With their new mix compilation on Defected Records, the 2 Bears (aka Raf ‘Raf Daddy’ Rundell and Hot Chip’s Joe Godard) bring the party vibe. We caught up with Raf by email to find out about their eclectic approach to the mix and discover the surprisingly simple secret behind the Bears’ trademark gruff vocals.
What inspired the decision to go with the Caribbean theme?
We didn’t make a conscious decision to go with a Caribbean vibe. We just put together the best mix we could with the tacks we could clear. We nicked the idea for the artwork from old Scientist records (which were made in London) and there’s a bashy flavour through the whole mix but that’s just how we DJ.
Growing up as DJs and clubbers in London through the late 90s and early 00s it was impossible to avoid Jamaican music. It runs through a lot of the dance music we can safely call British. Jungle, garage and dubstep. Things weren’t as mixed up as they are now. David Rodigan would not have played at a club like Fabric in those days. You had to go to a reggae dance to see him.
The mix has soulful, American records as well as odd techno and disco from Europe. That’s how we try and play. As mixed up as possible. The Caribbean thing has been overplayed.
To what extent do you need to worry about trends and trying to fit in with fashions when you put something like this together?
It’s impossible not to consider it a bit. We couldn’t have turned in a mix of ambient music. But it has to be something you can be happy representing and listening to.
Coming from Greco-Roman Soundsystem, tell us about the decision to release the albums on Southern Fried and Defected.
Southern Fried are old friends of ours and encouraged us to carry on making Bears music from the off. We fancied being the artist and not having to worry about the label side of things. Greco-Roman have never commercially released a compilation, Defected have released loads and they asked us.
An essential element of the 2 Bears sound is the pitch-shifted ‘bear’ vocals. Can you shed a bit of light on the technique used to get that effect?
I blah away on the mic over the beats and Joe pitches it down a tone and a half.
The 2 Bears drum sound is also incredibly dry and well balanced. Any tips?
Drums are very important to the Bears. We spend a lot of time making sure they swing right. We wanted to make beats that sounded as tough as the ones on our favourite US house records. We use Roland drum machines and mix down with our friends Oli Wright and Mark Ralph.
What’s next for the Bears?
We both have young families that we want to hang out with. Joe is on the road with Hot Chip around the world until the end of October then we’ll get in the studio and make some more music.