Too Many T's share debut album video, Glastonbury tales and more in red hot interview
British rap duo Too Many T's are currently on a UK tour after launching their debut album 'South City' – Mandy News caught up with them to talk recording, festivals and more.
MCs Leon Rhymes and Ross Standaloft front Too Many T's alongside their disc-spinning, brother-in-arms DJ Savage Henry. Together the group have supported De La Soul, Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy and Snoop Dogg and played huge shows at Reading, Leeds, Glastonbury, Bestival, Shambala and many, many more.
Once referred to as "two British Eminems" – and renowned for their mischievous japes on and off stage – Rhymes and Standaloft are now on an epic UK tour to promote their debut album 'South City' and here they tell Mandy News the full story.
Tell us a little bit about where you’re both from and how Too Many T’s came about and what you were doing before.
Leon: Hey, Ross, you kick it off, mate, because we met in your home town, didn’t we?
Ross: We met in my home town! Which is Wakefield! Shakey-wakey, mate! West Yorkshire, small city, bit of shit-hole.
Leon: Got a rugby team, though.
Ross: Got a good rugby team. It’s all rugby league up there. It’s a nice enough place, you know?
Leon: But not many people rap in Wakefield, do they?
Ross: No. There’s not many wappers. That’s Wakefield rappers. Wappers. The Leeds arts campus was nearer to Wakefield than it was Leeds and so loads of the students used to come into Wakefield for a night on the tiles and my brother and me used to hang around this bar called Escobar, and we’d do some nights and then just end up bumping into all these guys.
Leon: Yeah. We used to do a hip-hop night called Cowboy Tactics and because Ross was from Wakefield and rapped and I was in Wakefield and rapped, not many people did do that, so just through proximity we got introduced. We got on like a house on fire, didn’t we?
Ross: Proximity and cannabis.
Leon: Proximity and music.
Ross: Leon was in a band called Queen’s English and I’d come round and jam with all the Queen’s English guys and then me and Leon sort of started a little side project. We’d got like two songs or something, and we started doing back to back stuff even then. We played about twice together in Wakefield.
And then, we left, I went to uni in Bristol, Leon moved to London and then we just stayed in touch and just hung out once every few months, either in Bristol or in London, and we’d just get on it and get a bit drunk and write loads of raps.
Leon: Drink Cane Trader, which was like some sugary rum, and write raps till silly hours in the morning. But it was only about seven years after we met that we lived in the same city. At which point, Ross found some cheap flights to Morocco, so we went to Morocco and made a music video for a song that we hadn’t yet written, so we did a google search of like places, locations and things that we’d find in Morocco.
Ross: In Marrakesh.
Leon: Yeah and we wrote a song based on our google image search, hoping that we’d go there and find these things, and we found most of them, so we did this track called Medina Life and then came back. Phil Wright, who’s an absolute videographer genius, came with us and filmed it and edited it. It was wicked and everyone really liked it, so we thought ‘That’s pretty good. We should do that again!’ Not go to Morocco, but make another video.
Ross: Let’s do some live shows!
Leon: Let’s come up with a name for ourselves! What should we call ourselves?
Ross: So it took a while. This was like in 2011, and then 2012 is when we were like ‘We’re a band now. Let’s go get some gigs.’ So we did.
So how did you go about doing that? Now you’ve had an EP out, played almost all the UK festivals, toured the UK supporting some phenomenal names and are releasing an album. How did you get here from there?
Leon: We did it kind of weirdly, because obviously everyone’s on social media now. It’s really easy to just do that, but it’s not easy to break through the crowd. Rather than trying to do that, we saw our big positive was our live show. So rather than fighting on social media, we both just took six months out of our lives to self-book this huge UK tour and went to every city that we possibly could to do a gig. If we couldn’t find a gig, we’d go to the record shop. If there wasn’t a record shop, we’d go to the skate park, we’d brought, like, a big portable speaker.
Ross: Or do an open mic if there was one.
Leon: Yeah. We just travelled to every city across the country for six months, did gigs, met people and built up a real, dedicated, interactive fanbase along the way. After every gig, we did mailing lists, got pictures and mailed them out the next day and just generated a real nice thing with the fans. In the meantime we’d met a booking agent through a The Correspondents gig, Adam Gainsborough, and then we met him just before we were about to go on tour.
