Meet: Hempolics Grippa Laybourne interview, plus new video for Get it Right

Ahead of the release of their sophomore album Kiss, Cuddle & Torture: Volume 2, out on July 3rd on their own label Zee Zee Records via Kartel Group Music, we’ve already loved the new single from Hempolics Gotta Thing, and the band have followed it up with a new video for ‘Get it Right‘, filmed in lockdown. If you can find a warmer, catchier Summer song then you’re better than us.

Check it out here

The London based band mix up reggae, trip-hop, dub, indie, funk, in fact just about everything as long as it makes sense to them. So far it has worked well, with their much admired debut album Kiss, Cuddle & Torture: Volume 1’ had three playlisted singles on 6Music, and support across blogs and airwaves, including from the legendary David Rodigan.

With all this going on we caught up with the bands Grippa Laybourne to find out everything Hempolics.

 Difficult times, how has this crisis affected Hempolics? all safe and well? Any message to your fans?

Yes man, we are all safe and well thanks. It’t has been difficult times for the whole world. For us the timing of all this could’ve been better for sure. Lots of show’s, a tour and festivals were booked in to promote our new album. So far we know the Toots (their last UK tour) dates we had booked supporting them this month has been moved to May next year which is good. Lets hope we can all get back to it sooner rather than much later.

Have you been able to keep in touch with each other, or even do anything creative since we went into lockdown?

Yes, we have a bit. I see Nubiya still as she lives round the corner and I’ve been helping her learn Logic so she can do some recording at home. I’ve been on it, sending instrumentals to Dandelion and his brother Harry to record at their yards on their laptops. We have actually got a few cover versions recorded to come out on ZeeZee Records.

We done a version of Toots and the Maytals “Night & Day” which is ready and also a Frightnrs version of  “Nothing More to Say” with horns. Just waiting for Harry to sing and send me that so I can finish it. We also done a great Sade Reggae style track with a great bass line and Shuggie Ottis’ “Aht Uh Mi Hed”. So lots to release after the album drops.

Got a good track ready we’ve finished with my man Ras Demo too. Really missing being able to have the gang in the studio. We wanna be writing and would love to be practicing the new songs for the live setup. We had like one try in rehearsal at the new tracks from the next album.         

Tell us a bit about Hempolics? How did you get together?

The Hempolics is a gang. The name of the band is inspired by 50’s gang names and as soon as I came up with the name the whole concept started flowing straight off. I came up with the idea of doing albums – Kiss, Cuddle & Torture volumes 1 to 3 which was a playground game at school.

It was a dream to do the band but I couldn’t escape being an engineer for a long time because I had a kid and needed the cash. There wasn’t the time but it was always there in my mind to do it. Eventually I went for it and decided to do my thing.

It started very organic and slow to get the band together before we even got good and found our sound. Engineering brought loads of artists to my attention and I grabbed the ones I wanted. The band is all friends and I get them doing things differently to what they are used to doing, out of their comfort zone. We’ve got so many influences between us. I loved Jamaican / British Jamaican music since I was 8.

How would you describe the Hempolics sound – has it evolved over the time you’ve been together. ?

Our singer Nubiya described our sound best – ‘It’s like the 60’s had a threesome with the 70’s and 90’s and she doesn’t know who the father is.’

The Hempolics sound has evolved, yes. We didn’t have as good a studio or a live room when we first started off. It was a lot of programming beats, but trying to make it real.  Now we got a setup to record drums, bass, guitars and well, full band all at once now.

We didn’t have that before and now we get to try songs out live before we record them. We see, first of all, if they are working. Before I would record it in the studio with the band with some of the programmed stuff from the demo say.

It’s definitely maturing in sound, we’re getting better and better. We’d be in trouble if we didn’t! I certainly think the new album is better than the first album. We have grown up more in style and sound.

 You mentioned the new album coming out Kiss, Cuddle and Torture – Tell us a bit more about that?

It was all just recorded in our little studio South Street Studios in South London. It is another 12 songs from us, out on 3rd of July, on double vinyl. Can’t wait!

