Brighter Days Are Coming: IZCO On UKG And Collective Creativity

From the 2-step resurgence to work on viral bangers with PinkPantheress...

For those who weren’t paying attention, UK garage has made its long awaited return.

Broadening itself across both the underground and the mainstream, the resurgence is met with the parallels of indulgent nostalgia, and the dreaded thought of there being first-time listeners, who were hardly born when the genre first emerged in the late 90’s. Shock horror.

Yet, one can’t resist to shift their attention away from the formulaic attempts in producing another tired smash hit and divert the spotlight to Brighter Days Family. There is a genuine, youthful core to the, first and foremost, friendship group which include NME Award winner Nia Archives, Reek0, Samtheman, dochi and JKarri. Redefining the old-skool sounds of garage, jungle, grime and broken beat into an all-encompassing collective, its the likes of frontman IZCO who are pushing the scene into the right direction.

Izzy Cofie’s name is one that’s bounced across radio stations and club nights since 2019, now occupying his own space within dance music which sees a more versatile approach coming to the horizon. Last year’s ‘RISE’ EP is definitive and true to a sound the Hackney native has nurtured over the course of his adolescence, blending soulful garage and jungle production with more hard-hitting grime features from Novelist to Capo Lee.

Now, the 22 year old takes over Rinse FM’s airwaves every Tuesday evening and forms the duo mastermind behind Pink Pantheress’ viral launchpad ‘Passion’. Clash sat down the IZCO to discuss his journey so far, the current state of the garage scene and the future of Brighter Days Family.

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As a key player within the underground scene, particularly the club scene, where does IZCO’S journey begin?

My journey begins through production and experimenting. I’d always produced from a younger standpoint of working for rappers so that made me realise I could be an artist as well, in the dance world. What’s sick about the dance scene is it allows producers to be just as much of an artist as anyone else. My friends have kind of always been my kind of target audience, to enjoy music with the people who are around me, my friends and family.

You mention producing when you were 11, what introduced you to the art form at such a young age?

When I was young, in primary school, I just used to play football, watch music channels on TV, every day, all day. I just thought producers were cool, I would see them in their spaceships with all their buttons. My dad used to produce when he was younger, it was never his career, but there’s still bits of musical equipment lying around the house. I remember when I was finishing school, we got a MacBook computer and from the day we got it I was on GarageBand all day, every day.

I think that everyone at that age wants to have some sort of stimulation. If I had an Xbox, I would have probably been playing that instead. It’s like how all these genius hackers are all 12 and 13, because they’re just playing with the software, when it comes down to them, if you engage in them and just get used to them…

What drew you towards the more old skool sounds of jungle, garage and grime? How did you immerse yourself within those scenes, despite not necessarily growing up when they were first emerging?

I think one thing that drew me to them is that, especially with grime and jungle, it’s the fact that it’s just wild. There’s no rules, especially with the old skool stuff. People have the licence to just get as crazy as they want within the genre, but it’s still the genre. I’d say that immersing myself in them is learning on the go, I wasn’t an expert, I didn’t know all the songs and DJs before I got on board with garage.

I think a big point for immersing me in those music scenes is Capo Lee. He took me under his wing, got me on Mode FM when I was mad young. He got me on Rinse aswell, he called me up one day saying “Iz, do you think you’re ready to do a Rinse show?” I’d only done that one Mode FM show and I was like, “I don’t know, to be honest.” He’s like, “well, you’ve got one next week. So get ready.”

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You strike a balance between the old and the new. Is there a moment that pinpoints when you found your own sound or the direction in which you wanted to venture into?

I think doing remixes on SoundCloud of different grime acapellas or old yard and dancehall acapellas, I think that’s where I found my sound.

From when I was younger, I never wanted to have a tag. I decided I’m never going to have one of them, I’m just going to try and make it so that you can tell that I made it from how it sounds instead.

So last year, you released your EP ‘Rise’. How did it come into being and what was the idea behind the project?

Through a long time of not releasing, I wanted to do a project that was almost like one of my staple sounds, the brighter, dance music across multi-genres. It’s a sound that I’m kind of moving on from in a sense, it’s kind of evolving now. I wanted to capture my teenage era of production, I would have loved that if I didn’t make it.

And for those who may not be familiar, who are Brighter Days Family, and how did you come into formation?

That is my family, that is my extended family. Me and Sam, Samtheman, we made a song, we decided to call it Brighter Days. And then we wanted to start a collective because our music is so heavily influenced by each other’s music. It’s to a point where we’re almost collaborating on everything we do because the crossovers in our sounds are so prominent and recognisable. If Nia Archives does something then we’re all doing it, if Reek0 does it then we’ll enjoy it as if it were ourselves.

And do you have any thoughts on why UK garage has had such a resurgence over the last few years? What’s drawing the new generations towards the genre?

Firstly, everything goes round, and everything comes back. I think people want to dance, and people want to enjoy themselves. Garage, for people like us that didn’t grow up in it but a lot of people in our family and friends did, it’s a way to connect people. You look at amapiano coming through now, it offers the same kind of thing that garage offers – a good opportunity to dance and to feel good and party.

The production is always going to evolve but one thing that has really, really evolved is the vocals. They’ve definitely pushed that to the mainstream because really and truly, the garage tunes that are charting are the ones with the rappers on them. I see a similarity, because you look at when it was first resurging, it was people like myself doing remixes into garage and then a couple years later, it’s all original vocals on it again. It’s what the people wanted.

There is a sense that the garage hits gaining mainstream success have an air of inauthenticity to them. What are your thoughts on the commercialisation of garage?

I think it’s in the purpose of why people are making it. Alot of those tunes that are coming about, I presume are coming from a standpoint of people wanting a garage hit on their album, and that’s what they’re aiming for whereas for us, if we’re making a dance tune it’s because we want people to dance to it. Most of the time it won’t even end up on streaming platforms, and that’s because it’s made for a whole different reason.

It’s difficult to just talk about garage because it’s starting to become more like house and drum & bass, where there’s so many sub-genres and completely different lifestyles, sounds and types of careers within the same umbrella.

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Yourself and JKarri worked together on PinkPantheress’ ‘Passion,’ tell us about the creative process and what it meant for you when it reached such viral success?

Pink Pantheress’ label hit me up and said that she wanted to work and I was like ‘yeah, can I do it with Josh, JKarri.’ She came to my house, we did a couple of days, she said she was a big fan of my productions and used to listen to my stuff a lot, she said it was a big influence. It was nice to be involved with that project and it was crazy to see how good the tune did, something that we made in the same room from which I’ve made everything, forever.

What can we expect from Brighter Days Family in the upcoming year and furthermore yourself, where do you see your sound steering in next?

So, Brighter Days Family, we’ve got a bag of releases, bare music, some vinyls. We’re trying to get our music out in the most fun way for us as possible. A lot of events, hopefully we do some festival stuff, some big club takeovers as well as doing our own thing. I think the one thing to say about Brighter Days is that we’re not ever going to be pushing it down anyone’s throat, if you really like our music, and you’re invested enough to try and find some stuff, then I can guarantee you will be rewarded.

With IZCO, I’m just trying to keep it up, making that change from the bootleg remixes to the official remixes now is sick and is definitely something that comes natural to me. The new thing to expect from me is reggae, at the moment I can only make reggae.

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Stay in touch with IZCO on Instagram.

Words: Ana Lamond

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