British duo Toyboy & Robin have been rising quickly with their unique blend of pop-structured deep house. They signed to dance powerhouse label, Big Beat, last year and have been cranking out high-profile remixes for the likes of Years & Years, Oliver Heldens, Seinabo Sey, and Crystal Fighters ever since. Their single “Jaded” marked their emergence onto the scene in 2013 garnering heavy radio play and rotation amongst their peers. Almost two years later and their Studio 7 EP, released earlier in June, feels like a definitive statement about their artistic voice and where they want to go from here. We caught up with Toyin (a.k.a. Toyboy) during the height of a hectic summer tour schedule.
How’s touring been so far this year?
Yeah, its been really good. This month in particular has been really hectic. We played San Francisco and Chicago over the weekend, we just got back to London but will be heading out to the US again in September. We’ve really been having fun so far.
Cool. Any particular moment stick out for you?
I think the thing that’s stuck out for us the most was this weekend in America, especially in San Francisco. Its one thing for people to say “Come here, play in the states” but it’s another thing entirely to experience it and feel the love. So I don’t think we’ll be forgetting that anytime soon.
How do you spend your downtime on the road?
It’s weird, but we become readers when we’re on the road. Whenever we go to different cities, I become like the ultimate tourist and get to spend a little time out there. Get to know what the city’s really like, we definitely try to see sites and get to know what the local people like to do. So that’s really how we spend our downtime, we really appreciate what we get to do. Not many people get to travel and see as many places as DJs do so we want to take full advantage of that.
Perhaps favorite is not the best word, but has there been a particular city that you really enjoyed recently?
Yeah, without using the word favorite, there’s been a couple that really stuck out. We really really really enjoyed San Francisco the other day. It was actually like we spent three days out there. We were at the Golden Gate Bridge taking in the history and stuff like that we went out to the Pier, we didn’t get the chance to go to Alcatraz which we really wanted to do. But that was really really fun, and before that we were in Paris about two weeks ago. Of course, we’ve both been to Paris a lot of times but when you go out as a teenager you don’t get a lot of the history of it, and it doesn’t always appeal to you. We’re trying to change that like the other day we were in Paris and we went to the Louvre and Arc de Triumph and places like that and just tried to learn a little bit more about French History, it’s so rich with all the revolutions and all that kind of stuff. So it was really great to see all of that and learn about History through the French point of view.
Could you give us a little background on Toyboy & Robin? How you guys came together and started producing?
So we actually met at university, I used to promote club nights and Rob used to DJ at that club. Just as a little bit of fun we started DJing together in our second year of university. I actually started producing before him and we just started making our own tunes. We didn’t really have any idea what we wanted to do, just thought it would be fun. So in 2012 we had a song called Sunshine” and that really took off. From there it all just started to spiral, we puts some more tracks online that got us involved with our manager and from there we started doing a few remixes for Lana del Rey, Example, and Ellie Goulding. We released a song called “Jaded” which really solidified things and that brings us up to where we are today. We signed with Big Beat towards the end of last year and released Studio 7 [EP] trying to build everything organically. We made a plan that we would let everything grow at its own pace. So we’re just plugging away at it, slowly but surely.
How did you guys settle on your “sound?” It’s a mixture of house, garage, and even a bit of pop.
Yeah, I don’t really know. We didn’t try to do that, I have some older brothers and they were really big on RnB and Hip Hop growing up, so that influenced us. Then off the back of that they moved in to garage, which we got exposed to through them. [Robin and I] loved all sorts of progressive house from deadmau5, EDX, and Steve Angello and then it became the aggressive electro that is EDM today, we were really big on that sound from five or six years ago. We never really go into dubstep so that’s why when you listen to our music it gets really quiet and can be very uplifting at times. Our music has that happy feel-good vibe, so I’d say that’s more of the pop element. But the thing about music is that we just wanna have fun and dance our butts off.
Of course we take our work very seriously but you don’t wanna take life too seriously and just enjoy the time you have. Some DJs get really serious about their production and intense about the art but we just wanna have fun making the music and sharing it with people who share our enthusiasm.
What is the studio process like for you two?
It’s always different to be honest. Its like some days we’ll head down to the studio and trying to bang something out and then other times we’ll be watching Family Guy and get an idea and start working on something. We don’t really have a set process, if one of us has an idea we’ll just go off of that and just run with it. We don’t always start with drums or a specific type of cheese, it’s always very different from the last time. When we work with writers or vocalists we’ll start from scratch and that way it’s more of a collaborative effort its kinda hard to predict how it’ll happen because we don’t have a set method. It usually starts with a lightbulb moment and we just run with it.
So what instigates that lightbulb moment?
It’s weird cause it can really be anything, like the smallest sound can set it off. I used Family Guy, only as an example, because it’s not always Family Guy but it could be something as ridiculous as watching a show like that and the smallest thing like a little melody idea pops out at you. It’s not always as easy as that, sometimes you have to sit down at the keyboard and play around with the keys or a piece of kit that we have and that sparks the idea but it can be anything. Like sometimes we’re in a building with twenty-five different studios and the sound from the studio next door leaks into yours and you’re not exactly sure what’s going on but you can hear little noises that can give you inspiration.
