Their names collectively may conjure a luxury toiletries brand from the depths of 1980s Britain, but their music certainly has a lot more panache than that might suggest. Tim Hopgood aka Ethyl and Jamie Taylor aka Flori have slowly but surely been climbing into our collective consciousness since 2009 with at times subtle but mostly stunning turns on labels like Freerange Recordings, Secretsundaze, Quintessentials, and Fear of Flying. Whether they’re dishing out deep house, acid house, or something a little harder, their productions always strike a well balanced and sure-footed precision. When the duo approached us with a sublime mix entirely made up of their own back catalog peppered with forthcoming and unreleased tracks we jumped at the chance to run it, hitting the guys up with a few questions in the process to find out more about the English DJ and production team.
Hi guys, how is everything going for you? Any ridiculous New Year’s resolutions to confess to?
Tim Hopgood: Hi, things are good thanks. 2015 has kicked off nicely, no resolutions as such, just trying to shift the bodyweight in cheese I ate over Christmas.
Jamie Taylor Not bad, cheers, good to be back in London after an indulgent Christmas break. No resolutions for me either. Life itself is pretty much an incessant self-improvement exercise. That’s enough for me.
They’re a bunch of ass anyway aren’t they? So how did the two of you first meet and where were each of you in your producer/DJ careers at the time?
JT: I think so. Eat well, stretch your limbs when you can and try not to drink heavily everyday. We met at university in Birmingham (where I failed all three of the aforementioned disciplines) on a Sound Engineering & Production course. I was playing out locally fairly regularly and putting on parties in my hometown, Wolverhampton. I was also heavily involved (and still am) in my folks’ party, Soul Underground. Production at that time was just a hobby but I probably learnt more about the process then, than during any other period. As the production side of the degree wasn’t up to much I was teaching myself in the main and getting invaluable advice via Tim.
TH: Yep, he’s wiser than his perceived years is our Jamie. I grew up just outside London and had been playing regularly in the capital. In fact a lot more regularly than I am now, sometimes three or four times a weekend. Doing the circuit so to speak and making up the numbers on the flyers. I enrolled at the University to add a bit of structure to what I was doing with music but the course itself was underwhelming. The biggest thing I took away from the course was the relationships I built and people I met, present company included.
How long was it before you started making music together and figured out that you had good studio chemistry?
JT: I think it was at the end of the first year or at the beginning of the second. That whole period, alas, is a bit of a haze.
TH: Sounds about right. We came from different angles musically; I came through UK garage and grime and through techno to the house music we began making, while Jamie came from the same formative UK garage years (that was almost a rite of passage for our generation) but had a strong US/soulful house leaning following that. Despite bringing different ideas to the table we seemed to agree on most things in the studio from the outset.
That rapport in music making as a team was obvious right from the start with The Trimley EP. As a production team what do each of you feel you bring to the table in terms of your particular influence from your tastes in music?
JT: Tim’s alluded to what influences were there when we first starting working together and I think they’ll always exist to some degree, probably due to how impressionable teenagers are. The pool that we draw influence from is larger than it has ever been. Old stuff that’s new to our ears but also so much new music leaves us quizzing each other as to how it’s been done. There’s so much good stuff being made and it’s hard not to be inspired by it. The Trilogy Tapes or Hessle Audio radio shows are good starting points.
And also what do you feel are your strengths when it comes to production?
TH: Jamie is the man with the hooks. He’s got a bit of an affinity with melody but if you heard some of the shit he sings you’d have to ask a few questions.
JT: Cheers, T. I’ve said this in other interviews but Tim’s the man for realizing ideas. If I’ve hit a brick wall, I think he enjoys the challenge of me describing/explaining something verbally and then getting as close as possible to painting that idea — even when he’s not entirely sure where I’m going with it. He’s the more patient man, too, which comes in handy if I start to become disillusioned with a track. We rarely take on the same roles on different projects.
I’m interested to know about your musical aliases, because they go together very well yet don’t seem to have anything to do with your actual names. Is there a story behind that?
JT: There’s no interesting subtext behind the name Flori I’m afraid. Our first EP had been signed and I had to decide on an alias sharpish. I thought it paired with Ethyl quite nicely and I suppose we both thought it would be humorous to see a couple of older ladies’ names on flyers. Tim’s story is far more fanciful.
TH: Tim’s story is never to be repeated.
Jamie, as a solo artist you’ve focused on your own releases while Tim, you’ve notched up a lot of remixes. Are you both planning on taking on that other role as well?
JT: If the right remix comes up, I’ll take it on. I do prefer working on original material though.
TH: I actually like the constraints remixes put on you, which might be why I’ve ended up doing more of them. That’s probably why I’ve leaned heavily on collaborating too. I need to not get bogged down with the very small decisions that don’t contribute to the finished result. There’s also the element of not wanting to waste someone else’s time or let them down and I find that gives the process more direction and purpose. For me, making music can be such a cathartic process that when I’m making music on my own I can feel satisfied with being comparatively unproductive, getting absorbed in sound design without actually doing something useful with the result. I’ve got lots of my own music in various primitive stages that I’d like to see the light of day eventually, but having never had a solo release I feel there’s more pressure on the first one to be truly coherent and not a series of sketches or nascent ideas.
