Music: Coming in With a Bang

Following their hotly received new album, Chiddy Bang talk musical eclecticism, Irish drinking laws and their humble beginning in Philadelphia, with Sophie Lioe

Due to their explosion onto the music scene at the tender age of 19, you may be forgiven for thinking that both Xaphoon Jones and Chiddy are akin to two overwrought college kids. However, the duo that have created the genre-defying sound of Chiddy Bang have quickly risen to fame and produced successful singles. Does this mean that they have produced over-sized egos too?

During the interview, it is clear that although they both turned 20 recently, they are still in that awkward early stage of fame, with neither being quite sure how to deal with it. According to Jones: “I was DJing a lot of clubs in Philly before I got fired for not being 21.” Such a scenario proves that even if you’re playing sets with the likes of Big Boi from Outkast and Travie McCoy, it’s not going to stop the bouncers from checking Wikipedia, finding out you’re underage and chucking you out the back door.

The story began at a college party in their freshman year, when Xaphoon, a reluctant college student on a music scholarship, was rap battling with a friend. He admits that “when I have a few drinks I start to think I can rap too,” before adding: “All of a sudden this kid Chiddy just comes out of nowhere and just ends it.”

Despite this less than harmonious first meeting, the duo eventually started working together. And so began their journey from underground clubs in their home town to touring the world on the back of the success of their debut album, The Swelly Express.

Chiddy, a business student, began sneaking into the studio with Jones, working until the campus security would chuck them out. Then they would “walk from the studio, down 33rd Street and go up to where all the college parties were, go to the DJ, and beg him to play it so we could hear what it sounded like through the speakers.” So there it was – a world premiere of their evenings work, with their peers as their first critics.

The duo became known for their unique ability to transcend genres, with no one knowing quite where to place them. If you check out their Facebook page, their genre is a bit of a mouthful: “hip-hop-electronica-afrobeat-club-pop” apparently.

Sampling bands such as MGMT in their first single ‘Opposite of Adults’, as well as Radiohead, Passion Pit and The Clash – music which also incorporated a hip-hop sound that ensured they got themselves noticed throughout the music industry.

In relation to the aforementioned samples that first brought them fame, Chiddy had “no clue” about any of the bands before Jones introduced him to them. “This brain is all Jay-Z, Lauren Hill [and] Kanye,” he says.

Even their music videos defy the norm – the norm being that any current song with even a hint of hip-hop influence seems to be code for using half-naked girls, heavy product placement and not much else. When asked about their quirky, creative videos, Xaphoon was quick to point out that the release of their first single presented the perfect opportunity to “show everyone that we don’t really take ourselves too seriously” and rather than work with big-shot directors, “we really only work with friends of ours”.

After signing in March last year to the UK label EMI, the band toured the UK and USA throughout the summer giving fans a taste of The Swelly Express live. The band are now back in the UK and Ireland, where they are clearly more than happy to be. “It’s great, you guys don’t give a damn,” they exclaim, with pints of Guinness in their hands, when referring to Ireland’s younger drinking age and more lax approach to the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle which both the duo and the country readily embrace.

With their as-yet unconfirmed appearance on Tinie Tempah’s headline tour, the duo might be back in Dublin in a few weeks time, as long as it doesn’t clash with previously booked studio time in London.

The pair are adamant that performing live is top of their priority list and as I watched their show that evening in the Academy, it was clear they were really enjoying themselves in an endearing unassuming kind of way.

Instead of a slick, rehearsed show, their performance had a naivety about it. It was just as though two friends were revelling in the fact that they were being given the chance to headline their own show, do what they liked on stage, and have a laugh with the crowd just like it was one of their college parties back home in Philadelphia. And I guess in many ways, it was.

Chiddy Bang: The Preview is out now.