Reporting Scott T. Sterling
It’s summer 2013, and the sound of the London underground is back in a big way. Hot on the heels of bright young acts like Disclosure and AlunaGeorge, who’ve been carrying the panoramic sounds of the British club scene into the mainstream, comes Rudimental. The East London act is bringing those same feel-good warehouse sounds to a concert stage near you.
“I think the underground scene that’s coming through to the mainstream has been going in London for a long time now,” explained Rudimental’s Kesi Dryden during a phone interview with Radio.com. Dryden is one of the group’s primary members alongside Piers Agget, Amir Amor and DJ Locksmith. “It’s great to see it crossing over to the mainstream,” he continued. “Acts like Rudimental and Disclosure maybe six years ago wouldn’t have had U.K. hits. They would’ve been more like underground hits. It’s great to see that happen.”
Rudimental’s debut full-length album, Home, was released this past May. It followed a pair of chart-topping singles, “Waiting All Night” and “Feel the Love,” and it echoed the group’s earlier successes by debuting at the top of the British album chart.
“That was incredible, to see our album do so well,” Dryden admitted. “We’d had two No. 1 singles before that, but we didn’t want to be known just as an act that does singles, we wanted to be known as an album act. We want to be known as a band, because we love playing live and we love to tour. For our album to hit No. 1 was a real moment for us. We felt proud of the achievement. We put so much hard work into it. It’s the Rudimental sound of what we’ve grown up with and been influenced by. For people around the world to appreciate it is an amazing feeling.”
That “Rudimental sound” was nurtured in the area of East London known as Hackney, which Dryden says is a melting pot of music and culture.
“What makes Hackney such a vibrant, great place is that it’s so culturally diverse,” the keyboardist and DJ said. “Everybody lives together. I remember growing up next door to a Jamaican family that was always playing reggae music. There was an Irish family on the other side into folk music…you’re surrounded by lots of different cultures and influences music-wise. There’s a whole sort of garage and house scene that was going off when I was growing up that we were really into. There’s the whole pirate radio station scene as well, which is a really cool vibe of finding new, underground music. We spent some time DJing on those stations.”
“I actually went to school with Labrinth in Hackney,” Dryden added, making reference to the emerging U.K. artist (and Simon Cowell’s first non-talent show signing in years) who recently hit the American iTunes charts after performing his song “Beneath Your Beautiful” with Emeli Sandi on America’s Got Talent. “There’s about four or five U.K. artists from Hackney that are doing really well and creating amazing music. There’s such a great vibe there.”
Rudimental’s live show has earned the band a tidal wave of new fans and media enthusiasm, with BBC Entertainment nominating the group as the festival act of summer 2013.
“We’ve been touring all over Europe. It’s amazing to go to other countries in Europe that we’ve never been to before. We sort of questioned how they would go; we didn’t know what to expect,” Dryden revealed. “But as soon as we get onstage and start playing, the reaction has been insane. It’s just been incredible to see in all these different places. The crowds have been packed in for the shows.”
Much like Disclosure (also recently featured in our New Music To Know series), the members of Rudimental prefer to work with a range of different vocalists, as opposed to having a single lead singer. This variety plays out across Home, with vocal turns from the likes of Foxes (best known for singing Zedd’s hit “Clarity”), Alex Clare, and Angel Haze.
Breakout Scottish singer-songwriter Sande appears on two songs as well, “More Than Anything” and “Free.”
“Emeli Sande actually came to one of our shows. We didn’t know she was coming,” Dryden remembered. After our gig we got introduced to her, and she said she really enjoyed the show. We were really flattered, and somewhere in there decided to collaborate on something. We managed to book a bit of studio time on the night of the BRIT nominations in the U.K. We literally got in the cab together after the show and went straight to the studio because we all had commitments the next morning. We were able to come away with two amazing songs. She’s an exceptional talent.”
For the single “Waiting All Night,” Rudimental chose not to focus on the band. Instead they put the spotlight on San Francisco professional BMX rider Kurt Yaeger, who suffered a devastating 2006 motorcycle accident that resulted in his left leg being amputated. Yaeger’s inspirational recovery is detailed in the uplifting clip.
“That song was written last summer around the time of the  Summer Paralympic Games, which was an amazing event,” Dryden explained of the international sporting event for physically challenged athletes. “I think it was even better than the Olympics. There was a real community vibe around Hackney, and everyone got tickets. It really brought everyone together. We wanted to create a video that sort of matched what a great event the Paralympics was. Rather than just focus on a club scene and us performing, we wanted to do something different and that had real meaning and triggered an emotion. Kurt Yaeger’s story was pretty amazing.”
North American fans hoping to experience Rudimental’s live show will only have a handful of opportunities this year. West Coast shows will include stops at music festivals HARD in Los Angeles (August 3-4) and Outside Lands in San Francisco (August 9-11). Among the band’s East Coast gigs are dates at New York City’s Central Park Summer Stage (August 28) and Philadelphia’s Made in America festival (August 31).