything is being encouraged. Everyones for the culture so I’m hoping our music as well will see that change and that we’ll encourage and champion artists from different walks of life that are for the culture.

 

Toch you were born in London. But not actually growing up there and growing up outside of London. Do you feel that changed anything? 

Toch UQ: Yeah. UK music or just black music, in general, wasn’t really in your face.
Timi B: But I would say that made us hungry for it though. So it’s like Ying and Yang, there’s good and bad.
Toch UQ: Yeah, that’s why I’m saying I’ve got the influences I’ve got. If I grew up in London maybe I’d be doing grime. But yeah, growing up in Hertfordshire and feeling like an outcast shaped my interests.

Do you feel like it’s harder to be from outside of London and making music?

Toch UQ: Yeah, I feel like it’s the same with Hip-hop and like moving to New York and moving to LA. So the same way J-Cole moved from North Carolina to New York to pursue a career in music is the same way that you have to do that here with London because in Hemel there isn’t really a culture. There’s an identity crisis in Hemel.

Do you think that is everywhere outside London? 

Toch UQ: Yeah most places. Actually, it is everywhere outside of London. London is a place where you get to free yourself.
Timi B: We’re forgetting Hemel is small.
Toch UQ: You know when you’re in school [secondary school/high school], you want to fit in. And they’re not into the music we’re into. So you don’t know which way to go. You can either be yourself or you could try to fit in with the crowd.
Timi B: Yeah that made us search for something.
Toch UQ: And we found ourselves within music.

Who are you guys listening to right now? 

Timi B: Anderson Paak, Smino
Toch UQ: Yeah, Smino’s hard. I’m listening to Fela Kuti right now.
Timi B: Yeah Fela Kuti is hard. Listen to his brothers as well.
Toch UQ: Snoh Aalegra
Timi B: Third story, they sing for Chance the rapper.
Toch UQ: Kenneth Whalum.His albums hard. Some producers from here. There’s a producer called komikamo and an artist called Taite imogen.
Timi B: Anderson Paak, Smino
Toch UQ: Yeah, Smino’s hard. I’m listening to Fela Kuti right now.
Timi B: Yeah Fela Kuti is hard. Listen to his brothers as well.
Toch UQ: Snoh Aalegra
Timi B: Third story, they sing for Chance the rapper.
Toch UQ: Kenneth Whalum.His albums hard. Some producers from here. There’s a producer called Komikamo and an artist called Taite Imogen.

Wrapping up…some words of advice?  

Toch UQ: If you love it keep doing it. Forget about the scene, if the scene don’t want you someone else will.
Timi B: The Internet will! That’s another thing we suffer from in this country, everyone’s tryna be part of a scene.You make music are you gonna be an afrobeats kinda guy, are you gonna be rap UK kina guy. You know everyone feels like have to be part of a scene. There’s not many people like us who will just say f it I’m gonna make what I like.

Goals for 2018 and beyond? 

Toch UQ: My goal is to grow spiritually and I dunno, I don’t really have goals I can’t even lie. I just wanna keep having fun making music and I just preserve and protect my energy. I feel like energy is important. That’s really what I do every day, just make music because it makes me feel good. And I don’t wanna expect too much from anything.
Timi B: Never expect anything. But I will say we wanna finish the trilogy. We’re tryna do a 3 piece trilogy for this. That’s a goal.
Toch UQ: Yeah, more shows
Timi B: Yeah but I’m not expecting too much just keep making music and you know keep happy.
Toch UQ: Life’s kinda simple
Timi B: You just gotta make life simple, just keep a smile on your face and do what you love.  

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