2XM is a Long Distance Relationship that Works
2XM are two kiwis making deep soulful, house music. Last last year I stumbled upon their song Paradisio in the treasure trove that is Soundcloud.
Like so many epiphany-like moments with house music, it come on slowly. A four to the floor kick and warm synths set the scene. Moments later I was awash with the soundscape, floating… no, bouncing through space… And then the bass. Wowee.
Who were these 2XM fellows? Some hasty reconnaissance revealed this; the people behind 2XM are Ben and Liam Murray, apparently brothers, hailing from Christchurch, NZ.
Intrigued, I made my way through their Soundcloud and got a little more familiar with the 2XM sound. It’s jazzy, lush and very textured. Noteworthy is composition. While house music typically relies on repeated motifs, the music of 2XM weaves, warps and evolves throughout. And then the jazz… 2XM’s music is punctuated with some of the more outrageous keys/synth solos you’ll hear on any house track.
My ears were content, but my curiosity remained unquelled. The internet offered very little about Ben and Liam. The story behind 2XM was duly in order. After an exchange of facebook messages, we organised an interview on messenger because as you will find out, Ben and Liam don’t even live in the same city. And they’re not even brothers (more on this later). And with a string of releases, including the very special 2am Rendevouz E.P, an interview was timely. So here goes, the interview with 2XM, featuring Liam on smoko on a Christchurch building site and Ben carousing around somewhere in Europe.
HZ: Is Liam around?
Ben: He should be!
Liam: Yo. Hello. On smoko now whats good? Let's get this rollin' boys
HZ: Congrats on releasing the 2am Rendevouz! It’s sounding dope! And apologies for the delay on this interview. We’ve been hell busy with Issue 2.
B: We know how it is man haha, glad to finally get in touch!
HZ: For sure. I've been vibing it, so it's good to get talking. So what’s the backstory for 2XM? Who are you guys? What do you do?
L: Used to play jazz together at high school, then I hit ben up and asked him if he was keen to send me some stems to make some groovy tunes and it we just been collabing over the net since then!
B: That's the one! Haven't looked back since.
HZ: Ahhhh, the jazz background makes a lot of sense in terms of the music you guys are putting out now. So you guys are brothers?
L: Hehehe. We are not actually brother we just share the same last name!
B: Took the words right outta my mouth haha - but yeah, we knew each other and played in heaps of groups together but didn't start doing it together exclusively until post-school.
L: But we are running with the brothers thing just cos its funny.
HZ: Oh shit. That makes for a bit of confusion. I read 'brothers Liam and Ben Murray' on a music blog this morning.
L: Yea we just rollin with it haha.
B: Exactly, it's also been a bit of a running gag since school, so we thought we could continue the tradition through 2XM as well.
HZ: That's hilarious. Might as well. So what instruments were you both playing?
L: I played vibraphone & percussion/drums. Bens a multi instrument man! Saxophone, oboe, keys & also last year won the world championship playing bagpipes. Probably more things I don't know about as well haha. I'm mainly just a drums man though.
B: You got it Liam! They're definitely the predominant ones. But anything I can get my hands on, I enjoy jamming / figuring out if I can.
HZ: Woah. That covers quite a few bases. It definitely spills into the 2XM tunes. And congrats Ben on the bagpipes world champs if that's actually legit! Seems far fetched but we'll roll with it. So did you guys both get into the production side of music around about the same time in school?
L: I started when i was like 16 just making hip hop and then did 2 years studying audio and engineering so have basically just been crafting my sound since then.
B: Fully legit man. I think I was a bit of a late bloomer to the production game compared to Liam... I was studying classical music at Uni in Wellington, and in my final year I was feeling a bit restricted by the education, so I delved into production alone and just spent a year or so figuring it out.
L: Me and Ben got involved in my second year studying, which was 2016.
B: Within that year, I made a collection of piano tunes which Liam picked up on, did a wee remix of with our good friend Neil MacLeod, and then we just kept rolling with more projects.
HZ: So the whole 2XM project was pretty spontaneous?
L: For sure! 2x Murrays.
B: It was definitely out of the blue for me too!
HZ: Haha I see 2XM = times two Murrays. Now we're on the same page. And you guys just started working together via the internet?
B: Yeah man!
L: Cos we have always been in different citys!
B: I don't think we saw each other in person until maybe ... 18 months or so after we started making music together?
L: Until we linked up in london last year to have a jam at the rhythm section studio.
B: We ended up meeting in London of all places when we were both doing some travel last August.
L: Yesss! What a time that was.
HZ: That's an outrageous story. We'll rewind the clock a bit. So one guy making hip hop, another making classical, how did you guys end up making house?
L: I did a house remix of one of Ben's tunes.
