Last week marked the release of a new EP from a pair of unsung heroes from Bristol, an electronic duo who have been contributing wholeheartedly to the greater good of the electronic music community for over fifteen years. They are EM & STAV, two producers and dj's who have championed and helped to evolve the mutated bass inspired sounds of Bristol with promise and might.
Their latest release comes on Midland's record label InterGraded and features a collection of forward thinking, heads down, electronic excursions which blur the lines between the stereotypical Bristol bass sound and that of IDM and electro. It's an enchanting release which follows on from some tough times for the pair and acts as a powerful reminder to their role and purpose within the wider dance music community.
We invited them to talk about their new EP.
Stav to Em:
1. How's life in lockdown been for you?
I’m conscious that everyone is feeling the impact of what is going on in the world right now, on so many levels and switch between feeling very grateful that we are ok to huge amounts of despair and worry for people. It’s a crazy time. Over-all I am trying to stay positive, being grateful each day and meditating. We’ve got a nice routine and space at home and have enjoyed the simple stuff, like having a regular sleep pattern, getting back into running, and taking time to cook. Out of everything that is going on in the world right now my hope is that we all realise the true value of slowing down, and we learn to become kinder, more considerate human beings.
2. You are one of the DJ mentors behind Mix Nights, can you share more about the course?
Mixnights is a non-profit initiative working with women and female-identifying people in Bristol and beyond. It was established in 2016 by Saffron and Shanti Celeste and now co-run by Daisy Moon, Danielle and myself, alongside Saffron's Laura Lewis Paul and Lizzy Ellis. Our aim was to create a DJ course to help develop DJ skills in a safe, welcoming and encouraging environment. It started very informally, but it has evolved into an 8 week course structure which has fostered the DJ skills of over 200 womxn to date. This year we are looking to develop an online portal for Mixnights under the Saffron Records umbrella, which will be providing tools and opportunities for women & non-binary folks to connect, learn and grow in music.
3. What are you most excited about at the moment?
I'm excited to share our first EP release together which is coming out on InterGraded on 3rd July.
4. We’re releasing our debut EP together- can you explain how working together came about?
I’ve been djing for 17 years and producing on and off on my own alongside DJing for some of that time. My life and priorities changed massively when I discovered I had cancer and my health became my priority. I felt I needed to give my body a rest from many years of partying; I stopped drinking alcohol and adopted a healthier lifestyle. Production went on the back burner at this point as I didn't have the headspace for it. We decided to move to Bristol 6 years ago, and had a place of our own which had space to set up decks and some production equipment, which made it easier to focus. You were also making tunes at this point, and we both would share what we'd been working on. We’ve been together 11 years and been through alot. We were always excited to share tunes that we'd discovered and bounce production ideas off each other. Then one evening we came up with the idea that we should just start making music together and since then it’s felt like a natural progression. I’m really pleased with how this EP has come together. We wanted to create a journey feel with the EP which incorporates everything we’ve both loved through the years of djing.
5. What one tip would you give someone thinking about getting into production?
Having more time inside during lockdown meant we could work on more music, which I’m really grateful for and I think being consistent with it is the best tip. If you’re only producing when you feel like it, or on an infrequent basis it’s going to be hard to keep the level of inspiration and creativity needed. Working on it consistently is the key.
6. Favourite Dance floor?
Sunday night at Field Maneuvers.
7. Other than music, what do you love?
Plants! My 104 year old nan passed away 2 years ago, we were very close and she had amazing plant knowledge, we have some of her plants at home and on our balcony, including some succulents of hers that are over 100 years old. Our home is like a greenhouse and puts me in a happy place.
Em to Stav:
1. How do you dig for music?
I love buying records but I’d say it’s almost a 50/50 split between buying digital and vinyl at the moment. We tend to play new music on digital from artists or friends on our monthly NOODS radio show and always buy digital through Bandcamp. The Bandcamp Friday’s have been great to enable us to support artists directly with Bandcamps donations and waived fees. In Bristol we’re lucky to have Idle hands record shop on our doorstep run by our pal Chris Farrell, always well stocked and I’ll always pick up some great bits there, or other stores and on Discogs. I’ve kinda got a little routine where I dive into a rabbit hole on DC, scrolling through the back catalogue of artists and labels. I add loads of records I’m digging to my wantlist and every week I go through my wantlist, fine tuning my favs, I untag and tag again if I really like the record. This then places the record at the top of my wantlist, so when I'm in a shop or in the mood to buy a bunch of records, all the records at the beginning of my wantlist are the high grade ones I’m digging ha ha.
2. How do you prepare for a dj-set?
I’ll have a bunch of records that never leave the bag. I’ll spend an afternoon pulling out records, and listening to them, not necessarily mixing, just putting them on to see if I feel it could work. I’ll then split them up into piles of genres, have a mix to catch a vibe with each of them. Digital wise, tracks are tagged up into techno, breaks, acid, electro, all the usual genre tags and also energy levels etc. We’re always listening to each other's tunes at home and jam together when we’re cooking, so we have a general idea of what each other has been buying recently, we always seem to put a record on and the other will say ‘I have one that’ll go into that’ instantly.
3. We live in Bristol, how has it influenced you do you think?
Bristol is a super special city and moving here has definitely influenced both of our musical paths. Most of my education has come while living in Bristol, as a result of meeting many interesting, talented djs and producers that are established here and have now become friends. Everything is within walking distance in Bristol and it’s great to head to Idle Hands, attend wicked parties (pre lockdown) put on across the city, or have a mix with a mate in the week. The music community in Bristol has been welcoming and supportive, so it feels like a good place to be.
4. Can we expect the duo project to continue and what’s next for EM + STAV?
We’re trying not to overthink it, currently we’re both enjoying production and playing together. Communication is key with it, so we’re always checking in with each other to make sure the other person is happy and enjoying it. We’ve been working on loads of projects during lockdown, we have one track out on a Gottwood compilation, along with some cracking artists and a bunch of other tracks we’re happy with, so excited to see what happens with them.
5. What is your favourite piece of kit when making tunes?
No absolute favourites tbh, our go to piece of kit is the Digitakt.
6. Have you got any good recommendations for new music?
Keep your eye out for Keplrr, we’ve been chatting for a while and sharing tunes we’ve been making. His production is crazy good :).
7. What's your favourite old track that most people wouldn't of heard. A real 'who's this? I've never heard it before, gonna look it up' kind of thing..
It’s probs a track called ‘Warmth Reheated by Talismantra’ on a 10” with mad graphics on the vinyl. It’s a dreamy breaky house number, 20 years old but still sounds great. Sunshine or last tune vibes!
Buy the new EP HERE.
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