Promising Essex-based outfit Courts continue to go from strength-to-strength. With a new single due to drop imminently and racking up headline shows across the UK, the band recently headed across the channel to Paris for their first overseas gig – a showcase hosted by trendy French label Kitsuné.
Tonight the boys are back on home turf, gearing up for another headline set at The Victoria in Dalston.
GIGsoup caught up with drummer Joe and bassist Dan before the show.
It’s been another big year for Courts. You’ve headlined KOKO Camden, played Secret Garden Party and also your first European show over in Paris…What has been the highlight of 2016 for you?
Joe: For me, it’s getting new music out there. The response the project’s been getting has been sick. It just makes us hungrier, it makes us want to keep grafting and pushing on. And of course, playing our first show across the water was an experience. French crowds are sick. The place was rammed!
Dan: Same as Joe really, some of the press we’ve had has been unreal. Everyone from NME to The Guardian has had something to say – it’s nice to get a sort of confirmation that what you’ve been doing is resonating with not just the press, but the people as well. The amount of new faces singing all the words at gigs is nice to see as well. KOKO was special and so was the sold-out gig we did at Chinnerys in Southend back in May. There’s too much to mention really.
Your song Part Of has also just made the in-game soundtrack on Forza Horizon 3, alongside the likes of Jurassic 5, Beastie Boys, Run DMC. That’s huge news. How did that come about?
Joe: It was a mad one really! Someone from Microsoft reached out and said they’d like to use the track for an in-game soundtrack. They didn’t say what it was at first but we had a look at what they were putting out and then sussed it. It’s mad that it’s made it to that level though – our music’s on a video game…weird.
You recently dropped a demo for 24 hours and then took it down. What was the thinking behind that? Is this a teaser to the next single?
Dan: We just wanted to give people something to listen to. It’s been a while since our last release so our manager suggested it. But actually no, that ain’t the next single…that’s coming soon.
Joe: We can’t say much more than that either, people just need to keep it locked for details.
Throwing curveballs! You guys are often described as ‘genre-defying’ or ‘genre-fusing’. Is that something you consciously set out to do?
Dan: Not particularly mate. We’re out of the London bubble so maybe it’s easier to do that when you’re away from the influence of what others are doing. We’re in our own world, locked up in an old bunker on the A127. We call it our studio but it’s basically a box with some foam on the walls. Everything we do comes from there.
Joe: We’ve been compared to a lot of different artists, but it’s hard for us to answer really. We don’t know how to describe it, it’s just what comes out. It’s something that’s developed naturally over the years, it was never anything we decided on doing or going for.
I guess describing Courts music in three words would be quite difficult then…
Dan: It’s honestly really difficult!
Joe: Funk, disco, hip-hop!? They’re genres…people will have to listen for themselves and decide.
Every song you boys put out seems to unearth another musical influence. When it comes to writing the tracks, what’s the creative process. Is it a collective effort?
Joe: When it’s down to writing, normally Reece and Chris come up with the bones with demos and then we’ll jam it out as a band, adding bits here and there until we feel like it’s finished. Sometimes it’ll take one session, other times a month or longer. Depends on the vibe I guess.
Dan: The best tunes seem to write themselves though. When you feel that creative flow and everyone in the room is bopping to a new loop…it’s such a sick feeling.
You mentioned your studio back in Essex. I heard you boys built it yourselves…
Dan: (Laughs) Not the brickwork and that. I found it about 5 years ago. Some industrial estate had units for rent. I looked at one and turns out it was an old grow (weed factory) so was already insulated inside…too good to be true. We’re lucky to have it really.
Joe: It’s basically a unit on an industrial estate surrounded by geezers doing up old Escorts. We’ve kitted it out to be what we need it to be and it works for us. I think having your own space to develop is important.
Gritty! You’re known as a five-piece. At recent gigs, there have been six of you on stage. What’s that about?
Joe: Well, we’ve had our mate Jack playing percussion for us at gigs since May.
Dan: Yeah he’s been coming studio for a couple years, just chilling and helping us out with some of the more visual aspects of the band. He started mucking about with the tambourine while we were playing and so we asked if we wanted to play live.
Joe: It’s sick. It’s added another layer to the live sound. He’s doing the percussion bits on the recordings for us that we couldn’t otherwise do. It’s cool being a drummer and having that compliment what I’m doing.
So remind us, who in the band plays what?
Dan: We’ve got Chris who sings, spits and plays guitar. Then there’s me on bass, my two brothers Reece and Luke also on guitar. Reece does the keyboards as well. And then obviously Joe on drums and Jack playing percussion live.
It makes for a tight outfit! I know you’re big fans, so I’ve got to ask. What did you make of Skepta’s unexpected Mercury Prize win last month? And how important do you think it is for contemporary music?
Joe: I think it’s an important moment for grime and that whole scene, they’ve all been working at it for long, so for it to be finally recognised and rewarded is nice to see. We all knew Skepta was gonna go home with it.
Dan: I think for music as a whole it’s really helped too. That crossover culture…there’s no set dress code or music you should or shouldn’t listen to these days. The internet has done that. It helps us really where we have so many influences coming through in our music. Chris’ vocals have a grime feel on some tracks, he listens to a lot so that influence comes though. I suppose grime being recognised will just eventually help our music to be more accepted by the mainstream I guess.
Are there any other particular artists you are rating right now?
Dan: We all love Tame Impala. Kevin Parker is a genius.
Joe: Anderson Paak…Niki & The Dove.
Dan: I’m really into The War On Drugs. Yung Lean as well (Laughs).
Dan: Love-hate! You either get it or you don’t.
Having been gigging for some time now, what advice would you give to emerging artists?
Joe: Don’t get disheartened playing to a couple of people and the soundman…or no one…it happens. It’s all practice. Make your mistakes playing to no one and you’ll rip it playing to everyone.
Dan: Yeah just keep at it. This projects been on the go for 7 years. We didn’t release anything until 2011, and we didn’t get any notable recognition until summer last year. We’ve only just recently started to feel like a proper band with a shot at doing this properly. It takes time, especially if you want to do something different. Don’t sell yourself the idea of a major label coming along and offering you a million quid after releasing one track, it just doesn’t really happen. And make sure credibility is at the heart of everything you do, if it doesn’t feel real people will know. You can spot a fake a mile off.
Joe: The years of hard work are worth it anyway. It makes you appreciate it all much more when good things do start happening. Developing a DIY ethic has been key to what we do now as well. Just work hard and the rest will follow.
I guess it’s hard trying to juggle getting songs nailed down in the studio and still getting the exposure that comes with gigging?
Joe: Yeah definitely, especially when you’re all still working full time to earn your keep. It’s a struggle.
Dan: We just have to do evenings and weekends around the 9 to 5 grind. We’re always tired. The state of music at the minute, its standard having another main form of income and doing the music on the side. 95% of musicians are doing the same thing…blows my mind.
You guys better be off to prepare. When it comes to live shows, are there any pre-gig rituals? You all seem pretty chilled and content just to mingle with the punters.
Joe: Nah not really, we just watch the other bands and chill in the bar, grab some food.
Dan: Yeah we ain’t doing tequila slammers before or anything!
Just one final question – because it’s one a lot of your fans are bound to be asking. When can we expect the debut LP?!
Dan: We’re hoping next year at some point.
Joe: Everyone just sit tight, its coming!