B: I was always interested in jazz even though I didn't study it, and I think the house blend really gave some lenient opportunities (for me anyway) to explore that.
L: I was getting into my house music after seeing Willy Styles sunset vibes at a rave. Best DJ set I've seen in my life. And it changed my life.
HZ: More spontaneity.... It just happened.
L: Yeah boi.
B: Yeah man, personally I just excited to explore music I had almost no idea about, and really just keep learning - no less from an absolute don like Liam.
HZ: For sure! So you guys worked on a tracks together and released them. Did you think they'd get any traction online?
L: We still learning!
B: Always learning!
L: We were just making it for fun but getting our close friend Neil Macleod involved in vocals definitely boosted us at the start cos hes got the voice of an angel. And now he's been on five of our tracks I think.
B: Well I had no idea what to expect to be fair; I didn't have anything to compare it to at all, so was pretty overwhelmed when things started picking up.
HZ: Nice one. So you're collaborating in NZ via co the interweb and releasing on Soundcloud. And then you decided to rendezvous in London?
L: Yeah basically a really last minute message to rhythm Section saying we are both in London for five days. And then bang, first time seeing each other since high school
B: Yeah, so I came over to the UK in June last year and was passing through London at the same time Liam was going to be there, cheeky message to the Rhythm Section guys and then a very heavy 8-hour session in the studio. It was magic though.
HZ: So it was a coincidence you guys were both in London at the same time?
L: For sure. I flew from Berlin. Was on a wee 3 month solo travel. Around Europe playing a few shows and what not. Going to a few festies, getting wild.
HZ: Ahh, so another happy coincidence. Europe looks wild! So, for all the people out there who don't know about Rhythm Section, can you guys give a quick rundown of the label?
L: Basically my favorite label that I have followed for years and was a blessing to see them in Wellington 2 years ago. I gave Bradley Zero (label headman) a usb of me and Ben's music which didn't have any follow up. But then emailed them with more stuff. But yeah, Rhythm Section is basically a really dope jazzy groovy label from London. Also, Chaos in the Cbd's Midnight In Peckham is one of my all time favorite jams.
HZ: Yeah I love Rhythm Section and everything they're doing. Midnight In Peckham is unreal. I saw those guys at Whammy in Auckland last year. It was mind blowing. So you guys finally met at Rhythm Section in London and just had a huge jam?
B: Yeah pretty much man.
HZ: That must have been pretty surreal.
B: It was awesome to finally get together in person!
L: Yeah for sure.
B: It was awesome to solidify/confirm the ease of workflow and relationship we'd only had over the internet in person.
HZ: Unreal. And so the 2am Rendevouz E.P. How did the release come about? Were the tracks already written before you guys decided to release them together or did you just sit down and decide ‘let's write some tunes for a release’?
L: I sent the tune 2am to my friend eden (Speedboat/Sandboards) and he loved it and linked me up with Alex from Nailshop and then we made the other three tunes for him specifically.
HZ: So have you guys had any hiccups so far? Has anything gone pear shaped yet? It just seems like you boys have been a roll for a couple of years now.
B: There definitely hasn't been any hiccups between us, we bounce off each other in heaps of different ways!
L: Yea all been smooth rolling.
B: As far as musical output, I simply just send Liam some melodic and harmonic ideas and he's the mastermind that arranges it and adds that all-important groove. Beyond the insane networking and social skills Liam has, I'm just very lucky to have been brought into it all!
HZ: So moving onwards, you guys released Inept, a single from a forthcoming EP?
L: Yeaaaah thats exciting as! was blown away when slav said he was keen for the leak!
B: Yeah man! That'll be through Nail Shop again coming through very soon.
HZ: Yeah I saw that on Slav's youtube channel! it's a really beautiful track. A bit of a tear jerker really.
B: And we are definitely excited to keep making them man! It's a joy to produce them.
L: There will be waterfalls.
HZ: Haha of course. So in terms of house music coming out of NZ, who should we be listening to?
B: Muzz you better take the stage for this one hahaha.
L: Ohhh wee. Speed Boat. K2k. Sportscrew. Caramel Smooth Heaven. Scheme.
B: Always gotta support the Chaos boys too, who hopefully need no introduction.
L: And my homies in my crew crooked lidz... Flandiz, Kills & Purpleman. Yeah chaos are killin it as always.
B: Aye big shout out to the Crooked crew x
HZ: Too good! Cheers for the interview dudes! Any final words?
B: Only a big thanks to you for having us man! We are excited for the next year and beyond.
L: Yeah thanks and much love to everyone thats vibed our tunes so far. More to come. And p.s look out for a live set when we have reunited again. Live tings coming in the future.
Interview by Sam Fraser-Baxter