The Christmas charts are stale this year. The endless grip LadBaby have on the charts seems to have put everyone else off, bar The Kunts and their swear-laden opus. What happened to having a bit of fan at the festive season, eh? Enter The Sidemen. The YouTube creators have turned their hands at making a Christmas banger, and with the aid of Jme they might just have succeeded.
Out now, ‘Christmas Drillings’ began as a dare, was embarked on as a joke, and has ended up soundtracking Advent season up and down the land. The Sidemen – KSI, Miniminter, Zerkaa, TBJZL, Behzinga, Vikkstar123, and W2S – bring their natural chemistry to the fore, joined on the ice-cold drill beat by grime lynchpin and close friend Jme.
With a sip of brandy and a mince pie close to hand, this motley crew might just end up gate-crashing the Christmas charts. ‘Christmas Drillings’ is soaring up the Top 40 and with only 24 hours left to play, it could breach the summit itself.
The Sidemen and Jme are on a whirlwind media tour right now, chatting to BBC Newsbeat over breakfast before setting up their open-top bus for a dash across London to meet fans. Clash caught Vikkstar123 and Jme just before boarding the bus for a breezy chat about the new single, and their festive plans.
Merry Christmas, guys! The new single bangs. How did it come about?
Vik: Oh, it happened by accident basically! It was an idea we had on one of our YouTube spreadsheets: like, make a Christmas song. We gave ourselves one day to make it all happen. And now bang, it’s in the charts!
And it’s actually a really good song, as well.
Jme: That’s exactly what I said! Like 20 minutes into making the song I realised, hold on… this is good!
Did you look to other Christmas songs for inspiration, or just dive straight in there?
Jme: Nige is the producer. He set the tone, so he came in with sleigh bells, all these sounds. That little xylophone melody. We all sat writing lyrics in silence, but when we came together it was clear we were all on the same track and we started to bounce off each other’s energy. Once we got the hook down I thought, wow this is actually good! I mean, it started as a joke.
Vik: I would say, probably within the space of four minutes we went from nothing to having an actual Christmas song. It was like: OK, there’s never been a Christmas song over a drill beat… so let’s do that. Christmas songs are all cute and that, so let’s go the other way. The song almost unfolded itself, in a way.
It’s funny but the pen game here is actually really good. Was there an element of one-upmanship in the studio?
Jme: No, we were all helping each other. Once the hook was in place we started harmonising, bouncing idea’s off each other. We wanted the song to be as good as possible. We didn’t really mind what the other’s were saying – we wanted to make the song better, that’s what mattered.
Vik: I think that’s where the magic happened. If you look at who the Sidemen are, everything we’ve been able to achieve has been done collaboratively. We started with seven YouTube careers, and we found we had this natural chemistry, and a desire to help each other and push each other forward. And I think on this song, we just transferred that same energy.
For me, I’d never made music before – so it was invaluable to sit in the same room as those guys. All the little pieces of advice, how to change up the flow. It allowed me to shine in a way I wasn’t expecting.
The song has absolutely taken off as well…
Jme: For me, the minute it sank in is when we made the video. It hit me. I was like, this is massive. We made it in less than 24 hours, and suddenly you’re on set with snow and dancers! We made it so quickly you didn’t actually have time to think about how big it could get.
Another thing is that we were filmed the whole time. I’m not used to being filmed as I write bars. Normally I have time to sit back and think. But not this time. It was like, ACTION ACTION ACTION!
It’s been a mad week for you guys – you spoke to BBC a few minutes ago, and at lunch you’re boarding your Christmas bus for a whistlestop tour of London. Bit of a rush, isn’t it?
Vik: Completely! It came out of nowhere as well. I was thinking, I’ve got my videos done, time to wind down for the year. And now this! We chose not to sign to a label, so we’re doing everything ourselves, so the weight is falling on our shoulders. But at the same time, it’s been really fun and rewarding to tackle something like this.
What’s the vibe on the bus going to be?
Vik: It’s going to be a spectacle, I’ll say that much!
Jme, you almost steal the show on the single with your line: “Why do you have your tree up / It’s only fucking October!” It begs the question, when does your tree go up?
Jme: Wait a second! (Shouts through to partner) Start of December, she says. Start of December. We’ve got a daughter now, so it’s unfair not to have any Christmas decorations. If it was up to me, though, I’d just change my little LED lights to green and red! And that would be enough for me.
Some people, though… they literally put their trees up when Hallowe’en is over! As soon as Hallowe’en is finished, it’s up. Like, the next day! Hallowe’en decorations come down, Christmas ones go up immediately.
It’s a bit much, isn’t it?
Jme: It’s a lot! You look out the street at night, and all you see are people’s Christmas lights! So my lyrics are actually drawn from reality. And I also wanted to highlight the cost of living crisis, as the proceeds from the single are going to FareShare, the food bank charity.
You’re vegan, too, how do you find Christmas? Supermarkets seem to have embraced vegan alternatives over the past couple of years.
Jme: I’ve been vegan for like 10, 11 years so I’ve had every vegan alternative going. Now, I’d just prefer to have some parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, corn, peas… maybe some mash, maybe some gravy. I don’t have vegan turkey, or anything like that. I eat little and often, though. Some people have that big Christmas meal, but if I eat that I’m going to bed!
Have you both done your Christmas shopping yet? Or are you ‘Christmas Eve at Westfield’ kinda guys?
Vik: I’ve done my little bit! I tend to just buy for my fiancée, and she’ll handle the rest. I get the easy end of it!
Jme: I made a list. Having a list is very important for me, as I’ve got ADHD and that means I get side-tracked. So I’ll go out the house for some kitchen roll and come back with window cleaner! So I made a list, and we’re almost done this year, I think.
The Christmas chart feels extra dry this year, have you checked out the opposition?
Jme: I’ve heard the Stormzy tune. I know RAYE is in there. Then it’s all the classics – Mariah!
Vik: They just constantly get plays. Mariah is No. 1 on every Christmas playlist going.
Do you have a favourite Christmas banger?
Vik: I think ‘Last Christmas’ ticks all the boxes, to be honest!
Jme: I mean, we don’t really do Christmas! My partner goes to her family up North. I stay here, and everyone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas comes here. All my friends tend to go see their families for a bit, and then come here. We all sit and do puzzles and stuff! Then we play some music, get our instrumentals on!
All the money from the single is going to charity, too.
Vik: It’s nice to say that we are fortunate to do so well – through our content and through the support of our fans – that when we do projects like this, we can donate to charity. And we really liked the idea that we can support great causes, and pick different ones every time. So we’re supporting local communities while doing this.
Seemingly hmv are physical sales partners on this.
Vik: Yep! We dropped off 3000 autographed CDs and they sold out within two hours. All from a single tweet!
That’s crazy! Are you guys into New Year’s resolutions at all?
Vik: I’m not, actually. I’m more into the idea of constant improvement. A constant journey.
Jme, will you be resolving to release new music in 2023?
Jme: I’m actually shooting videos at the moment! Not on the same budget as this. I’m not sure when I’ll be dropping them, or exactly what I’ll do. I might do a cinema tour again, who knows. But I’ve got a lot of new music. Literally, my phone is full of songs. I want people to get quality.
And finally, did they let you keep the East 17 inspired jackets from the video?
Vik: They did! But mine didn’t fit, sadly.
Jme: I’ve got it! I’m keeping mine. My daughter took the balaclava though!
‘Christmas Drillings’ is out now, stream it right now to help out the campaign!