LV & Josh Idehen: Trapped On An Urban Island

Collaborative crew in conversation…

With its tongue-in-cheek lyrics (“What d’you know about Moorgate? / I don't know anything about Moorgate! / What d’you know about Old Street? / Some of the girls there are quite sweet”), LV & Joshua Idehen’s 2011 ‘Routes’ weaved its way mischievously through the English capital; an ode to possibility.

Sat within the iron railings of St. James Square, Westminster three years on, the Nigerian spoken-word artist and Hyperdub duo now have a second full-length, ‘Islands’ (review), under their collective belt.

“There was quite a long period where we weren’t travelling much for gigs and it’s easy to forget there’s an outside world in London,” says LV’s Si. “It’s a great place to live, but it can be a bit of a trap sometimes.”

Josh nods. “If you wanna go clubbing just go down Shoreditch way, if you wanna watch football, laze in the park in London Fields. All of London functions like that in a way – South, North, East, West, you can just stay there and be there. You can go across the pond and it’s a whole new world, fantastic point of view…”

With a cheeky grin he breaks into a theme from Disney’s Aladdin soundtrack. “The whole album’s about Aladdin, actually, the whole album’s dedicated to Robbie Williams. Wait, did I just say ‘Robbie Williams’? Yeah, actually, it’s dedicated to him. For his integrity and virtuosity.”

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LV & Josh Idehen – ‘Waiting For The Night’

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While recording the album, a room in (LV’s other member) Will’s house became their musical microcosm, and they decided not to include any sounds created outside its walls. “We even recorded handclaps… We wanted to challenge ourselves not to use sample pack drums or shitty Logic Ultrabeat sounds,” stresses Will. “That is partly what the ‘Islands’ title is about, that room has been an island for us – that was our space. We just wanted it to be all the noises we’d made in that room, collated together.”

Si continues: “It’s not that we’ve got anything against sample packs, or sampling records, but what we’ve created is our own: no-one else has the same sounds. It’s never gonna be exactly the same as what we’ve recorded.”

Not to disregard the dancefloor-gazing hyperactivity, blissful rave interludes and irresistible broken beats of the LP, but it’s Josh’s spoken tales of urban living that form the backbone of the album. Where ‘Routes’ chopped Idehen’s vocals to make them stilted and percussive, ‘Islands’ tailors the beats to his mouth.

On the ice-cool, grimy ‘Imminent’, a story unfolds – the product of an experience around his mum’s flat in Hackney back in 2001. “Police blue lights, I came home from work and this boy had been chased off a balcony,” Josh recalls. “He lost his footing and came to his end. A big blotch of red on the concrete. And I heard this woman say, ‘I bet when he woke up this morning he didn’t realise his end was imminent.’ So I wrote that down.”

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LV & Josh Idehen – ‘Imminent’

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The trio realised the impact of that track while performing ‘Northern Line’ on tour. “At the end of the track I’d sing ‘dat boy dat boy dat idiot, thinks he’s grimy thinks he’s brilliant, he don’t know his time is limited, can’t see his end is imminent…’” Josh trails off, busting out an a cappella version of the track to an audience of senior citizens being taken on a tour of the square.

These are tales of unrequited love, miso soup and signing on, but this melancholy sonnet to reality packs a serious dancefloor punch – as proved by their recent Boiler Room set, despite Josh having lost his voice – “I took some shares out in the honey market that day, man! I must’ve drank a couple hives dry!”

The frontmant for Benin City, Josh looks to Young Fathers, Death Grips and tUnE-yArDs for inspiration, as artists at the pinnacle of performing. “That kind of fearlessness has been something I have taken to heart,” he nods. Another source of inspiration has – for him – been the videogame version of (Telltale’s) The Walking Dead. “’Cos its proper bleak!” he cries. “It’s proper proper bleak! I remember finishing that and just thinking, I’ve gotta go record the LV album tomorrow!”

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LV & Josh Idehen in the Boiler Room

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“I really wanted to explore the feeling of being an outsider,” Josh concludes. “It was something I’d really come to terms with on this project. Essentially, no matter how much I feel like I’ve made something that is mainstream, other people are gonna listen to it and think, ‘This is the weirdest shit I’ve ever heard!’ Which I think is generally mine and LV’s vibe; we make music that people either get or they don’t. And I wanted to explore the feeling of that.”

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Words: Felicity Martin

LV and Josh online. The three play Clash’s Electric Selection show at Hackney’s Oslo venue, with Darq E Freaker, on September 25th. Click here for more details and tickets.

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