CamelPhat are all about building bridges. The well-travelled Liverpool dance duo have been trying to bring the electrokids and the indie faithful together for a big old rave ever since they assisted Jake Bugg‘s surprising pivot to Creamfields-friendly house sounds with last year’s collaborative single ‘Be Someone’.
Now Dave Whelan and Mike Di Scala have taken things up a notch, recruiting Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis and Kasabian‘s Serge Pizzorno for the forthcoming debut CamelPhat album, which is due out in the summer.
NME caught up with Whelan and Di Scala to talk new music, fresh collaborations and why you shouldn’t mistake them for Liverpool FC fans.
2020 marks 10 years since your first release as CamelPhat — has the past decade flown by?
David Whelan: “10 years! I can’t actually believe it, to be honest with you. It’s been blood, sweat and tears. We still feel like it could all end tomorrow, so we’re still in the studio every day hoping we can make a big record in case it all goes tits-up.”
But given how far you’ve come, surely you can draw some confidence from your success?
DW: “People tell us we are [successful], yeah. But we’re still hungry to make new music and push boundaries, and put on the best gigs that we possibly can. Yet we always seem to have this self-doubt: we seem to doubt each other quite a lot.”
Mike Di Scala: “Probably a good thing, really.”
Your latest big radio hit was the Jem Cooke-featuring ‘Rabbit Hole’…
DW: “It was a pleasure to work with Jem once again. We weren’t sure if the sound of the song was a little bit too safe in terms of what we’ve been doing. But the reaction we’ve got from, like, really cool DJs within our world, they’ve said it’s one of our best tracks that they’ve heard. I guess everyone’s got an opinion on music, and that’s the beauty of it.”
MDS: “It’s got a vibe, and it’s quite haunting. We’re trying to be a little bit dark and not too pop. It ticked the boxes for both worlds.”
The video for ‘Rabbit Hole’ is quite surreal.
DW: “Every single video that we seem to put forward is always just on the darker side: there’s a bit of intrigue there that isn’t so bubblegum and pop, shall we say. We grew up on Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk music videos so, for us as dance producers and artists, it’s always important to have that artistry element in a video so that there’s more going on than just having some dancers, which is so obvious and cliché.”
This Saturday [January 25] you’re playing a day set followed by a night set at two Shoreditch venues — what’s the thinking behind that?
DW: “We sold out Brixton Academy back in October, which was such an amazing experience for us as DJs. It was our first proper British headline show: we put a lot of our own money into the production and it paid off, it was unbelievable.”
MDS: “We felt like artists rather than DJs.”
DW: “The first gig of 2020 we got offered was London, but after Brixton we just wanted it to be a lot more intimate: take it back to the underground, to the club. That’s what we love and what we know. So we’ve got two sessions: one’s in the day at XOYO in Shoreditch, and then we cross over the road to go to Village Underground for the night session. It’ll be two completely different styles of live set, but we’ve got extended sets so we’ll be doing four hours at each show. It just gives us a chance to showcase what we’re capable of. We’ve been in this game for a long time now, so with our vinyl and our music knowledge, it should be two completely different but unbelievable shows.”
Have you got any surprises planned for either of those sets?
DW: “So we’ve got an album coming that’s about 14 records long — although we’ve made 27 tracks now! So this is a really good opportunity to road-test those album tracks and make up our own minds to see what’s going to make up the final 14. So there’s going to be a lot of new music, for sure.”
Does that mean that the debut CamelPhat album is finally set to arrive this year?
DW: “Yeah, hopefully it’ll be coming out around June. We want it to be either pre-summer or bang-on summer, just to set us up for our Ibiza sets and the festivals. We’ve got a lot of different BPMs on there — it’s not all dance music. There’s 90 BPM records, there’s breakbeat records, and then obviously we have our club bangers as well. But we just wanted to do something a little bit different.”
How did the Jake Bugg collaboration come about?
DW: “I say it every time, but Jake is just so talented: music is just flowing through his veins. He can turn his hand to anything — he just needs to be put with the right people and it can be shaped into however you want it to go, like the programming of a record. He is unbelievably talented.”
MDS: “And we were fans of his, anyway.”
DW: “He was on our label, so it was quite easy to collaborate with him. ‘Be Someone’ came together so easily, and so it became the first track to be released from the album — ‘Rabbit Hole’ being the second. So that’s two of the 14 album tracks down. And, funnily enough, [electronic producer] Elderbrook has just marched into the studio we’re in — and he’s who we’re going to be working with next!”
And you’ve been working with Yannis from Foals…
DW: “We worked with him a couple of weeks ago, and we’re back in the studio with him tomorrow, actually. There’s a couple of exciting bits there that will potentially make the cut for the album. Yannis is another talented guy we’re working with. It’s very indie, to say the least!”
Have you got any more collaborations in the pipeline?
DW: “We’ve just finished a session with Serge from Kasabian. There’s also one huge name, possibly two, that we can’t disclose at the moment, but we’re going to be in with them in the studio in a couple of days time. That’s next-level, that. If we get it right, it’ll get a lot of people talking, put it that way.”
Any other dream names that you’d like to get in the studio with?
DW: “Lana Del Rey is an artist we’ve always wanted to work with, I’ve always liked that LA vibe that comes out of her. Florence + The Machine is another one we’ve mentioned. Maybe one of the Gallagher brothers? That would be interesting.”
What else has got you excited for 2020?
DW: “A residency in Ibiza: we can’t disclose where, but other than signing the contract it’s pretty much there now. we’ll be there every week, mid-week, and it’ll be at one of the biggest venues on the island. We’ll be a headline act, and it’s putting us up there with the likes of Calvin Harris and David Guetta. It’s a bit daunting thinking about it, but that’s where it’s all going at the moment! So we have to just embrace it.”
And finally, you’re both from Liverpool — some people might presume that you’re Liverpool fans…
DW: “Never ever.”
MDS: “We’re Evertonians.”
Nobody Fucks it up quite like Everton Football Club. It’s become an art.
— CAMELPHAT (@CamelPhat) January 21, 2020
DW: “You can put it in block capitals that WE’RE EVERTONIANS. There are no Liverpool fans in Liverpool. We’ll make sure that when we headline Creamfields this year we’re both wearing big Everton jerseys — home and away!”
MDS: “Full-kit wankers!”
CamelPhat play London’s XOYO and Village Underground on January 25.