Interview: Five minutes with fika

Today is release day for the R&B duo, fika. The UK duo have just released their latest single, ‘Free’, which is a combination of their R&B meeting Soul rhythms with Hip Hop influences carrying through in the background.

The two met while studying music together, bonding over their shared interests and ambitions. Originally off to a rough start, the pair have had the time to refine their combined sound and become proud of the work that they’re producing. Since then, they have had the chance to create the single with No Spirit x fika ft. RickyAtoms – ‘Better Now’.

“A glacial electronica is weaved around a gazey-RnB guitar that affords ‘Here To Stay’ a dreamy haziness while the percussion creates context”Emerging Indie Bands

You can listen to the track on Spotifyhere

Tell us a little about your background. Where are you from?

Al’s from a little Surrey village called Effingham and Sam’s from lovely Croydon. Before we met, we both played instruments at school – Al guitar & Sam saxophone – and played in bands growing up before going to the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford which is where we met. It wasn’t until near the end of our year at ACM that we actually met each other and became pals, finding out we were both heading to Southampton Uni to study a music degree.

How long have you been making music? What inspired you to start?

We started making music together about a year after finishing uni and it was a disaster. It didn’t work at all. We couldn’t write anything good and decided it was best to leave it. Then we decided to give it another stab 4 years later and it all came together when we wrote our first single “Wide Eyed” in a day. We both had a lot going on that year before so maybe we weren’t in the right place to start a new project together. Very pleased we tried again…We share the same love for anything soul, jazz, blues, funk, RnB or hip-hop-infused – basically, anything with feel, groove and emotion. We’ve always talked about, listened to and shared so much of this music together that it made sense to try writing together again, and it’s working, we think.

To those not familiar with you, how would you describe your sound?

We like to think of our sound as being soulful, chilled and having feeling. We’ve had our music described as combining elements of Frank Ocean, John Mayer and Tom Misch. We’re a way off any of these guys but we’ll take the comparison! 

If we gave you the budget to put a line-up together for a mini-fest, who would you book and where would you play?

Where do we even start? For the sake of making it more interesting, let’s say we’re allowed to pick artists both dead and alive. In that case, a few that come to mind are Stevie Wonder, Prince, MJ, Donny Hathaway, The Beatles, Bill Evans, D’Angelo, John Mayer, Anderson Paak, Kiefer, Ed Sheeran, James Bay, Will Heard, Bruno Major, Hablot Brown, Lianna La Havas and Mac Ayres. I think there’s something for everyone there! In terms of where it would be held, I think the coolest location in the world would be right in the french quarter in New Orleans. This is where they hold the yearly french quarter jazz festival in dozens of incredible bars, streets, stages and venues. There would be no better venue than an entire town district dedicated to the music!

What are some of the key pieces of gear you use to write your tracks in the studio? 

Al’s guitar, Sam’s laptop & most importantly, iPhone voice memos. That’s pretty much what every song starts with. We’ve not got any hardware synths or fancy gear and because we like to focus on songwriting at the start of the process we tend to keep it really basic; maybe a stripped beat, some bass/guitar & then work on the vocals & top line from there. ‘Free’ was slightly different from this, in that we worked straight from El Train’s beat. It was a welcome change as we could jump straight into top lining on a deliciously fresh beat.

Has your arsenal of equipment changed much since you first started?

To be honest, the core equipment we use hasn’t really changed that much. Aside from experimenting with a few other things like the Roli seaboard, different guitars, different plugins and synths, we pretty much always end up predominantly using the core equipment described above. It sounds corny but our main equipment is definitely our brains haha. Neither of us are gear or tech heads, so most of what we use new equipment for is to help bring our ideas to life.

What inspired your latest single, ‘Free’?

This one started off with a producer called “El Train” sending us a few beats for a collaboration. The beat for “Free” stuck out immediately and I think we wrote the hook almost straight away. The rest of the song then stemmed from the hook “I’m free, whenever you want me”. The song explores the narrative of a loyal and faithful partner who can’t help but let their eyes wander. It’s not from either of our perspectives though…totally fictional! (girlfriends might be reading this…)

If you could work with any artist in the world, who would it be?

Will Heard. We often liken him to Amy Winehouse, in terms of his unique talent, ability & general giving of zero shits about what people think. Unbelievably talented guy & would love to work with him one day. 

What are your plans for the future?

We’ve got so much music to release over the next year we can’t get it out fast enough. There’s an exciting project coming out later in the year (announcing v soon) as well as some remixes & a couple of other singles of our own, followed by getting our live set together. Longer-term… just enjoy the journey, stay disciplined and keep writing & releasing music.

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