By Max Foley
CALGARY – It’s hard to believe that Ivy Lab, in its current iteration, has been around for almost half a decade. The trio of bassweight virtuosos – consisting of Sabre, Stray and Halogenix – made a splash in 2012 with their take on blissful, classy drum and bass, releasing the instant anthem that was “Oblique.” From there, a spat of singles and EPs cast from the same mold as “St. Clair” and “Brat” cemented Ivy Lab as an act to watch.
“Back in those days, we were trying to slot into a pre-existing world, and so getting the acclaim that we did was obviously very exciting.” explains Laurence Reading, aka Halogenix. “But a lot of what we wanted to do with drum and bass had already been done. We were struggling with original ideas.”
What garnered them the bulk of the notoriety they’ve accrued today, then, was their eagerness to push boundaries.
Sabre’s classical training and status as a Metalheadz and Critical Recordings alum, paired with Stray’s knack for buttery hip-hop soundscapes and Halogenix’s fresh takes on refined liquid DnB, resulted in a sound that balanced the sound design one expected of high-class drum and bass with the dancefloor-readiness and energy of murky hip-hop.
And thus, almost single-handedly, Ivy Lab became the poster boys for halftime drum and bass – a sound that today has all but reached critical mass in the context of underground bass music.
“Being in that group of people who are called trendsetters and tastemakers, it puts a lot of wind in our sails.” Reading continues. “I don’t know if that’s a bit cringey, I don’t want to blow our own trumpets. But with halftime, we can be more original, and it gives us license to be more prolific.”
Jonathan Fogel, aka Stray, chimes in. “We used to aspire to make things super classy and polished, and sculpted. That’s what marked our brand of drum and bass. Moving into doing the halftime stuff has allowed us to be rougher around the edges.”
Echoing through a Skype call from the Denver airport, on the cusp of what they describe as their biggest tour ever, Fogel describes the group “overflowing with inspiration.” It’s a sentiment that bleeds through the internet connection and drowns out the robotic background din of the airport.
“[Ivy Lab’s events brand and label] 20/20 goes from strength to strength; our demos folder has like 60 tunes in it; we have the Peninsula EP coming out next month, and a new LP slated for later this year; basically, we’ve gotten more into the flow of doing halftime. We’re more practiced, and as a result we write more music that we’re confident about.”
That confidence, then, translates into constant evolution. With their most recent inspirations stemming from the likes of EPROM, Tsuruda and CRIMES!, the most logical step was a comprehensive North American tour. So when Ivy Lab announced a series of double-dates with EPROM and Alix Perez’ collaborative project SHADES, discerning bassheads everywhere flipped their shit.
“Our discovery of the US bass music scene has inspired us a lot to explore different way of making music.” Reading explains, describing an impressive studio session with Tsuruda. “Everyone inspires each other, everyone takes little bits of technical wizardry off of each other, and it helps create this unified sound.”
Having previously collaborated with Alix Perez on the Arkestra EP, and teasing an upcoming Ivy Lab feature on the upcoming new SHADES EP, one can only imagine what these two acts have in store for their tour.
“We’ve got so much music right now. We’re working on streamlining our sets to present as much forthcoming material as possible, and we’re looking to open up the sound to a wider audience.” Fogel explains.
“But we also want to test some stuff out with the crowd, and see if they want to come with us on a more low-key journey.” Old heads and eager newcomers, then, can expect a quintessentially Ivy Lab set – a microcosm of what’s kept them at the forefront of the movement.
Ivy Lab and SHADES play the Starlite Room in Edmonton on March 23rd, Marquee Beer Market and Stage in Calgary on March 24th and the Red Room in Vancouver on March 25th.
Ivy Lab, Marquee Beer Market and Stage, Red Room, SHADES, Starlite Room