NME Radar: Breakout

Prospa: Leeds duo to soundtrack this summer’s hopeful return to raving

Channeling old skool dance energy, longtime friends Harvey and Gosha have been sharpening their weapons during lockdown and are ready to return to the decks

Each week in Breakout, we talk to the emerging stars blowing up right now – whether it be a huge viral moment, killer new track or an eye-popping video – these are the rising artists certain to dominate the near future

Put simply, only one word comes to mind when summarising Prospa’s music: huge. Little surprise that the London-based, Leeds-born duo – comprised of Harvey Blumler and Gosha Smith – take influence from the scene’s stadium greats like The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy and Daft Punk. And it’s hard to repackage nostalgia in a way that feels current, but Prospa manage it with ease; tapping into ‘90s house, rave and breakbeat while drawing from the current underground scene to find their own sweet spot. Their breakout success in the dance world came from 2019’s ‘Prayer’, tinkering with a killer vocal sample over acid-infused synth lines.

While clubs have been shut fully for almost a year now in the UK, that hasn’t stopped Prospa from releasing some of the raviest music of their career. Their 2020 single, ‘Ecstasy (Over & Over)’ – which boasts stylish ‘80s kick drums – was Prospa’s biggest moment yet: proof that a dancefloor wasn’t actually needed to secure a massive dance hit. It would have been nice, mind.

With their new EP  ‘Rave Science Vol.1’ out now on their label of the same name, NME caught up with the pair from their Shoreditch pad to unpick just how they keep putting out slamming tracks in the middle of a global pandemic.

What impact has the pandemic had on your work and processes?

Gosha: “It’s been very weird for us. ‘Ecstasy’ has been our best-performing track and we haven’t played it live to anyone, which is the maddest thing. The last few months we’ve been in quite a creative rut, which we boiled down to simply not having those outside experiences and not connecting with other musical peers.”

Harvey: “And just in general – not having fun. We haven’t seen anyone! And sometimes it’s the small things that you don’t realise inspire you to make good music. At the start of lockdown it was good because we were quite excessively touring, round America and Europe. When we got into the first lockdown, it was like, ‘Yeah, this is nice because we’ve got time to work on music’ and we appreciated that.”

Gosha: “We were very driven at the start of lockdown, kind of like a ‘every other producer is going to be inside for the next few months, we’ve gotta make sure we step up’ mindset, but it’s just dragged on a bit. We’ve been buying new bits of gear: we both started getting modular equipment, Eurorack modular, it’s the individual synth parts so you build your own synth essentially.”

How difficult has it been to be unable to perform in clubs, but also test out new material? 

Harvey: “We were talking to DJ Seinfeld about this last night and we were all saying that not playing for a year has clouded the whole process. Usually me and Gosha will have demos and we’ll play them out in the club, you see how it reacts and sometimes you’ll come back from a show, and you’ll just get a vibe off the crowd and you’ll be thinking, ‘This is what I want to make next,’ because you just have an inner feeling.”

Gosha: “When you’re in the clubs you get to really see in a broader sense what people are listening to. Like if you go to certain nights you see what type of music is starting to pop off in the more underground scenes and we’ll be like, ‘Cool, that’s where people’s heads are at. That informs our own musical choices and decisions to an extent.”

What do you make of DJs flying to various parts of the world to play ‘plague raves’ right now?

Gosha: “It’s just stupid, to be honest. Why would you risk people’s health? At the end of the day, we know that by gathering in those massive places – whether or not you agree with how the government dealt with it – it is simply going to risk people’s lives.”

Harvey: “Maybe people think that because they’re young it’s fine but you know, anyone could die. It’s just crazy to think that people would do that. It’s unfair for key workers, especially people working in hospitals, what they’ve had to go through and to make them have to endure going through that any longer, it’s fucked.”

Prospa
Credit: Quann

How do you feel about the government’s handling of the pandemic, particularly their response to the arts and music performers?

Gosha: “There was a lack of understanding of our industry from the offset and that’s definitely something to be criticised. Obviously we don’t know the ins and outs of dealing with a pandemic, but there is a general lack of understanding – not just of us as DJs, but everything to do with the arts. We see it from club closures to funding in schools, so it’s all across the board and people need to understand that arts and culture is what keeps everyone going. Everybody listens to music. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t listen to music!”

“It is one of the biggest, billion-dollar industries, so for it to be neglected right down to a local level and offering very little support is a massive mistake on their part. I hope in the future we and others can continue to show that we are just as valid as people as bankers.”

“Musicians are just as valid as people as bankers” – Gosha Smith

Although you make dance music now, has it always been that way?

Harvey: “Classical music is still 90% of what I listen to to this day – it’s so complex and there’s so many emotions to it – but rock was probably our biggest influence. When I was younger I had hair down to my arse! Nirvana is still my favourite band of all time, and I’m also into the older rock legends, like John Bonham was one of my biggest inspirations. Gosha was a jazz guy when he was younger – still is – and a metalhead, still is a super metalhead!”

Gosha: “I’ve loved jazz guitar since I was a young guy. I first started playing metal, and I still love it to this day, but I got bored of playing so fast on the guitar – because that was all I wanted to do, to play as fast as possible. My first production style was jazz hip-hop, because so much hip-hop is influenced by jazz music, but instead of sampling it I would try and make it myself.”

When did you first start getting into dancier stuff?

Harvey: “My dad took me to Glastonbury in 2009 and I was a rock guy back then, so we went to go see Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, all the legends. But then he took me to The Other Stage to see The Prodigy and it just changed my whole outlook on dance music. After that, it was a slow journey into becoming an electronic act and 10 years later we played at Glastonbury ourselves, so it was a really special, sentimental thing for me.”

You recently put out your DJ Seinfeld collaboration, ‘Sira’, as part of the ‘Rave Science Vol. 1’ EP. How did that come about?

Gosha: “We met him at the first-ever Printworks show we played and he was one of the first DJs in the industry that we’d really connected with. It was a really seamless process; he literally sent us an idea. I was on the first-ever cruise I’d been on with my family – proper, weird, random vibe – and I was trying to send Harvey bits of the melody over email, but I had a limit on the ship’s WiFi, so I was chopping it up in parts and attaching it to Yahoo emails.”

“We’re super happy to have it out, though and excited that June is on the horizon. Hoping everything goes well, maybe we’ll still get to see that track being played out in clubs and it won’t be another year before we’re free again.”

Have you been dreaming about your first show once clubs unlock their doors?

Harvey: “Definitely, I mean, there’s so much music we wanna play – the club EP that we put out and we’ve got loads more club music coming. A lot of the tracks that we have now, especially unreleased ones, are perfect for playing now.”

Gosha: “We’ve been doing this radio show, Rave Science FM, which is our own lockdown creation. That should be a great vessel for us to find so much good unknown electronic music from all across the spectrum that we can’t wait to play to crowds. ‘Cos it’ll go off!”

Prospa’s new EP ‘Rave Science Vol.1’ is out now