It was probably one of the first spring days in London, UK when I met Lutenants. I walked along the London Thames riverbank heading to the Coppa restaurant enjoying the relative warmth of the spring sun and reflecting on the fact that the landscape of London is pretty iconic. There were many tourists in the area taking pics of Tower Bridge. But, to the business of Lutenants. Really didn’t know much about them. Well actually I didn’t know anything about them. So at Coppa, I met with Lutenants and their manager to get to know them a little.
Who are you and where are you from? Gary: I’m Gary. Darius: I’m Darius originally from south London but recently moved to east London.
How did you guys come into music? Gary: We love music really. Started doing it amateurish. We met each other through another friend. We worked on a song together, we stayed in contact. Then we joined forces a little bit later and carried on doing music together.
Darius: Yes, we were doing it separately at first. Gary was doing grime. I was doing R’N’B before joined forces. The song we met on was kind of hip hop, R’N’B’ ish. We felt each other’s vibes on that track and said ‘Ok let’s see if we can work together’. Our very first track was ‘West Indies’. That was a sort of upbeat soca. When we did that track together, that’s what made us want to continue in that sort of vein.
If you must describe your sound, what is your sound? Gary: Lutenants over the past ten years have been predominantly soca. But that’s not who we are. We love UK stuff. We love grime, funky house, house. We love R’N’B’. We love hip hop. So now we are trying to fuse these sounds together with our own experience of doing carnival music, blend it and make this alternative sound and hopefully it works. I think it is working to be fair. Cause there are not many bands out there with that kind of vibe. So hopefully, the sound that we come out with should work. Our sound is relatable to carnivals, to festivals. Our sound can touch most people.
What are do you think are each other’s strengths? Daruis: I think Gary’s greatest strength is his desire with regards to what we make. Over the past ten years, from what he has started from, to where we are now is totally different. When I met him, he was doing grime, hip hop. Now he’s singing as well which he did not do in the beginning.
What made you start singing Gary? Him [pointing at Darius] Singing is an elevation. No disrespect to rap but singing and rap are two different levels. When I heard him singing I thought ‘Wow I gotta step up’. And I used to sing by myself, but then he coaxed me saying ‘you can hold a note, you can do a little something.
And what is Darius’ greatest strength? Gary: His overall knowledge of how to record music wise. We’re known in the soca industry for being great harmonisers, great melodies. And that came from him. I learnt everything I know now from him. The melodies, how to structure it. High Melodies, low melodies, top harmonies everything came from him.
What do you think you need to improve on? Darius: My singing. I think I have a long way to go. I’m my own biggest critic so I’m always trying to do better. Gary: I dunno [laughter] Darius: Says Mr Perfect. Gary: My writing style can be a bit more universal as I went to a studio once and the producer said, ‘It’s great, but only you can sing this song’. I think my writing is great personally [more laughter] but I think my writing needs to be a little bit more universal if we are to touch those territories of being writers, going into the side of publishing. Is that what you guys wanna do? We’re interested but we have to work on ourselves first before we tackle that.
What has been your proudest moment so far? Darius: For me, performing on the Isle of White was one. Just having the opportunity for having someone to call out for you to perform somewhere. And just being able to perform t Notting Hill carnival. We got to perform on the road with FlagZ. Gary: We had a couple of singles in 2013. Released them on Julianpromos. We totalled about 20000 downloads with three songs. That was massive for me. That’s a lot of listeners, a lot of ears.
How would you know that you have made it? Darius: For me, when people ask for you to perform. To know that I have that consistency of people requesting for us to perform. Gary: When I can actually quit my 9-5. That’s gotta be it.
How have UK Soca Scene responded to you guys? There are more steps you can take in the urban market; in grime. But in soca, you are limited. Especially here in the UK. If you don’t hide the fact that you are based here. Then you struggle. We know artists who have hid he fact that they live in the UK and make music here. They based themselves as island artists and they get a lot more recognition. They do a lot more things that we are able to do.
What do you think it is about UK soca that has such a negative view? Darius: It’s a stigma but we don’t know why.
If you had to collaborate with anyone who would it be? Darius: Well I think one both of us would pick is Shaka. He has elements of us or rather we have elements of him. Gary: Wyclef Jean as for me he is the ultimate of where we would like to reach. Maybe. Darius: There’s a UK artist called Mnek who I’d like to work with. As much as we are from the Caribbean, we’re very much UK as well. So, the sound that we are interested in doing now, we think there is a lot of soca in there but for the public, I don’t think they are going to have that same reaction.
Do you think you guys are more reflective of the UK sound as opposed to trying to mimic the Caribbean sound? Yes.
Would you ever add a female singer? [laughter] We tried it before…[laughter] it didn’t work out. Darius: I think it helps. We’ve had a backing female vocalist in some of our tracks and it adds to the track. It helps but not maybe part of the group.
You’ve been doing this for ten years. What are you doing differently now? Well before we though that we could do it all by ourselves. Now we have amazing manager with her company Creative Converge. She is going non-stop for us, pulling out all the stops, trying to open doors that we did not even think about opening. She’s doing all the dirty work whilst we’re here looking like superstars [laughter] But on a level, she’s the one behind it giving us that push.
Who is the mouth piece? The one who will do the most talking? Darius: That’s a good question. We actually had an interview a couple of weeks ago and we thought it was quite balanced. It depends what the topic is. Who is a bit more hyped on stage? Gary: Me. I couple of years ago I was really nervous on stage. But then after I came off, I thought to myself, I need to show the audience that I am passionate about this and enthuse the audience with my music. That was the moment when I decided to become more energetic. Who appeals to the women? Gary: Darius [laughter]. Who appeals to the man dem? Gary: Me [laughter] I’m more ragga, Darius is more music soul child.
What are your goals? Darius: I want to be successful in what I am doing and the reason why I am doing it hasn’t disappeared. Gary: I think.. I personally think we have the talent and the creative no how to achieve all levels of success and I am hell bent on achieving that now.
You have been at this for ten years now. What keeps you going? Gary: Well we’re going to be honest, we gave up for a while. What brought you back? We love music. We love it. The mentality before was ‘We love music, we just want people to hear it.’ Now it is a little bit more, the drive has gone a little bit into overdrive. It’s like we deserve to be a little bit more. We sat down and thought if we are going to do this again, it has to be different. What was different? The change in music, the change in mindset. Our music in 2014 was soca. You couldn’t call it anything else but that. But now you hear the single but you don’t know what to call it.
Do you have any social life? What do you do to relax? Gary: I love music so much, it’s my social life. But I love food, eating, going to the cinema. Darius: I play football, so I exercise.
If you had to choose one genre to listen to for a whole week, and someone would give you a million pounds what would it be? Gary: Afrobeats. I like to call it Afro pop. Darius: Why you trying to be all political? [laughter] the melodies. To me it’s like the original sound of music. Wizboy, stone boy. Darius: I’d pick neo soul. Same thing really. The content, the melodies, it the mood. More times, that’s the mood I’m in anyway sort of reflective sooo.
What are you guys doing in the future? Well we have some tours, a lot of shows, a lot of festivals. All in the lead up to our new single to see how it is received.
Lutenants had me laughing a lot. The working chemistry between them is obvious and their cheerful banter was infectious. And they are keen on presenting to the world the London sound. I can’t wait to see more of these two and hear their work. Their new single ‘Paradise’ is out today.
For more information on Lutenants, please visit ‘Lutenants’ on Spotify, Sound Cloud, Facebook, Instagram.