On quite possibly the defining day of his musical career to date, Jordan Adetunji appears calm and composed. Speaking to NME in the lobby of a sleek and tranquil Belfast hotel, the alt-pop artist takes a quick peek at his phone to look at the Spotify stats for his vibrant debut mixtape ‘Rock ‘N’ Rave’, released the very same day. Yet he is soon interrupted by a flurry of messages from friends, all hoping to squirm their way onto the guestlist for the city’s hottest Friday night ticket.
Barely an hour after our conversation, Adetunji will go on to headline a BBC Introducing showcase at the iconic Limelight, a rite of passage on the Belfast gig ladder. He brings real charisma to the stage, debuting tracks from ‘Rock ‘N’ Rave’ which see his dynamic vocal delivery burst into life. Immediately after his set, Snow Patrol – arguably the city’s most successful act of all-time – will perform a surprise set to the delight of an ecstatic home crowd, who scream every last word to the inevitably emotional ‘Chasing Cars’. Budding fans of Adetunji themselves, it was a personal request from Gary Lightbody and co. to join the bill alongside newbies Lucy Gaffney, Reevah and Cbakl, making for a unique hometown show: Northern Ireland’s musical past, present and future.
Yet Adetunji is no stranger to famous fans. Last year, he signed with RCA Records [Tems, Doja Cat] via the personal recommendation of Oli Sykes; the Bring Me The Horizon frontman has become a champion for new music in recent years, having also supported the careers of Cassyette, Alice Longyu Gao and Daine. Donning a green and black Drop Dead sweatshirt – from Sykes’ own clothing brand – as we talk, Adetunji explains how the pair have connected via DM, but are still keen to meet IRL.
There are parallels that can be drawn between both artists’ mindsets. Just as Sykes has brought flourishes of electronica and apocalyptic pop into metal, Adetunji’s own creativity knows no bounds. On ‘Rock ‘N’ Rave’, he incorporates a whole range of sounds from different phases of his life, be it post-punk, Afrobeats or math-rock. His sound hinges on a striking, pitched-up vocal delivery, reminiscent of the likes of Glaive and Ryan Hall.
As our conversation wraps up, it’ll soon be party time for Adetunji, who becomes increasingly energetic ahead of the wild night that’s about to ensue. “Hit as many pubs as you can,” Adetunji tells us, naming Laveries – the location of his official afterparty – as an essential Friday night stop in Belfast. It’s the city where Adetunji cut his teeth: as a teenager, partygoer, and now an artist.
NME: What’s the significance of tonight’s show at the Limelight for you?
“It’s crazy. I saw Dave there when I was at uni. The show was actually sold out and I messaged him on Twitter – and I’ll never forget it – he said to me, ‘Bro, I’ll put you on the guestlist.’ He replied! I think that was my first time in the Limelight. I’ve seen J Hus in there too.
“As well, I’d go to a lot of clubs like Alibi, there’s a lot of great places around here. I spent a lot of time in the city centre near Victoria Square. When I was younger we all used to hang out there.”
Are you looking forward to debuting the tracks live tonight?
“The tape live is sounding crazy from rehearsals, I can’t wait to actually play it and have people hear it. I’ve been rehearsing in Shepherd’s Bush, me and the boys were just rehearsing, cracking down, taking each track step by step. The drummer is doing samples to live drums, it’s crazy.
“We shrunk [the band] down actually, ‘cause normally we use like five people. With the live drummer, we’ve got sample pads – it’s very electronic. It’s so hard trying to perform hyperpop [vocals] live!
“I will be trying to get a base in London – just so I can work on the next music in the future. I’m still in Belfast so I just fly over every few weeks. It’s getting long!”
You mention wanting to move to London. Do you feel you’ve outgrown what you can create here in Belfast?
“I actually lived in London till I was about ten years old… my mum wanted to move to Belfast. My mum came here for an event, she saw the city and said she wanted to move here. It’s a little more quiet. London can be hectic, she just wanted to move from the hecticness of London – ‘cause we lived in Croydon.
“There’s great producers here, there’s great studios here – I still make music in my bedroom. A lot of the stuff in the tape is from my bedroom. But now, I think it’d just make more sense [to be in London].”
Congratulations on the release of your mixtape. How did it come together?
“The whole thing was a long process. We tried to be as creative as we wanted beats-wise…the first track I kind of took it down a bit to show a bit of vocals. It was a lot of experimental work, I felt like a scientist.”
‘Rock ‘N’ Rave’ has a really eclectic mix of genres on it…
“‘Rock ‘N’ Rave’ is very much an experience of what I was living at that time of my life. A lot of partying, a lot of going out. I was gonna call it ‘Hyperclub’ originally, but I changed it because I love rock music so much, it’s a big part of me. I love house music, dance music and it’s just perfect.”
When did all these different types of music come into your life?
“I played a lot of video games. I would just like the soundtrack, and they don’t really have a specific genre they always focus on. FIFA had a lot of indie tracks on it. Need for Speed: Underground 2 had this song by Static-X called ‘The Only’ – and that was heavy. And then playing Fight Night, it was hip-hop stuff like Akon. It’s all a creative experience. You need the music to set the scene for you.
“Afrobeats as well, that’s ‘cause of my Nigerian background. And then I went deep into post-punk around 2020, when I was watching a lot of artist biopics. I came across Ian Curtis from Joy Division and that’s where I really delved into it. The energy back then was just so raw. It kind of reminded me of new-school hip-hop. Everyone was hating on it back then, but now it’s seen as just music.”
How did you go about translating these sounds onto the mixtape?
“The first song [‘Inaugural Episode’], it’s like the beginning of a journey. It’s so emotional, there’s strings in it, and then it goes into madness. So that’s how it sounds – very distorted, everything sounds crazy, almost a mess. That’s how I wanted it to sound.
“You can hear on the record, I’m flexing a lot – ‘cause that’s how I was feeling, mentally. I’m outside, I’m that guy. Partying, I’m talking about what we’re doing, I’m going to Paris, I was really living back then, if you know what I mean.”
Oli Sykes is a big fan of yours. What does his support mean to you?
“We still DM [each other]. I’m even wearing his brand right now! He’s such a creative guy and he just shows me love. He’s a big influence; breaking the rules and not sticking to one thing all the time. He’ll collaborate with anybody and he’s so tapped into the internet. That’s one thing I’m so passionate about. I love TikTok, seeing new sounds and things that haven’t been there before. I like to do things that I think no one else is doing.”
Jordan Adetunji’s ‘Rock ‘N’ Rave’ EP is out now via RCA Records