10 Questions with Bicep, Ahead of the Duo’s Global Stream from the Saatchi Gallery
2021: the year you can release a dance record, it gets to number two in the charts, and you haven’t been able to play a single song off it to a club full of people. The Bicep boys – Andrew Ferguson and Matthew McBriar – know this feeling all too well. The duo’s sophomore record, Isles, was just shy of reaching the top spot at the beginning of February (beaten to the post by those pesky Bring Me The Horizon lot).
Still, the Northern Irish lads haven’t much to complain about, as they’ve spent the past month or so soundtracking living room raves across the globe. And the wild weekends in are just getting started. Tonight, Bicep will stream a special, one-off Îsles experience broadcasted from The Saatchi Gallery here in London. Whilst the duo says nothing will compare performing for a live audience, the joys of doing such streams mean they “get to spend so much time planning and working on the visuals to bring something together that would never normally happen,” they say.
Whilst you get a few tinnies in and gear up to showtime – all the action kicks off at 8:30pm – we caught up with Bicep to talk all things Isles, Covid and the yearning for the dancefloor.
1. Does preparing for one of your live shows differ from a DJ set?
“Totally. Preparing for a run of live shows takes at least a month of preparation in the studio but sometimes up to three months, if it’s a fully new show. We also have to soundcheck before every show which takes hours and hours. Each show is a 16-hour day. In contrast for a DJ set, we can organise in a few hours of digging and we don’t even soundcheck. We personally find live much more rewarding though. It’s worth it.”
2. Your clubbing experience growing up in Belfast shapes a lot of your music today, if we were to visit the city once the clubs open, where do you recommend going?
“AVA Festival is the best way to see the energy of Belfast in full flow. It’s two days of total carnage with a very musically diverse lineup. The crowds are nuts there, some of the best in the world. Shine at the Telegraph Building is also amazing and on a monthly basis.”
3. How have you suppressed your urge to get on the dancefloor since the clubs have been shut?
“Playing super hard techno whilst running, a few times have been really epic haha.”
4. What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened at one of your DJ sets?
“A man, who’s now a very good friend, dressed as a giant hot dog, picked Matt up and smashed him through the roof of the club.”
5. If you could have any guest on your Apple Music radio show, who would it be and why?
“The Apple show is quite personal to our music collections and really is a reflection of that, so we feel any kind of guest would upset the purpose of that show. We are super excited about showcasing new talent always and we have a podcast on our own site (feelmybicep.com) which we use that for.”
6. Outside of at-home djing, has lockdown revealed any newfound hobbies or talents for you both?
“Not really any new ones, just spending more time and refining on the ones we have not had time for whilst touring… Cooking, boxing, gardening.”
7. Which are your three favourite cities to play in and why?
“Berlin – probably a cliché but for electronic music, it has some of the best spaces and liberal dance music culture and still feels like the most hedonistic place to express yourself.
“Belfast – such an energetic city that often gets overlooked when compared to others in the UK, but it has such a vibe and going home is always special.
“London – where we live now and it’s great to be able to party with close friends.”
8. What track from Isles was the trickiest to make?
“Probably ‘X’ as it was made from pretty much all 1980s analogue gear which was super temperamental, the main riff was recorded on a whim and we were never able to recreate that sound which made it tricky to mix. Also, all the percussion varies in pitch so it was a very hard balancing act making it even sound in key.”
9. Who’s one up-and-coming producer we should be listening to right now?
“TomVR: we have been loving all the stuff he has put out, just great music that you can’t really pigeonhole as it ranges tempos and vibe significantly.”
10. If you had to pick a track from Isles to soundtrack your 2021, which would it be and why?
“‘Cazenove’, we think it brings together the happiest emotions and promises more for the months ahead.”
Photography by Sam Mulvey. You can buy Bicep’s ‘Isles’ here.