I don’t know, we just do what we want. I try not to put any sort of pressure on what type of song it is or should be. We just make our songs. One song might be more Hiphop or Reggae, another a bit more Dance or Indie vibes. Depends. We want to have different style songs but it’s always got the Hempolics sound. That leftfield British mashup. With all our influences of genres we love.

 How do Hempolics write? Again, has that evolved over time? Or is every track different? 

Yes, like everything it evolves. I used to program it up a lot and add real instruments. The last track on the new  album is “The Enemy” – we had Dubmatix in the studio playing bass and keys with us on that song. We wrote it in the live room with everything setup. Got the vibes down for the basic music and then Nubiya came in and wrote the lyrics in the studio. But it’s not done that way all the time. Depends on loads of things.

Play On, another song on the new album was a writing session with Lorenzo (Bass), Craig (Drums) and Leon (Guitar) and me .We did the music together. Nubiya wrote a song, then I arranged it and came up with the “Play On” line in the song.

I quite like having the kitchen sink in the songs, then after I’ve recorded and got loads of sounds in then I might strip it all out and start again with what is used.

We got two of our friends Lucas & Rory from Chainska Brassika who live near me. South London is da best! So i’m getting them on more and more tracks. Alto sax and trombone. Top lads as well. Good friends. We are all pretty much good friends in the band.       

We really like Gotta Thing that came out recently – can you tell us about that in particular?

Yes, I love that track too. Corey (Cojack) is so good. He’s the son of a preacher – Mam and bloody Dad, both his parents! To me you can hear it in his proper lyrics and performance. He’s a gentle giant, about 6ft 7inches. We are gonna do 5-6 tracks together and then pick the best 4 to go on Vol 3 with him. Got one of them finished already called “Hempolics Rock” which is definitely going to show up on Vol 3.

“Gotta Thing” is our party track for me.You put that on and it should be all over. Well we will see after lock down. Can’t wait to hear that out and about. It’s one of the fastest tracks we have done at 131Bpm. I wanted to do a half time sort of Reggae fat thing and drop the vocal in and wait till you drop the beat on this one. It just worked that way. It’s all played with the band, with some programmed stuff. Love the mash up madness and that you don’t think it’s gonna be a beat like that coming in. You think it’s going to be Reggae time at  65.5bpm until the beat drops. Bass, guitars, keys, drums and percussion was all programmed on this one.

You mentioned Cojack guesting on that track – can you tell us how that collaboration came about?

I have known him a long time now. He was a professional basketball player, who came over to UK from Florida,Miami and played over here for years. Lucky for me one of his places he played was with the Middlesborough Mowhawks .That’s the town I was brought up in. Anyhow, my pal who made House music – Karl – was doing some House with him round his house after meeting him at a game or something, and that’s how we met basically. Cojack. He’s so sound, love the dude. Legend. He’s writing now on lock down to some new ideas we are trying.

Don’t forget he’s also on a track called “Armed & Dangerous” on Vol 1. Gonna start getting him on stage with us soon. He’s got 4 songs already we could do live.

Whats the best thing about being in Hempolics? Are you living the dream? Is there a bad side to it – loads of motorway food, and trying to sleep on tour buses/vans?

Touring, bad side, Hell yes! But when you’re on stage and the vibes all right with band and audience it’s all fucking worth it. It’s great really, on so many levels. Tough with money, none of us in the band have rich family or parents. Most of us live in London with rip off rent, travel and all that. It’s so hard to break an independent band. It takes time, building it slowly up. Corona virus has turned what was difficult anyway into a nightmare – to be a musician or songwriter without having some day job or owt.

Difficult to answer but whats next for Hempolics?

Plough on! Crack on with the release of Vol 2. We got a few more singles with videos dropping. Lots of remixes from tracks off the new album coming. Dubmatix, Jstar, Manasseh, Pnut and more.

We’ll get on with Vol 3 and a Dub album after that using favs tracks off Vol 1,2 & 3 and proper make each one class as fuck. Plus wanna get to America for sure and do shows out there soon. Try to get next year all solid too. Cos this year is completely fucked up. Release these covers and just get lots of music out there really

Kiss, Cuddle & Torture: Volume 2’, is out on 3rdJuly 2020, as a CD, 2LP and limited edition coloured 2LP, through their own record label Zee Zee Records via Kartel Music Group.

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