- Words Miriam Balanescu
The inimitable dance duo Snakehips share their newest single “Freedom (You Bring Me)” and create an exclusive summer-ready mix for Notion.
Household name Snakehips, made up of Oliver Lee and James Carter, have an enviable number of Platinum-selling tracks to their name, from “Cruel” featuring ZAYN to “Either Way” with Anne-Marie featuring Joey Bada$$.
They are truly masters of the earworm and have collaborated with the likes of Chance the Rapper, Tinashe, Anderson .Paak, and MØ. Tunnelling through hip hop, R&B, and disco-pop genres, their versatile sound never quite settles on one formula – instead, they bring a breadth of influences to the table and always have a winning final sound.
In 2015, their anti-club anthem “All My Friends” with Tinashe blasted from radios in chart roundups for weeks. Their seemingly endless list of hits also includes “Summer Fade” featuring Anna of the North, “Wavez” with TroyBoi, and “Lie for You” with Jess Glynne.
In a fateful moment of serendipity, the power double chanced upon each other in a Hong Kong sake bar, bonding over their musical tastes. They started out as Snakehips in 2010 and shared their music in the heyday of MySpace. They’ve come a long way since then and have recently taken a turn toward deep dance with the club-ready tune “Freedom (You Bring Me)”, made in collaboration with house music maverick Armand van Helden. It’s the second track to be released on their new Never Worry Records label.
In honour of the track’s release, Snakehips has exclusively made a mix for Notion ready for the dancefloor. Plus, we chat to the pair about their recent collaboration, experiences of performing live and where they imagine they would be now if it so happened that they had never met.
How did your latest collaboration with Armand Van Helden on “Freedom” come about and what was it like working together?
Armand is such a legend – his early stuff really soundtracked parts of our childhood. We kind of grew up with his stuff in the charts before we were really aware of dance music and what that all meant. He’d make such cool funky music that was super crossover that everybody was into. I feel like his particular brand of combining house and hip-hop styles was a really big influence on our whole original scene in general. We actually got him to remix our tune “Forever Pt II” back in 2015 which was awesome to get him on that release! More recently we’ve been working on some more house and clubby vibes and we’d also been really into the idea of doing some collaborations with other producers which is something we haven’t really done before. We had this lil vocal and chord idea and thought we’d reach out to Armand and see if he was down to work on something original together – and that’s how it came about. Obviously, we were in lockdown so we just made it through sending the Ableton session back and forth and just talking on the phone but it was super chill and came together really easily.
How has the past year been for you and has it impacted your work?
Working wise at first was pretty weird, to be honest. Inspiration can kind of come from anywhere and we’ve never worked in a particularly structured way before just because we travel a lot and you just work around other things. Last year suddenly we had just like indefinite amounts of time to make music. That kind of made things difficult because it turned into a situation where you’re stuck at home just thinking “I need to use this time productively” and it can just suck the life out of the creativity. After that initially though, it’s been cool, we’ve been writing loads and had a bunch of remixes and stuff to do. We also have launched our own record label this summer too and we probably wouldn’t have done that if life had just continued as normal.
Your sound has shapeshifted throughout the past ten years. How and why do you feel it has developed?
It’s just kind of how we’ve grown musically and also just never really giving a fuck that much about genres and stuff early on. We started off making mostly chilled-out 90s-ish bpm old-school hip-hop-inspired tunes and a bit of slow disco-house-type stuff. Then as we started touring and playing with different people you just get inspired to try new things and also just develop on the original sound. We just ended up not really having one style that we made every time and not really focussing in on one sound. To be honest, as DJs we never made things easy for ourselves because all of our tracks would be at completely different speeds and just make for a really complicated set sometimes! We love DJing too so I think making tracks that sound good in a club and fitted well into a set became more of a focus after a while whereas before we didn’t think about that so much and we were just concerned with writing good songs.
What’s been your favourite collaboration of your career so far?
Couldn’t really choose; they’ve all been cool in different ways. Working with Armand has been awesome and it’s always nice to get that appreciation from someone you respect like that. One of the coolest in-person collaborations we ever did was with Anderson .Paak – he was just so fun to make music with and full of ideas. We still have a second demo from that session that never saw the light of day which was on fire.
What have been your best and worst experiences of playing live?
We’ve just been so lucky to travel as much as we have over the years, it’s been fucking awesome really. Going to Asia, Australia, South Africa, so many places we never would’ve been able to visit otherwise. Some of the best experiences were probably when our first tunes were blowing up and you’d play somewhere you wouldn’t expect people to know you and just have these crazy experiences of huge crowds knowing all the words to the tunes. We did Warehouse Project in Jakarta probably in 2016 which was crazy. I remember Beyond the Valley in Australia probably the same year. It was just mind-blowing to have that kind of reaction for the first time. The worst experiences were probably the build-ups to a few shows where I was so damn hungover all the way up to the set. I always manage to recover once we start playing or at least a lil while into the set after getting a bit of adrenaline and stuff. I remember EDC in Shanghai one year just literally still throwing up about 5 minutes before we had to go on – it was so bleak. Same in Orange County one New Year… Sometimes there’s just not enough recovery time!
Are you looking forward to playing live again in 2021? What’s on the horizon?
Yeah, we can’t wait to get back out there. We’ve got a load of shows in the States from August and September onwards coming up. Still feels difficult to imagine that after such a long time off but things are starting up again around the world and you see parties and festivals happening on Instagram and stuff that’s getting us hyped! Just wanna get back on the road and keep pumping out the tunes. After such a long break and seeing how fragile and volatile everything is through the pandemic, we just won’t be taking anything for granted and just wanna enjoy it as much as possible.
What do you think you would be doing now if you hadn’t had that chance meeting in Hong Kong?
Shit, I honestly have no idea! It’s a scary thought. Probably doing absolutely anything to avoid getting a real job. I (Ollie) was playing saxophone at weddings and things before we were doing Snakehips properly. So I reckon I’d be killing it on the Greater London wedding scene right now!
Talk us through the mix you’ve made for Notion – what vibe were you hoping to create and why did you pick these tracks?
It’s just some good vibes for the summer! Bunch of new tunes we’re enjoying and some forthcoming stuff from our new label Never Worry Records.