Ever since The Beatles launched their British Invasion back in 1964, Americans have long been fascinated with the noises emanating from across the pond. From The Sex Pistols’ influence on early American punk to The Jesus and Mary Chain’s impact on contemporary indie rock, UK outfits have been instrumental in shaping the sound of some of America’s finest music. And it goes the other way, too. Most recently, The Strokes debut album lit the touchpaper for one of the most exciting periods in UK guitar music since the 1970s, giving rise to The Libertines, The Arctic Monkeys, and many more. Transatlantic cross-pollenation is, after all, the lifeblood of modern rock ‘n’ roll. So, welcome to The Kids Are Alright: Rising Stars of UK Indie, a fortnightly column on emerging British indie. Every two weeks, Skyscraper contributor Toby Rogers (a Brit and the editor of Toonwaves) will interview a new band or artist making waves on English shores.
Here’s column number one and an introduction to EGYPTIAN HIP HOP, one of the most exciting bands to emerge from Manchester since The Smiths.
Reinforcing the old punk adage that musical ability need never hamper creativity, Manchester-based four-piece Egyptian Hip Hop are a band everyone in Britain is talking about. And that’s despite their own admission that, live, they’re pretty rubbish. On record, the teenage outfit rock harder than Ramses’ chief pyramid builder, letting fly with a furious barrage of forward-thinking electro-pop eschewing the lumpen lad-rock their hometown has become synonymous with.
The name is a misnomer, though. These kids don’t deal in hip hop at all. Fusing disparate influences with an attitude actively shunning the city’s musical past, these visionary young upstarts are molding a bold new future for Manchester rock ‘n’ roll. A million miles from the usual touchstones of The Smiths, Joy Division and Oasis, alongside fellow scenesters WU LYF and Dutch Uncles, Egyptian Hip Hop are at the vanguard of a thrilling musical reinvention for the city.
Describing themselves as an ever-evolving mash-up of the last fifty years of pop music, Egyptian Hip Hop’s hyperactive naiveté belies a mature aesthetic drawing inspiration from Talking Heads and The Pixies. Blending bruising funk-styled bass with razor-sharp electronica, the band have already found their own off-kilter identity. Formed while at college, Egyptian Hip Hop have been performing together for little more than a year, yet the explosive indie-disco of early buzz track “Rad Pitt” and their recently-released debut EP, Some Reptiles Grew Wings, has firmly established them as one of the UK’s most exciting young ensembles.
Skyscraper: Firstly, how are things going?
Egyptian Hip Hop: S’all good. Our twelve-inch record is out now which is pretty awesome, pre-historic-swampy.
Skyscraper: Tell me about Egyptian Hip Hop. How’d you get together?
EHH: It just started as a little fun thing we’d do every so often. Once people took notice, it was time to become a real band, I guess.
Skyscraper: Where’d the name come from?
EHH: The name chose us really. Fate or something.
Skyscraper: It seems like every new band emerging from Manchester gets unfairly compared to Joy Division, The Smiths, or New Order. Why’d you think the music press is so obsessed with the idea of a Manchester sound?
EHH: It’s just some weird thing journalists like to talk about all the time, insisting location has a huge impact on songwriting. Maybe in some cases, but I’m sure we would still be making this music had we come from anywhere else in the UK.
Skyscraper: Music blog Ohh! Crapp called you “The Horrors grandchildren on Prozac.” How would you describe Egyptian Hip Hop?
EHH: I definitely would not describe us as the Horrors grandchildren on Prozac, because that’s pretty awful, lazy, and inaccurate. We could probably tell you a whole load of things we wouldn’t like to be described as, but we struggle to summarize ourselves.
Skyscraper: There’s a pretty diverse scene in the city at the moment. Where do you see yourselves fitting in?
EHH: I think we’re part of a vague movement, pushing pop music somewhere interesting. It’s great to see Everything Everything doing so well since what they’re doing is actually pretty challenging and almost completely original. Dutch Uncles are really great, too, for as abstract some of their ideas are within the pop/rock-group format.
Skyscraper: You only started gigging in 2009. What’s it like to get so much press attention so quickly?
EHH: We kinda assumed for a while that this was the pace all recently successful bands moved at. But I think it’s definitely a more recent thing for people rushing to do their first gigs or first releases, because of how quick media has become. It’s definitely positive, so far, but we just have to face the test of developing our make-or-break debut album in the public eye.
Skyscraper: Apparently, the band have a bit of a connection with Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr. What’s the deal with that?
EHH: Oh, nothing. Stupid, really. None of us actually know him. Nick did for a brief period when he was twelve. That’s it.
Skyscraper: Sam Eastgate, from Late Of The Pier, produced some of your stuff. How’d you get together?
EHH: A few of us have known Sam for ages, long before Egyptian Hip Hop. We all knew how much he ruled at production and that-kinda-thing. So, it was nice not to jump in at the deep end for our first proper recording with some super-producer. Still, more of a friend with a fairly DIY set-up.
Skyscraper: What are your plans for the future?
EHH: Hopefully, create some kind of LP which is both really credible and hugely successful. That’s the dream though, huh?
Top photo: Tom Cockram