Right guys. Guys? Hello? Hi? If we could just get all the artists sitting over there? Guys?" I am standing on a chair in the middle of the Guardian canteen, shouting like an idiot, and being ignored. Today feels more like organising a school trip than conducting interviews with seven of the brightest stars in
But they don't want to talk about that right now. Actually, they don't want to talk to me at all. They're busy planning which of their Ibiza dates overlap and telling each other which of their tracks they "pump at the gym". Jess and Sinead quickly fall back to their shared north
Turns out this lot are already thick as thieves. MNEK has sung on tracks for
Gorgon City; Gorgon City produced the new single
on Rudimental's Baby with - congratulations if you're still following - MNEK.
"How did we become mates? First and foremost, we've all partied with each other," explains Matt from Gorgon City. "I partied with MNEK before we worked together. Oh, and Sinead. And Jess, actually. The party always comes first."
"I was with Gorgon City in Ibiza last year," recalls Jess. "It was. . . an eye-opener. Very intense. I just remember getting to the airport on the last day and thinking: 'Kill me!'"
They all hoot with laughter. "It's important for that to happen, though," says Matt. "Because when you do get in the studio together there's no awkwardness,
you can feel comfortable straight away."
Sinead agrees: "I know it sounds like we're
being mad cheesy but everyone's just so safe. It's
not like we get to a festival and someone's like, 'Eugh, can't believe she's here.' Everyone wants everyone to do well."
It might seem as if these young guns are constantly on the lash, but the upheaval they've wreaked in the British charts over the past year should not be underestimated. With so many micro-scenes and hyperbole-flanked new bands coming through, it's easy to miss such a massive shift in popular music. Two years ago, the
Then in 2013, something unexpected happened.
Need U's success was followed by albums from Rudimental and Disclosure, artists who blurred the roles of producer and live band while allowing for a constant carousel of guest vocalists. For the first time, pop had the equivalent of an apprenticeship programme, a space for young singers to learn on
the job, without the risk and investment of a full-blown solo career.
While all this was going on, technology was finally infiltrating the vinyl-reliant world of underground dance music.
This perfect storm of stylistic evolution, new opportunities and technological grease meant that
by spring 2014, the majority of the songs in the top 5
on any given week were club-influenced tracks by previously unfamiliar producers and vocalists.
What's so unusual about this new pop guard is that no one really knows who they are.
I'm completely hidden away," she says. "But I like the fact that I can come into my own without people knowing who I am; I can reinvent myself when I
do my own stuff."
With the help of our photographer and a gaggle of different publicists, we manage to herd everyone into the photostudio. Watching them pose together, their anonymity is striking. Here are the dominating artists of the moment: young, good-looking, cool. Yet for many of them, this is one of their first proper photoshoots. The combination of being both novices and mates means keeping a straight face for the camera isn't easy. Sinead keeps making Jess laugh so hard that she cries, which ruins her makeup.
It's in one of these breaks that I speak to Secondcity. He's the newest member of the club, scoring a No 1 just two weeks ago, though he's not totally convinced he's part of the gang. "Look, don't make me sound too much like I'm part of all this," he pleads. "I want people to know that
I'm still an underground artist."
Secondcity is another example of how much things have changed in the charts over the last six months. A student producer and DJ, he was making tunes to play out in clubs around
Secondcity touches on some of the frictions that are emerging from this new structure. For the majority of these artists, making pop-house music is a sideline. Jess and Sinead are working on solo records that have more of a soul and R&B sound; MNEK writes and produces for other pop stars including Kylie and Little Mix, and is readying his own album of quirky electro-funk for release later in the year; Gorgon City have been working on an album "that's timeless, not just a 2014 house record"; and
We're all sitting round a table now, and there's a hint of anxiety at what's in store.
"It's not always that easy for an artist," says Jess. "My album that I'm creating hasn't got a housey vibe." She says she feels there's no guarantee that people who've liked her collaborations will be interested in her solo material. Other artists are
also concerned about forging a consistent identity: "I'm constantly debating about whether I'm a cool dance kid or whether I'm just MNEK," says the singer-producer, on his multiple musical roles. There are other issues, too, with their respective labels vying for top billing on these collaborative singles. That, suggest Gorgon City, is the one thing they
need to be careful of - label politics getting in the way of making music.
"You get a lot of pressure, all anyone's asking me now is what's
the next hit. I'm like pffff. . . fuck knows," says Secondcity.
"Everyone round this table has
that same pressure, they don't want to be known as just a pop-house act," adds Kai of Gorgon City.
There's a certain egalitarian nature to what's going on, in that artists can find huge success without a lot of label money and a team of stylists behind them. All they need is a song that connects. For the first time in a generation, the top of the charts is dominated by young inventive artists: not a reflection of talent shows and celebrity, but a law unto themselves. Whether it's this particular bunch
of artists who continue to set the agenda, or whether there's a constant rotation of new talent,
"I'll be honest," says Duke, "if Disclosure hadn't come along, I wouldn't have been able to have my hit. If I hadn't come along, maybe
Gorgon City's Here For You is out on Mon
BRITISH HOUSE MAFIA: WHO'S NEXT?
YouTube channel Eton Messy's house band: stripped-back, squelchy house no doubt coming to a Corona-catered garden party near you this summer.
* NO ARTIFICIAL COLOURS
is lifted by a booming old-school rave vocal.
A former Voice contestant whose striking vocal on new
SIX STEPS TO
DISCLOSURE FEAT ALUNAGEORGE
DUKE DUMONT FEAT A*M*E
NEED U (100%)
GORGON CITY FEAT MNEK
READY FOR YOUR LOVE
ROUTE 94 FEAT JESS GLYNNE
I WANNA FEEL
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