The team behind Chase & Status' chart revival have lifted the lid on the campaign to solidify the EMI-signed electronic music duo as the "kings of drum & bass".
Saul Milton and Will Kennard, who drop new mixtape 2 Ruff. Vol 1 this Friday (October 27), have three tracks inside the UK Top 40: Baddadan (241,900 sales, OCC) with Bou ft. Irah, Flowdan, Trigga & Takura at No.5, the Becky Hill collaboration Disconnect (312,913 sales) at No.6 and new single Liquor & Cigarettes (50,017 sales) with Hedex and ArrDee at No.23.
It marks a stunning mainstream resurgence for the pair, who last reached the Top 10 a decade ago and released their first single back in 2005.
EMI co-presidents Rebecca Allen and Jo Charrington told Music Week that working with artists like Chase & Status "is the very reason we all get into the music industry". EMI won the Record Company trophy at the Music Week Awards.
"As a label, to be part of an artist’s life, at every stage of their career, is the absolute pinnacle of what we all want to achieve," they said. "Artist development is something we believe continues throughout an artist’s journey. To help build new audiences, to discover new markets and to ensure we continue telling their story.
"On a personal level, working alongside [C&S manager] Sophie Kennard and the incredible team at Frame, we can’t imagine a more perfect working relationship. Both label and management team working in a way that is so synched, aligned and ambitious. We couldn’t be more proud of our relationship with C&S, their brilliant team and the EMI label."
They have been super-conscious of supporting new emerging talent alongside working with cultural icons whilst staying true to their own artistic integrity
Rich Castillo, EMI
C&S' sixth studio album, What Came Before (25,190 sales), charted at No.4 in 2022 and Rich Castillo, EMI's SVP A&R, explained how the London production duo's collaborations with fresh talent came to fruition on the current campaign.
"This time around, Will and Saul alongside Harri Davis - their publisher over at Concord - have been hitting up new culturally important artists and producers," said Castillo. "They've invited artists they like and have connected with on tour in to the studio including Hedex Bou, Stefflon Don and Mist, and have been super-conscious of supporting new emerging talent alongside working with cultural icons whilst staying true to their own artistic integrity in the process.
"This has definitely been a case of us just supporting them with executing their vision for the mixtape. Sophie Kennard is a breath of fresh air and has been meticulous with the key decision-making which has made the process so much easier.
"We are very proud of what’s happening with Chase & Status, for us it's the perfect example of what the label and artist partnership should look like."
Chase & Status have announced a three-date UK tour for early next year, calling at Cardiff Utilita Arena on February 22, London Drumsheds on February 23 and Manchester's O2 Victoria Warehouse on March 1.
Here, manager Sophie Kennard of Frame Artists and marketing guru Cam Petschi of Not That go into detail on the latest chapter in the Chase & Status story...
C&S have two tracks in the Top 10 and another rising fast, how have you been working three hits concurrently?
Sophie Kennard: “Frenetically! They’'ve always been relatively traditional in the way they've released albums - spending a year-and-a-half writing a new piece of music and then working it - and wanted to mix it up. They wanted to put a mixtape out, release loads of music and do the opposite of what they'd normally done. That was partially driven by another member of our team, Myradh Cormican, who is a digital marketing manager at Frame. We always used to joke that she never had that much music to work with, and she was constantly saying, ‘When are the boys going to put some new music out so that their social media can be a bit more engaging?’
“To be honest, it was more driven by keeping our audience active and finding ways to have multiple things going on at multiple times. You can do that these days - you don't have to be so restricted in having one record that's working at radio, you can be way more dynamic.
“All these records are club records as well; they were born out of Will and Saul DJ-ing all over the world, testing stuff out and seeing what reacted well. Obviously in a drum & bass DJ set of 60 or 90 minutes, you play a lot of tunes and it was born from the reaction in clubs, which gave them the confidence to just say, ‘These records are working, let's put them all out.’”
How did the various collaborations come together?
SK: “Will and Saul are fans of what these young, exciting artists are doing within drum & bass so it was a natural starting point for them to reach out. They've never really collaborated with other producers and that was quite a big place of exploration for them. Normally, they've worked with singer-songwriters.
“With Becky [Hill], again, they were fans. They were asked to produce for her so they'd been in the studio and had produce a few different tunes. And then the conversation came about saying, did they actually want to be credited on it? They were fans of each other and had always wanted to work together. It was very natural.”
Do you feel like those tracks have peaked now or can they chart even higher?
Cam Petschi: “That's a good question. Baddadan is No.5, which is obviously an amazing place for it to be. We’ve tried to create markers and moments around each release, from the Baddadan launch party to Boiler Room, which has kicked it on in the last week. That's a huge moment for an artist like Chase & Status and it’s been a long coming for the fanbase. I think we're seeing the uptick of that. I mean, I've never seen C&S so many times on the ‘For You’ page on my TikTok. How far it can go? I don't know, but it feels like a timeless drum & bass record right now. It's a proper zeitgeist moment.”
How have you adapted your plans as the records have taken off?