And what if the inspiration doesn’t hit? How do you tackle writer’s block?
If it doesn’t hit we just sort of leave it. When you’re doing anything creative you can’t really force it because all you’ll do is just drive yourself mad. So when we get that block we’ll just put down some little ideas that we had and move on. Because if you try to force it your never gonna get it how you want it to sound anyways and you drain all the fun and energy out of it. Some when we don’t know quite what to do with a track or something we’ll take a small break and stop working on it. We’ll start playing around with our new synths and getting to know those really well. I think the key to beating writer’s block is just not to force it, if it’s not there just take a step back and wait until your ready to go again.
When you’re doing anything creative you can’t really force it because all you’ll do is just drive yourself mad.
That’s sound advice. Let’s talk a little bit about the Studio 7 EP.
What we liked most about this EP was that was different from the one we released last year was that we really understood what we wanted to do with it. What kinda of tracks we wanted to put together and how we wanted them to fit together. And honestly, I think it worked out kind of nicely. It was great working with vocalists, we worked with Sam Wills. And its funny the song that he wrote, which is called “Save Me Now” was built off another track of our’s that we weren’t sure what we wanted to do with it. So revisited it and began to rebuild it around the song that he had and I think everything gelled quite nicely. We wanted to change the instrumental a bit and make sure his vocals weren’t overpowered by them cause he has a really nice tone to his voice, so we didn’t want to do too much to it and too much with it cause the effect might then get lost on people. “Losing my Love,” that’s featuring Ella Rothwell, that was actually from our very first session. We started it out on the piano and she started writing to it while we were building on top of that and we got it all recorded in a day essentially. And then the last track is “Like a Shadow” featuring Robyn Sherwell. That one for me personally is my favorite on the EP, for me that’s the one that got me most excited because Rob and I always want the song on our EPS to have the potential to fit on an album just to show people the kinds of avenues we’d like to take our album down. We’re both pretty adamant that we don’t want to do twelve songs that are just straight uptempo dance songs. We’ve just been influenced by so many different genres of music that we want to reflect that in a body of work like an album. So yeah “Like A Shadow” is one of our favorites its got a downtempo RnB type feel to it and it was really great to get to do a track like that because up until that point we had been focusing on the straight club stuff. So that was a fun one to work on for sure.
So there might be an album in the near future?
Totally, there’ll be an album next year. That’s the plan at the moment, we’re just getting a few ideas and a few vocalists that we really wanna work with right now. But we don’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves because its like I said with everything we do we want it to be organic and have everything happen at the right time essentially. We’re really thankful for Big Beat’s help and we’re getting there but we don’t want to put out an album unless we’re completely satisfied with every single track. And every single track stitches together like its meant to be. So the plan is to release that next year but who knows what might happen, we’re definitely working hard to get things together at the moment.
Going back to the Studio 7 EP for a moment, were there any specific piece of kit or sounds that you found yourselves gravitating towards in the process of making it?
Yeah, for that EP we did it quite a long time ago now. We did it last year, the last track to be finished, which was “Like A Shadow” completed in November. So around that time we really got to grips with the VIRUS TI synth that we bought earlier on in the year. By the time that EP came around we really understood what to do with it and we really really got to sink our teeth into it. So I think that synth is pretty prevalent throughout the whole EP. Obviously we used the piano too, we got Native Instruments, we used Kompact and for the Drums we used Maschine. So between Native Instruments, plug-ins, and the Access Virus TI those are pretty much the basics for our EP.
Do you find yourself writing a lot on the road or do prefer to sit in a studio and bang things out there?
It’s weird, for me personally I used to love writing on the road but we’ve gotten to a time this year where we come to the studio every day. For me personally, I’ve gotten so used to having all the kit around me, and it’s not just the kit because you can replicate that easily on the road, but it’s the studio environment that I’ve gotten so used to. Rob will, and still does, make stuff on the road quite often. That was until recently with touring you have no choice but to make stuff on the road. We haven’t gotten to go to the studio much so a lot of the stuff we’ve been working on recently has been on the road. You have to just crack on, you have to make sure you’re keeping up with any remix deadlines you might have, any original demos you might have and just keeping your wheels oiled on the road so you don’t lose touch with what you’re trying to do. It’s much easier to work in a studio environment and not lose concentration in that environment but sometime you have to go with it if you’re on the road a lot.
Have there been any secret weapons that you’ve been dropping in you sets recently that you’d care to share?
There have been two. One’s not so secret since it’s been out for quite a while but it isn’t as well-known as it should be but it’s a song called “Like That” by a producer called SEFF that came out on Jamie Jones’s Hot Creations label and that’s an absolute stomper. Like every time you play that the crowd goes wild for it and a lot of the time we’ll have DJs that are playing before or after us asking what the track is. The other track that’s doing really well at the moment, which I don’t know if it’s universally known but it definitely gets a crowd going, is called “Battery Park” by Andre Hommen. We definitely recommend people go check out those two, they’re great club tracks for sure.
Any parting words before we go?
Thank you for all the love support. Stay tune to our Soundcloud, we can’t wait to share all of the new music we’re working on in the coming months.