There’s an occasional Scandinavian theme through your track titles. Is this coincidence or is there some kind of Scando message you’d like to push to the public?
TH: We wrote “Malmö” and “København” after a Scandinavian trip. Even though the two tracks ended up being split up we wrote them concurrently based on our impressions of the two cities.
JT: Just doing our bit for Anglo-Scandinavian relations.
What have each of you been working on lately on your own and as Ethyl & Flori?
JT: This last year has been very much collaboratively focused. We moved in to the same house early last year and we got all of our records and studio equipment into one large room. It’s a great space for making and playing records so it’s where we spend most of our time. We do a weekly radio show from there too, which will soon be going out on the new Leeds based KMAH station (Wednesdays 8-10pm). We’re launching our own imprint, E&F Records, so that’s been taking up a lot our time recently. The label will be an outlet for our own productions. The first one is called Lion City and should drop in March of this year.
TH: We released The Last Ninja on our friends’ Ben (BLM) and Jay Massive’s Fear of Flying imprint at the tail end of last year and are following that up with a release on the affiliated Sudden Drop label, due at the end of this month. It’s a three tracker from the pair of us entitled Transcripts. When it came to looking for outlets for our music we were certainly guilty of not seeing the wood for the trees. While I send Ben music of ours/mine regularly, never (until recently) explicitly with the understanding it’s for him to consider bringing out. Both are great labels that we have a lot of time for and I think it makes sense for friends to be supporting each other especially being in the same city.
And at the risk of sounding contradictory, we’ve also got a release with Berlin’s Aim pencilled in, complete with an Edward remix. Jamie’s released on Aim before and Tristen, who runs the label, is a top boy, so I’ve got no reservations that it’s also a good home for our music.
Could you see an Ethyl & Flori album in the future or would you prefer to release in an EP format?
TH: We’ve certainly talked about it. I think our productions to date have been too disparate to warrant an album. Hopefully people can hear the common thread that runs throughout our releases regardless of the slight genre meandering we tend to do. If we were to do an album I’d want there to be a definite message, something we were trying to communicate and a flow throughout, not merely a selection of club tracks with a downtempo and beatless reprise thrown in to tick the album box. I’ve heard several albums from dance music producers that could quite easily be brought out as a couple of EPs but there seems to be a conscious decision to adopt the LP format to garner the PR that goes along with it. Call me a cynic.
What can you tell us about the mix you’ve put together?
JT: I don’t think either of us has ever included one of our own productions in a studio mix. This mix puts paid to that.
TH: It’s a special mix for us because, yeah, we rarely play our own stuff out. I’m really pleased with our recent output and we wanted to put it a selection of it in one place so people could get a handle on where we are and also a little nod to where we’ve come from.
In a slightly new turn for these features, we’ve decided to ask music producers and DJs what their big predictions are for the year ahead? What do the stars hold for 2015?
TH: More of a hope than a prediction, can Europe stop being so angry and fascist? Musically, I think we’re both on the same page in both wishing the following a successful year and also looking forward to the combined output of
Nummer, a couple of a French guys living in London, one of them works at my favourite record store, Kristina. Everything they’ve touched has been proper. Also BLM/Skew, Voiski, and Tom Dicicco to name a small few. On the label front, Details Sound, UMHS, Forbidden Planet, Fifth Wall, Nous, meandyou and Antinote.
JT: But seriously, UKIP have just hit 20% in the polls. What the fuck is going on?
Download: LWE Presents Ethyl & Flori (77:33)
01. Ethyl & Flori, “Untitled” [E&F Records*]
02. Ethyl & Flori, Untitled [Aim*]
03. Flori, “Within Reason” [secretsundaze]
04. Ethyl, “Untitled” [*]
05. Flori, Untitled [*]
06. Ethyl & Flori, “Swimming” [E&F Records*]
07. Ethyl & Flori, “The Last Ninja” [Fear of Flying]
08. Ethyl & Flori, “Shorthand” [Sudden Drop*]
09. Ethyl & Flori, “Shelter” (Rolando Remix) [secretsundaze]
10. Sagittarius A, “Omega Point” (Material Object Remix) (Ethyl Edit) [*]
11. Ethyl & Flori, “Lion City Dub 2” [E&F Records*]
12. Ethyl & Huxley, “Reflexions” (Aybee Remix) [Tsuba Records]
13. Flori, “Frosty Leo” (Dorisburg Cave Jam Mix) [Aim]
14. Ethyl & Flori, “Untitled” [E&F Records*]
15. Ethyl & Flori, Shelter (Beat Mix) [*]
16. Ethyl, “Syncopate” [Contrast Wax*]
* denotes tracks which, at the time of publishing, are unreleased