CP: “Putting another record out six weeks [after the last] is probably not the most conventional way to do it with a record we think has as much commercial appeal as Liquor & Cigarettes. But obviously, we're doubling down to keep it in the chart. By the time the mixtape comes out, we want to have that record also at the top of the charts. There are moments where you think, ‘Okay, maybe this is where it's peaked’ and then it continues to grow again. We're also seeing international markets picking the record up, it's really branching out of the UK.”
SK: “There was a point maybe 18 months ago where we'd come off the back of [2021's] Rtrn II Jungle [52,543 sales], which had been this specialist album after a period of commercial success, and you could feel that drum & bass was infiltrating culture more than it had done in the previous few years. And there was a point where we were like, ‘We need to make C&S the kings of drum & bass.’ They have influenced lots of people and have amazingly kept a generational audience - fans have grown up with them, as has the team that works around them - and there was this real drive from all of us to recognise how long they've been doing this and how talented they are. It’s been about finding the different pockets of audience and serving them in whatever way we can, whether that be through events, DJ sets, live shows, music, all sorts of ways to experience them. And the boys have delivered.”
CP: “There's a whole new generation of 18-year-olds experiencing drum & bass through them. It's quite funny that the commercial success is coming almost [by accident] because they've just been creating from passion. They've always created from passion, but it's interesting when that psychology shifts a little bit.”
SK: “That's also EMI giving them the space to do what they want. They've been signed to the same label for over 10 years, with various different presidents and teams, but always with total belief to allow the boys just to get on with it - and that’s rare. That gives you then the space creatively and mentally to just write tracks like Baddadan which, let's be honest, is quite a hard drum & bass record with a load of MCs on it, so that belief is really important.”
To what extent has them being so prolific helped grow their streaming numbers?
CP: “The daily peaks in terms of C&S catalogue are the highest they've ever been, and each record is living in its own space, What you realise is how broad drum & bass as a genre as well: the Baddadan audience is different to the Liquor & Cigarettes audience, which is probably skewing more to Hedex's scene. Then you've got the Becky fans and how that's translated, but you've also got DJs like Andy C playing Disconnect out and loving it. There's a resurgence of drum & bass and it's not an overnight thing, but it's a really exciting time for all the artists involved in the scene."
How would you sum up their fanbase?
CP: "The fanbase is so broad now and there are people who have engaged with C&S at so many different stages along their journey. We've seen Instagram grow by a third during this campaign alone, engagement's through the roof and that's so exciting. Myradh's been amazing, and Ben [Carden-Jones] and the team at Frame have been amazing at driving that and pushing the guys to understand new platforms, and they've really embraced it. We were really quick to get a Discord and that's been amazing. It’s a representation of their ability to adapt to the modern times.
"C&S are having their biggest ever moments on Tik Tok in terms of sound creations/connectivity to audiences there and that's been driven hugely by [EMI head of creator strategy] Ellie Tuvey. [Digital campaign manager] Lucas Mesquita has been integral to seeding everything into the cultural fabric digitally, too.
"We're obviously having amazing moments in a digital space right now, which has very much been supported with arguably their strongest radio run to date. [EMI head of radio promotions] Michael Pickard has been so important. Baddadan stayed on BBC Radio 1 for five weeks and was a Hottest Record on launch, which hugely helped push Shazam numbers and discovery.
"After a short build in the coat tails, the timing to get Liquor & Cigarettes onto the playlist was seamless. It was part of a two-year build from What Came Before where Michael was instrumental in re-engaging Radio 1 throughout the album, pushing them to become a core R1 artist. A key moment in the run in to this album was the 24-hour scramble to fill in at Big Weekend two years ago, which once again showed the adaptable nature of the team and band to seize opportunities presented to them."
Has dabbling in other genres kept C&S open to new ideas?
SK: “Well, when they've been working with artists who are big in other genres in the past, they've tried to be adaptable and amenable to that artist's sound, [whereas] this mixtape was about focusing on drum & bass and recognising their peers and the younger artists coming through, and celebrating it. Not that the boys would ever think they were kings of a scene, they would die if they heard me say that! But we think they are and giving them the confidence that you can write a 10-track drum & bass album in 2023 and have multiple tracks charting is a real applaudable feat and it's inspiring to those young drum & bass producers in their bedrooms."
They have already announced a 2024 UK tour, how are their other live plans shaping up?
SK: “They have exceptional support from their agents at UTA: Obi Asika, Tom Jones and Jamie [Waldman], we've worked with them the entire time since Will and Saul were £300 a night DJs, driving up and down the M1 in their Ford Fiesta. They're not doing many shows at all in the next year, we're just picking a few very high profile key shows for next summer in the UK and pulling back from DJ-ing. We've DJ-d a lot over the last 10 years and you want to create a bit of demand and actually the time when you're having your most success is is quite a nice time to take your foot off the gas in terms of being able to see them everywhere all the time. To be more in demand than ever after almost 20 years in the industry is an amazing position to be in.
“The biggest impact we're seeing at the moment is in America. Drum & bass has always been incredibly niche over there, but the boys played a full drum & bass set at EDC in Vegas last May to 60,000 fans. Seeing drum & bass connect in America for the first time in five to eight years of touring there is really exciting and the boys' appetite to go to the States is huge. They've always wanted to be a culturally important export for the UK. Long live drum and bass, that's all I can say.”