British duo Too Many T’s are keeping busy. About to join Rhymesayers artist Grieves to co-headline The Secret Handshake, European and UK tour, which also coincides with the release of their brand new album La Fam iLL on Nov 8th. We caught up with Leon from the group to discuss these two points as well as filming a music video in morocco based on a Google image search, how to learn the secret handshake and of course, drinking tea.
Don’t forget to check out our interview with Grieves here.
First of all introduce yourself, introduce what you represent and who you are.
Well I’m one half of Too Many T’s, Leon Rhymes. Unfortunately Standaloft is sick today. Not in rap terms but in actual…he’s actually sick. We are Too Many T’s. Fresh rap, party hip-hop. Get your body moving and your head nodding. We’ve been going about 7 years. We had our debut album come out 2 years ago, South City and we’ve been touring heavily since then. That’s allowed us to travel quite a bit further around the world. We are just about getting ready to release our new album La Fam iLL and head off on tour around Europe.
Excellent. That’s cool. I heard your name was from a mix of having too many t-shirts as well as tea. Drinking tea. Is that right?
Yeah pretty much [laughs].
So I just wanted to break the ice I suppose and reinforce some British stereotypes. So are you a tea drinker obviously then? What’s your favourite brand?
[laughter] Earl Grey!
Earl Grey? Nice. Nice
Earl Grey yeah. A little flowery palate.
Nice. And you obviously mentioned that you tour a fair bit. Do you bring teabags on tour or do you just go with the local stuff?
Ermmm that is quite a good question. I mean we do…It is good to try the local stuff but sometime like in some places they just don’t have good tea. I mean we went to India at the start of the year and they have this like chai tea which is super sweet and milky but it’s beautiful. And about fourteen pence a cup. But, no, we do tend to take some teabags around with us.
Dedicated. That’s dedication.
That’s as hip hop as you get isn’t it?
[Laughs] That’s it. Drinking tea in foreign places.
So within the UK scene, I think it’s come into light a bit more as of the last couple of years. Where do you see yourself in that? I think you’re kind of doing your own thing, in your own lane, but I see influences from everything from grime, dancehall, electro-swing. Of course obviously a US influence as well. Where do you see yourself within the UK scene and I guess elsewhere as well?
Where do we see ourselves in the UK scene? I mean, I don’t know. We don’t really fit into any scene which is has pros and cons I guess. We are kind of doing our own thing which does seem to cross over so many things. So many different scenes we have fans from. Like hip hop crowds, to indie crowds, to dance music crowds, like you say, electro swing, grime. Across the board. Pop. Across the board we have a very wide variety of fans which probably is due to, I don’t know, the music, our approach to it, our energy behind it. I’m not quite sure. Me and Ross always wanted to be considered as flexible vocalists and always said we’d be able to fit to anything. Give us any type of music and we would be able to write nice melodies and nice rhythms on top of that music which becomes part of it. And that’s something we still pride ourselves on. And I think, becoming comfortable with the fact that we don’t really fit into a scene has probably been a big challenge. We consider ourselves as hip hop. But when you compare our brand of hip hop to some other UK hip hop maybe it is a little less brash. Maybe our personalities are a bit, I don’t know. A bit nicer? On the surface. I don’t quite know how to say it. There have been a few people have said “they are the hip hop duo that you can take home to your nan”. Which kind of says a lot about how people maybe view us and maybe therefore why we don’t fit into that scene. But I think it’s taken us a while just to feel comfortable in ourselves enough to go, you know what, sod it. We’re doing our own thing. We rap with a smile on our face and we bounce around and have a good time with it and that’s alright. We’ll do our own thing.
Yeah. One hundred percent. I do see influence from so many different places but you’re kind of forging your own path and it’s something to be commended I suppose.
I guess moving on to your live shows. I think it’s something you’re probably known for. It’s the type of music, as you said at the start, it gets people moving. How do you translate your albums to your live shows and I suppose also in part, to music videos to showcase your personalities? How important do music videos and the live shows come across compared to someone just listening to your albums? And I guess what the advantages are, and potentially disadvantages of this sort of form of music and how you showcase it?
I think actually being in a room with actual real people and performing live is my favourite place in the world. And it’s such an opportunity to really connect with people and be your authentic self with those people. And it’s in the moment, it’s natural, it’s feeding off the circle of energy that’s going round in the room and our music and our approach to the live show just gets that energy really, really high and gets the room together sharing that experience. And it’s not us performing for those people. It’s us sharing that party together.
I think that’s an important thing because, with hip hop in particular, sometimes the live show is, go on stage, 2 microphones or a microphone and DJ, play your set and go. And I feel that, having that interaction is so special. So to make something of that is definitely worthwhile and it should come across as being something special for both parties. You know?
Yeah. Exactly. And it’s sort of where we cut our teeth before we started thinking about making music. We were just performing live. The first thing that started Too Many T’s was a music video. We have become quite known for our maybe, creative, music videos. The whole visual element I think is super, super important. You know? Youtube is one of the most used search engines for music so it makes sense to put a bit of time and effort and energy into creating your music videos. I would also say don’t spend all your money on your music video like we did on our last album [Laughs]. But it is incredibly important. We went to morocco and we made a music video based on a Google image search of what we thought we’d find in morocco. Wrote this song based on these things we’d find in morocco and then went there and filmed it. We came back and released the video and everyone was like “Whoa, this is wicked”. And then the next minute we were Too Many and we were performing loads and that was where we kind of started. And it was only when we started, like, you know, making recorded music and putting that out that it, I don’t know, people were getting in touch with us like, “What is this? This is fresh! I don’t know where to put this.” Like you were saying before, is it electro-swing? Is this hip hop? Is this pop? Is this indie? What is this? Maybe we’ll never know.
Sometimes you don’t want to categorise everything. You want to be open and see what sticks I suppose.
Yeah. Exactly. But, you know, the main thing is the live show is where it’s at. The live show is where people get to experience the full enjoyment and party with Too Many T’s I guess.
I guess moving on from there we can talk about the upcoming tour you’ve got. So that’s with Grieves, obviously from Rhymesayers in the US? How did that come about and what should we expect from that set of shows in particular?
Yeah man. Well, we got a whole new album, we’ve got a brand new show that we’re putting together for the tour. We’ve kind of been doing the same show for a couple of years, and then for a couple of years before that it changed a little bit, but not loads. So for this tour we’re completely changing it. We’ve got a shit tonne of new songs and a shit tonne of new things to introduce to the set so personally just for my own development and sharpening my own tools I cannot wait to get out there on the road and play on this new tour. It’s going to be exciting for us which often brings about a certain energy which I think will translate really well with the crowd. But to do that with Grieves is, you know, kind of like a dream come true for us. We’ve both grown up listening to US hip hop, I think maybe Dreamy Days [By Roots Manuva] was the first UK hip hop song I’d ever heard. But I grew up listening to US hip hop and so did Ross. And at uni I got introduced to Atmosphere who obviously run Rhymesayers. So I’ve been a fan and following Rhymsayers as a label and all their artists, Brother Ali, Evidence… I’ve been following them for the best part of fifteen years. And then we got the opportunity to interview one of the artists on the Rhymsayers label who was doing a tour round the UK, because we do a radio show on Soho radio. And we got the opportunity to interview one of the guys, which we did, it went really well, and then we got more opportunities to interview other guys on the Rhymesayers Label, Atmosphere, Grieves himself when he was on tour in the UK. So it’s been like a two year, kind of, relationship building via certain things with them guys and then Grieves was going on tour to the UK and I think his manager spoke to their PR guy in the UK, Steaming Kettle, Andy Kettle. And we’d been in communications with Steaming Kettle as well and I think Andy suggested to the Grieves team, “what about Too Many T’s?” And then Grieves checked it out. Grieves liked it. And was like “Fuck yeah! This stuff’s wicked! Let’s do this!” I went to see a Grieve show in London and he’s on stage and he’s like “I’m a goofy motherfucker. I ain’t gonna lie”. He’s fucking good at what he does but he doesn’t take himself too seriously when he’s doing it. So I think it’s certainly going to be exciting and just the idea of us with one of the Rhymesayers artists, now that we’ve got this whole new album, this whole new show, we’re like super excited. I just can’t wait to get out there to be honest.
Yeah. And it’s called the Secret Handshake Tour. So how do we learn this then, this secret handshake?
Well you have to come to the show in order to find out.
So ticket only? Perfect.
Yeah that’s it. At the show only. But you need a crowd if you want to do it you see.
Perfect. And this is obviously a European and UK tour. What with Grieves being American is there any plans to move that elsewhere? I don’t know if you have played…You’ve played extensively, sort of Australia, Asia but I don’t know if you’ve really played the US much that I could see?
We haven’t. We’ve not been to the US at all. There’s been a couple of enquires but the visa’s are so expensive man. Like its ok being American coming to England, it’s alright, but being English and going to America, it’s like, it’s so expensive.
It’d be a work Visa would it?
Yeah. So in order for us to make that work we’d need to do a much bigger tour, in order to do a much bigger tour we need much more time, which we don’t have at the minute. But there are some much more solid enquires for next year. It’s something that we’d like to do you know, I’d love to test that market just to see how our sound goes down. Because in all honesty we’ve played in Europe, in France or Germany, or even in Australia… The reception to Too Many T’s, people have just been more responsive to what we do than in the UK. In a lot less time. Which, you know, maybe we should look at moving somewhere else? But, you know, England’s home and this is where we sort of, have been growing. We’d love to go out to the US but it’s just super expensive for promoters to get the three of us out there. ‘Cause there’s me, Ross and our DJ, Savage Henry.
Well hopefully this tour will get a few new fans from the Grieves supporters and you never know?
Yeah exactly. Well we’ve just finished writing a track with Grieves. Which he is mixing as we speak.I I’ll give you a little sneak preview [proceeds to play some snippets of the track.]
I think I need to listen to that on better speakers than my little phone speaker. When the plan for release of that? Is that on an album or is that just a single?
Well, fucking hell mate, he’s been on tour in America, he sent us his verse, recorded badly through his phone or something. And then he sent us the beat and we’d written some stuff whilst we were in Korea. Then we got back and we went to France. We got back from France late on Sunday night then Monday morning we got up, we recorded all our stuff Monday. Tuesday we edited it all, sent it over to him. And then that was when we sent it to Grieves and were like “Fuck. What’s he going to say?”. And then he came back “Oh Shit! You guys have smashed it! I fucking love it. Wicked. Send me the stuff, I’ll get it mixed”. So we’re hoping that the tracks going to be finished tomorrow and then… who knows? We’ve still need to get artwork done but we are going to try and get this track out with us and Grieves before the tour.
Yeah so that will be something for the people to come and see. Some new stuff.
Yeah, I mean it’s all a little bit confusing cause we’ve got our album coming out, this tour coming out, Grieves has got his coming out. And now we’ve thrown another song into the mix [Laughs]
You’ve got a few different threads
Too many things for people’s short attention spans.
Well I guess let’s talk about the new album then? That’s out on the 8th (of November) which I believe is the start of the tour, in Paris.
So that’s “La Fam iLL”?
La Fam iLL yeah.
So I’m guessing that’s a play on words of Family in French?
Yeah exactly. The Family. The sick fam.
I’ve had a couple of listens actual. I got a wee… Andy sent me a pre-release. Sounding great. How do you feel this differs from you last works and just talk a bit about it? ‘Cause there’s collaborations on every track. Plenty of French artists obviously.
Yeah man. Well that’s it, our last album was just me and Ross and produced by two people, Odjbox and Flux Pavilion, so it was like a team and it took a long time to write and record that album. And it was, you know, heavily influenced by the people who produced it which was Odjbox and Flux Pavilion. And I wouldn’t change it at all, I’m still super proud of that album but its… we wanted to make a slightly more old school feel, bouncy hip hop album and it started off… it was just going to be an EP. And we’d been talking to our label in France, Banzai Lab, about this idea, you know, we’d been travelling, in fact we’d been touring extensively in France and had met loads of different artist. So we thought about it, why don’t we try and make an EP with some of those artists. So we got the label to reach out to a few people to ask if they’d be interested but everyone came back saying “Yes! I’m interested”. So instantly we were like “oh maybe this could be more than an EP, maybe this could be an album. OK, great”. Then we were like “we’ve got all the people we wanted to send instrumentals to us”. And this was when we were in Asia, a lot of this, when we started writing. So we started writing to these instrumentals then we’d draft them on our phone whilst we were in Vietnam or somewhere and then we’d sent that to the producers and the producer would be like “aww yeah wicked, I like that” and then by the time we’d get back they’d made a different arrangement to the track around the demos that we’d sent. And then when we got back from Asia we just got into the studio and made… I think we did the whole thing in three or four weeks in the end.
Yeah. Intensive, exciting. A lot of the stuff on the album is like freestyle. In the booth, at the time, boom, that’s it done. But I think the album is a lot more natural from South City. It definitely weaves a lot more from classic old school hip hop into some dub tracks, some more kind of, like, guitar, funky stuff and then some electro kind of hip hop in there. Every track, like you said, is a collaboration. We wanted every track to be a collaboration. I think there’s fourteen different artists there on the twelve tracks. It’s been loads of fun making it man. I really, really enjoyed it.
How do you keep the project cohesive with that many different visions I suppose? How do you keep it or do you just let it flow and let it be an organic process?
Yeah good question man. That was a worry and concern. Essentially you’ve got me and Ross at the centre and we’re selecting the tracks we want to use. Just having us being able to select the tracks we want to use I guess, gives it some kind of direction. But then there was still the varying levels of producer that we were working with, in terms of their skill level, and also the variation and sort of diversity in the music they make. So we are part of this collective called the Rattle Studio Spaces in London and a guy there, Bobby. There was a band called Does it Offend You, Yeah? I don’t know if you remember them?
Yeah I’ve heard the name I think.
He was the drummer in that band and he’s a producer as well. He actually mixed all the tracks together and added his own slant on everything. So he kind of helped us tie all the sounds together to make it feel cohesive like a whole album. And with some bloody magic mate, we managed to do it and I think it does feel like…I mean it weaves from thing to thing through it. But it does feel like a cohesive album.
Yeah I think having skits in it, you’ve got that instrumental track to finish it, so I think it does flow and it does change lots of styles, but I think it does feel like a cohesive album which is quite impressive considering the different styles it goes through.
We’re super pleased with it man. We’re really happy to be working with a lot of those artists that we have been working with. And you know it’s allowed us to speak about some of the things we wanted to as well, and just have some rap-for-the-sake-of-raps. It’s been a real fun experience writing it I just can’t wait to release it and take it out on tour.
Yeah. Excellent. How is your French by the way? Because there is a couple of verses there. Mines minimal, if anything.
Yes. I’m similar mate. Last year we were in France every weekend and I actually got alright.
Yeah you got on?
Yeah I was almost having a conversation at one point.
That’s better than mine
Six months away from using it and it’s all gone you know. So I’m starting from scratch. But I mean I wish I could speak it. Apparently even some of the Hippocampe Fou’s verse on Freaky, it’s so colloquial that even some French speaking people can’t understand it all anyway.
[Laughing] Yeah so we’re no worse off then. I presume you get translations of things to vet what they are saying before you offend anyone?
Yeah, no, we did get translations before we agreed to the track. His verse on Freaky is particularly freaky!
Ok. I’ll maybe have to look that up then. Sit with Google Translate.
Yeah you can try. [laughing]
He’s pretty quick as well.
I know. He’s fucking awesome man.
Yeah. I guess I’ll sort of close up here. We usually finish off with a common question throughout our interviews. At the moment its which do you prefer out of Outkasts ATLiens or Aquemini and why?
Aliens was the first one right?
ATLiens was first yeah. Well the first of the two but not Outkast’s…
I can’t remeber the tracks…your going to have to…
ATLiens was like Elevators (Me & You)…
I think personally for me it would be Aquemini.
Yeah I think so. Well that had the Rosa Parks track on it didn’t it?
Yeah, Yeah. Aye. I think I was swaying towards ATLiens but they are always so close.
Yeah. It’s a difficult one mate. It’s been a while. I’d have to go back and…
…And revisit. I was the same. In my head I thought one and then revisited them and I’ve probably switched back and forth multiple times. It’s not easy.
But Outkast are sick though. Definitely one of our favourite groups.
Yeah. I don’t know if its wishful thinking but I’d love another album but I don’t see it happening anytime soon.
I don’t. No.
That’s perfect. Unless there’s anything else you want to say or promote then yeah, that’s a wrap.
I mean, I don’t think so. We’ve got the Freaky video already out, we’ve got a new video coming out for Everyday People pretty soon. And then another video for Work Ethic later on. But, yeah just come see us on tour, check it out.
Grieves and Too Many T’s The Secret Handshake Tour kicks off the same day as T’s new album La Fam iLL drops. Check it out and be sure to catch them both on tour at the venues below: