8 December 2023

Blue Lab Beats are the UK duo bringing euphoric live energy to jazz

HUNGER catches up with the group following the release of their latest single, ‘No Doubt’.

Comprised of NK-OK and his multi-instrumentalist musical partner, Mr DM, Blue Lab Beats are a duo with a finger on the pulse for transformative and transcendent soundscapes. And deservedly, over the past two years, the London-based pair have found their intricately woven tunes picked up by the masses. With over 50 million streams on Spotify alone, Blue Lab Beats have positioned themselves at the forefront of a buzzing UK jazz and neo-soul scene. Meanwhile, in 2022, the group would pick up their first Grammy win for their production on Angelique Kidjo’s ‘Fired Up’ track from her Mother Nature LP. With 2024 on the horizon, the boys are set to continue their momentum into the new year thanks to their latest single, ‘Never Doubt’ – a powerful and infectious groove doused in captivating soul and jazztronica. The track acts as the first single for their highly anticipated fourth studio album set to release in 2024, and if ‘Never Doubt’ is anything to go by, we can expect an abundance of sparklingly produced cuts that’ll bring an endless hit of euphoria whenever played.   

Here, we sit down with Blue Lab Beats to discuss their latest single, what to expect from their upcoming album, and much more…

HUNGER: Hey guys thanks for taking the time to talk to us! So, starting from the beginning, could you tell me a little bit about your upbringing? Have you guys always grown up in London?

NK-OK: Yeah, we’re both Northwest boys. Hendon for me.

Mr DM: And Southgate area for me.

And when did you realise music was something you wanted to pursue?

NK-OK: For me, both my parents really love music. By age 13, then I was playing my beats the lunch. It was almost like a hip-hop movie scene with people emceeing and then David was like, “wait, whose beats are playing right now?” And someone pointed to me. Then I finally got into a rehearsal room with David and I was like, oh, okay, this is crazy. This guy can just pick up any instrument and just play. 

Mr DM: on my side, I think I was just going out to as many jam sessions as I could and working with other musicians. Just spending as much time as I could around them and picking up things here and there, and just trying to learn.

For anyone who’s never heard your music how would you describe it?

NK-OK: It changes all the time, really. Right now I’d say we’re a jazztronica duo or a Soultronica duo. I guess when we’re in the soultronica vibe it’s more of us producing for other people. People like Kojey Radical and Tiana Major9. So, we go more on our soultronica, soul and R&B bag for that.

You just released your new single, ‘Never Doubt’, can you talk to me a bit about the inspiration behind that? I read that you lost the demo for the original track.

NK-OK: Yeah, it was a crazy moment. We made it in April, right? Then one day I opened my MacBook and it said, “Welcome MacBook user”. And I was like, what’s going on? And it came up with language selection as if it was a new Mac. So I turned it on and It recognized some files. But then everything with Logic and the music program that I’m using was completely wiped out and I literally was like, “Oh my Lord, what am I going to do?” I thought I plugged in my interface for recording something, but I actually accidentally plugged in my backup hard drive, and it didn’t back up the corrupt files. It backed up the files that I had a week before. So, luckily it saved the entire album. But the only thing was, I didn’t have that track. I didn’t have ‘Never Doubt’. Then my publishers were like, we just heard something happened, and I explained the whole thing. They said, “Is your computer faulty? All right, cool. We’re getting a new one right now. That ain’t happening again.” Then me and David are staring at the Logic the music program screen, just being like, how are we going to get that energy again? But thankfully we did it.

Mr DM: I think that situation was a blessing in disguise and gave us an opportunity to come up with fresh new ideas. It was like a second opportunity.

You mentioned your upcoming album. What can we expect from that? Any sounds you’re looking to explore in particular?

NK-OK: One part of the album has a string section on it. And expect a lot of great features. We’re aiming for a lot more songs instead of vibing off with ideas. A lot of the album is us really looking at song structure and connecting with what we’ve learned whilst being on the roads and touring. I think this album is going to be definitely the most fun to play live, for sure. We performed ‘Never Doubt’ at KOKO, and it was our first time having a full band with us as well. It was just such a beautiful experience.

you’re looking to explore in particular?

NK-OK: One part of the album has a string section on it. And expect a lot of great features. We’re aiming for a lot more songs instead of vibing off with ideas. A lot of the album is us really looking at song structure and connecting with what we’ve learned whilst being on the roads and touring. I think this album is going to be definitely the most fun to play live, for sure. We performed ‘Never Doubt’ at KOKO, and it was our first time having a full band with us as well. It was just such a beautiful experience.

You just mentioned that KOKO show. For anyone who’s never seen you live, how would you describe your performance style?

NK-OK: Well, the way how Spotify pitches us, you’d think we’re a chilled ba chilled jazz band. But when you see us live, I will be yelling. Before Blue Lab, I was in a band called Age of Luna and I was a hype man for them when I was 17. So then I bring that to our gigs as well. At our gigs I’m going to tell you to put your hands up. I’m going to tell you to dance. I’m going to tell you whatever my mind, body and soul is telling me to do. I’m just embracing the emotion and actually wanting the listener to feel what I feel with me.

What would you say has been the most surreal moment of your career so far?

NK-OK: I think our first and second time in Japan. Japan never gets old for us. Yeah. Yeah. Our fans in Japan just burst into tears whilst meeting us. It’s just crazy. And then I guess the other moment for us was Spain. Spain was wicked. We were on the main stage on a beach in Spain, at Jazzfest. And I think the estimate was like roughly 8,000 people there. So to perform that was insane. And for me to do hype man, that was the best time I’ve had on the stage.

So, just one more question. What is the goal for you in your career?

NK-OK: I’m just loving the process right now. I never really see myself or see us as underrated artists or anything. I just enjoy the journey. We never even thought we would perform live. We thought we were just going to be a production duo. We’re going to just chill way back in the studio.

Mr DM: We were just happy with getting 70 plays on SoundCloud, Having maybe five to 10 people download our song, and seeing us hit 75 million streams on Spotify, It’s so wild.

  • Photographer Rankin

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