We’d made posters with all the tour dates on and bumped into him randomly in Soho. We showed him this tour and obviously he’s an agent, so he knows how hard it is to book gigs, so he couldn’t believe it. He was like, ‘What? You’ve done all this yourselves?’ He was just super-impressed and I think that from that point he was like, ‘These guys work hard, are good at what they do, and they’re pushing it forward, I’m interested in a bit of this.’
So we came back from tour, and he got in touch and offered us a gig and then after that gig he said ‘I want to work with you,’ and he’s absolutely brilliant at what he does and he’s pushed us along so far in terms of the gigs that we’ve done and the crowds that we’ve played off, the people that we’ve played with.
Ross: I think that’s it. He’s got great links into festivals and always had and he got us a bunch of gigs and we just I think really impressed everyone that booked us even though we didn’t really have a massive fanbase at the time. We’re still getting bigger and better stages.
Leon: So we’ve made the album with Odjbox and Flux Pavillion. Obviously Flux is a massive artist, in the US definitely. He does massive big tours, so he’s been away for like three months at a time, then come back and he’s been busy with his own projects, so just getting in the studio with him has taken its time. There’s been sometimes three months, four months between sessions. It’s dragged it out a little bit. It’s good in a way, it’s allowed us to grow into it, but it’s been frustrating at times as to how long it’s taken.
What’s your writing process? How does stuff come about?
Ross: There are a few different ways. There’s either a lyrical idea for a hook or a verse or come up with ideas for a beat or a lot of the time you just get a beat – a sort of basic loop – and write something to it and then develop it from there. Like, write a hook and then send it back to the producer or go into the studio and say like ‘How can we build this up?’ and then build it up around what’s already there.
Leon: It’s usually the instrumental. The music starts there and then the feeling of the music then inspires the words. It’s rare that the words are written before the music. It obviously happens sometimes, but it’s usually the music that inspires the words and then usually me and Ross will get drunk and stay up and write a song in a night.
Ross: Yeah, usually we just write a song in a night.
Leon: Or the bones of it anyway. We might come back and do an Ernest Hemingway and edit it sober.
Can you explain a little bit about what really goes into either an individual gig or a tour, in terms of like scheduling and all the stuff involved in being able to put it together.
Leon: Well the last weekend we had three gigs on the Saturday night and one on the Sunday, but we spent about 20 hours in a car driving up and down the country. Travelling is tiring, you know? It’s not like you can do a lot while you’re doing it. We’re not in a tour bus, we’re crammed in a little car. Luckily the gigs are really good.
We always have loads of fun when we’re doing the gigs, but it’s when you get up on the Monday morning after the weekend travelling around and you’re just knackered. You’re just shattered and then you’ve got to organise everything. I mean, I’m not moaning about it because it’s wicked. We’re lucky, so lucky that we get to do it. But, it’s a lot of effort to do a 45-minute show, to drive five hours and all that.
Ross: It’s going to be interesting, the tour that we’re doing, because I think it’s nearly a month long, and I think we’re doing about 24 gigs in 32 days. That’s going to be hectic. It’s been scheduled really well and all the towns are really close to each other. It should only be like an hour or so drive each time and then we’ll keep a lid on it party-wise because there’s so many dates and probably just at the end have a bit of a party.
Leon: I think that is part and parcel of festival life and gigs because it’s so hype. Everyone there’s usually pretty drunk. It’s kind of good to have a few drinks and be on the same level as everyone, but then you come off and you’re still buzzing and it takes three hours just to calm down. In those three hours, you usually have a few drinks and then you’re drunk. Then the next morning you’ve got to do it all again, but you just feel terrible, so we don’t help ourselves and we definitely need to control the intake on tour. We think we’re rock stars, but we’re not.
It’s a laugh and we’ve got our DJ Savage Henry there to poke fun at all the time just to make me and Ross feel a bit better. So that’s good.
Ross: He gives it back though. He makes us feel horrible [laughs]
Leon: He’s a bit of a bully, actually, so me and Ross have to stick together [laughs]
Tell us some of your highlights, so far, where you’ve just been like ‘Woah’...
Ross: Every now and then a set properly pops off. Maybe one in five festival shows or something. It just goes mental. Usually they’re places where we’ve got a bit of a following like Brighton or Bristol.
Ross: Inverness is good. Got a bit of a weird following in Inverness. It’s wicked. We’re going there on tour, actually, that’ll be good. When it just goes mental, it’s electric. They’re screaming, we’re screaming.
Leon: We all scream for ice cream.
Ross: I know I’ve had a really good gig when I just completely lose my mind. I sort of stop thinking about what anyone might think or about people’s reactions and just completely flow with the music. That’s my highlight, when it’s like that, because when that happens then the crowd love it and then they’re mega happy, which is the main reason why gigging is so much fun. It’s people’s faces.
Leon: That’s definitely a highlight. The happiness that it brings people. Being able to share that feeling with people or bring that feeling to people is super, super special. That happens quite a lot. I get quite excited by anything anyway, so you’re asking the wrong person.
I remember when we introduced WuTang. I will never forget that. We walked off that main stage and we had everyone with their Wu signs up, everyone going ‘Wu! Tang!’. It was a LOT of people. Tens of thousands. All with their hands in the air just going ‘Wu! Tang! Wu! Tang!’ And we started it!
Ross: That was weird. Surreal. Really, really cool.
Leon: Meeting some idols has been pretty sick. Just realising that we’re all just normal people. It’s been really nice, breaking that down,
Ross: Everyone’s normal, some people are really cool and chill and some people are mega stressed. Just like everyone else.
Then tell us who you like. Who originally made you pick up the mic and who you like now, artist-wise.
Leon: The first album I ever bought was Bad by Michael Jackson and Michael Jackson’s always just been my go-to music. Everything’s just done with so much feeling and real emotion. I love that, I love the real feeling that comes through music. Then rap-wise; Biggie and Eminem are probably my two most inspirational people. In a different way to Ross, my exposure to hip hop was quite mainstream, I guess.
Ross: I took after my brother in that he just played either underground or old school hip hop, so that’s what I really like. Slick Rick, J5 and Big Daddy Kane and then this guy called Edan really struck a chord with me and he’s just one of the most incredible musicians and performers- I went to go see his show when I was like sixteen or something, in Leeds with my brother and it’s still the best show that I’ve ever been to, just incredible. I was like ‘Wow, I want to do that. I want to do that!’
Tell us what’s coming up, then? Describe the album, if you can -
Leon: The album came out on September the 15th, on South City Records. Number 1, the first record off our record label.
Ross: It’s a super hype record.
Leon: Hype hop.
Ross: Hype hop. Pretty bass-y, proper old school feel to it still. Listen to it. We’re touring it around the UK, starting on the 10th of October till the 8th of November. A month. We’re going all over the place.
Leon: Yeah and we put a lot of focus on the videos for the album. We’ve worked with quite a few different directors and all the videos have come out wicked. God Save the T’s is super-clever. Patterns is an amazing CGI video. And we did Hang Tight as a Facebook Live music video, all shot in one take. We shot it in London, people came down from Birmingham, Brighton, all over London to be a part of it. There was such a good energy and atmosphere on the day and it got captured in this video. It came out really well and it’s rare that you get one take music videos, so it’s definitely worth checking out.
Ross: Everything’s on our website. www.toomanyts.com. You can find everything there.
Leon: Go to the website and look, don’t be lazy. Everything’s there.
What advice would you give to rappers or musicians starting out today?
Leon: You need to have good quality content, bust your balls and work hard.
Ross: And communicate with people. It’s so much more effective playing gigs and then just chatting to people after and making actual real life links. That’s what it’s all about. We definitely stayed at parties all the time with one eye on ‘We need to talk to all of these people.’ Didn’t we?
Leon: It’s true. We’d go to gigs or events and we’d go ‘Let’s stay late, so that we can meet that person,’ because it is a lot about who you know. We put a lot of time and effort into meeting people.
Ross: And partying.
Leon: Definitely make an effort to meet – don’t just send cold emails and Facebook messages, really make connections. Make connections with people.
Ross: Obviously you need to make good stuff, or have a good show too. One really good tip for live shows is to talk in between songs, just say something about what’s happened that day or something funny that’s happened that week. I think being personable and being humble with it goes a long way.
I just feel when an artist doesn’t say anything, it really gets to me. It’s like, if you pay to go and see someone, then you want to get to know them a little bit, you know?
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Catch Too Many T's on tour in the UK – at venues in Nottingham, Birmingham, Cardiff, Bristol, Brighton, London and more between now and November 8.Tags: