Lil Silva and George FitzGerald put together a new mix ahead of their collaborative project’s Village Underground show
Lil Silva and George FitzGerald weren’t planning to create a whole new project when they first started making music together. “We’d just made a bunch of tracks that sounded like their own thing,” says Lil Silva, real name Tyrone Jermaine Carter, over the phone from his hometown, Bedford. “It really was as innocent as, ‘We enjoy writing music together, so let’s just keep doing it,’” adds FitzGerald, speaking from London.
OTHERLiiNE, their new collaborative project, began when FitzGerald remixed Silva’s “Lines” back in 2016, a creative exchange that was repaid when Silva worked on the track “Roll Back” for FitzGerald’s album All That Must Be two years later. The two producers and songwriters were already established solo artists who came to prominence around similar times, following similar trajectories: Silva started out in the UK funky scene, releasing killer EPs as white labels and on underground imprints like Night Slugs, before going on to work with musicians like BANKS, Rosie Lowe, and Adele; FitzGerald, meanwhile, had been putting out club records with labels like Aus before hooking up with more vocalists for his debut album in 2015. Their time in the studio together led them to keep making tracks, and after a while they realised that the music had transcended their two individual personalities and become its own, third thing.
OTHERLiiNE’s self-titled debut project, released earlier this year, combines the duo’s shared affinity for dance music, particularly dance music from the UK – funky, garage, instrumental grime, house, and more – and brings a keen sense of melody and ambient atmospherics. The songs are emotional and energising, thanks in part to Lil Silva’s vocals, but they pack a punch, too, with a sense of swing and bass-weight that will be familiar to fans of the artists’ previous work.
Ahead of OTHERLiiNE’s live show at London’s Village Underground on March 11, Lil Silva and George FitzGerald put together our latest Dazed Mix, and hopped on the phone to discuss the origins of the project – and who else they’d enlist for their OTHERLiiNE supergroup.
Where are both of you at right now?
Lil Silva: I’m in Bedford, in the studio. George?
George FitzGerald: I’m just at home with my daughter. She’s watching The Lion King in the other room. If you hear some kind of baby laughter, it’s just her in the background.
You both first connected with each other over a remix...
Lil Silva: George did the “Lines” remix. I think through the breakdown of the track, he came across some of my early vocals, which I’d probably left in the background – I didn’t realise I’d sung on the track. We then worked on some music for his album, which led to “Roll Back”. There was loads of music in between, and it eventually got to OTHERLiiNE. It was really great working with him – OTHERLiiNE wasn’t planned, we’d just made a bunch of tracks that sounded like their own thing. It was easy to build on it and continue to make a thing out of OTHERLiiNE.
What made you decide to make music together at that point?
George FitzGerald: I think it was just how easy it was. We were just flying through the music. There were loads of ideas coming out and a lot of stuff that started sounding like it had its own identity. We didn’t name it OTHERLiiNE until quite late in the process – you just follow your intuition on those sorts of things, I don’t think there was a moment right at the beginning where we were like, “Yeah, let’s do this as a separate thing.” It really was as innocent as, “We enjoy writing music together, so let’s just keep doing it. Let’s keep hanging out and not think about where this is going to end up, because that could get in the way of enjoying it.”
When did you first ever actually meet each other?
George FitzGerald: We hadn’t met before I did the remix. We had a studio blind date.
I guess you’ve done a lot of those studio blind dates before that haven’t worked out.
George FitzGerald: Yeah.
Lil Silva: Yeah (both laugh).
So how do you ease the tension in those situations?
George FitzGerald: It can be unbelievably awkward. I don’t think me and Silva did this – we actually just sat down and started making music, so that actually is a bit unusual – but usually what I’ll do is go for a coffee and try and get into some space where you can relate to each other a little bit. Silva can tell you his own experiences, but I’ve had things where you know within the first 20 minutes whether you’re going to write something decent or not. The good bits of collaboration are worth the awkward moments.
What sort of influences do you have in common?
Lil Silva: That’s pretty much what the project was built up on. We’d go back and listen to stuff we were both familiar with. We were going back to old school garage records, grime…
George FitzGerald: We seemed to cover a lot of early instrumental grime. I remember putting on a Moodymann tune too. It has been quite a foundational thing, starting off ideas by listening to music that we found that we had in common. Any time that we were lacking a bit of inspiration and wanted to take a different approach in the studio, we’d go back to playing each other records, realising, “Oh, you were into that as well?”
What are the hallmarks of an OTHERLiiNE tune?
George FitzGerald: There is the shitty answer to that, always: “It’s a really eclectic mix of different styles.” But it kind of is! The thing that I really love about it is that it doesn’t fit really neatly into a genre box. There is a bit of UK funky, a bit of garage, a bit of house. There are even bits of ambient and melodic electronics and stuff. Different bits come through more in different tunes. Without resorting to cliche, it is a melting pot of ideas and different parts of our personalities.
“When you spend as much time in the studio as we have now, obviously you can never be that other person, but you get to understand what makes them tick and how they listen to things. You learn to trust them” – George FitzGerald
How has working together affected how you work as an individual?
Lil Silva: Off the top of my head, in the depth of detail. I thought I was – in the nicest way – quite anal in perfecting my craft, but it’s definitely made me step up even more, taking a long time to finish something and make it sound as good as he does. It’s helped me as an artist writing songs.
George FitzGerald: For me it’s similar. When you spend as much time in the studio as we have now, obviously you can never be that other person, but you get to understand what makes them tick and how they listen to things. You learn to trust them. I’ve said this a few times before, but I learned to trust, for the first time, that there was somebody else in the room who hears things quite differently to me – but whose ear is always going to improve what I’m doing. Silva’s gonna have his opinion, and that’s going to make it better, because it probably wouldn’t have been something that I’d have expected. And that’s affected my writing I’ve done on my own since. There are just some approaches to creativity and writing that he has that I’d never thought about, and that I’ve taken on board and made me a much, much better musician.
Lil Silva: Awh, man… (laughs)
The vocals are a distinctive part of the music. How do they factor into it for you?
George FitzGerald: A lot of it’s quite improvised. Because it’s Silva singing, he owns all that. That’s not a 50/50 bit like the production. Quite often what will happen is TJ (Silva) will ad-lib stuff, and I will say, “That’s great, let’s go down that route.” I’m the sounding board. Quite often I’ll chop vocals of his up, but a lot of those cuts and ad-libs are his, because it’s his voice. I haven’t at any time in this process wanted to impose myself on his voice. It’s his voice to own.
Lil Silva: You really trusted me to just do it. A lot of those ideas were not necessarily at the forefront of my music before, but I have definitely been singing a lot more. Before (I released the Mabel EP in 2013), I’d been writing songs for people, sending demos, and they’d say, “Who’s that singing?” I’d say it was myself and they’d say, “Why are you not putting this out?” Eventually I got to it. It was probably a confidence thing. Obviously now I’ve got to the place where I feel good about it. This is probably the most I’ve been singing. It’s driven me to go finish a bunch of these songs I’ve been singing on.
OTHERLiiNE is kind of like a supergroup, given you both had established solo careers before. So if you were turning it into a classic supergroup line-up, what other two band members would you pick to bring in?
Lil Silva: I would bring Sampha, and probably Mansur Brown. Sampha is the guy. He has a similar rhythm pattern and flow of mine, it’s always great to have him on a project. Mansur Brown is an amazing musician, him on the guitar is dangerous. When he’s playing, he goes to places I hadn’t even thought of yet, and that’d be great to bring into the OTHERLiiNE saga, to see where we could take the music to.
George FitzGerald: I’d bring in a production hero. Someone to just totally fuck it up, like Squarepusher – just deconstruct the whole thing. But I don’t know if that would be any good (laughs). I wouldn’t want to replace TJ’s vocals or cramp his style with another singer, so maybe we’d get a bass guitarist, like Thundercat. Especially with Mansur on guitar, Thundercat would be amazing.
“This is probably the most I’ve been singing. It’s driven me to go finish a bunch of these songs I’ve been singing on” – Lil Silva
What movie do you think your music would be the best soundtrack for?
George FitzGerald: Given the amount of anime that’s been played in the studio up at TJ’s... the thing is, I’m not gonna say Akira. Everyone says Akira. That’s the biggest producer cliche ever. What was that one you had on the other day, that RZA did the music for?
Lil Silva: Afro Samurai?
George FitzGerald: I mean, there’s already a decent soundtrack for that! I’m slightly flipping this question now, but I’d love to write music for an animated short in the future. That’s actually something we’ve talked about before, to try and involve this strong visual element. You can already see some of the influence in the visuals we have for our live show, so that would take it to another level and add a narrative to it.
What is the live visual component?
George FitzGerald: There is a big audio visual element to it, it’s not just us two standing on stage singing and playing synthesiser. It’s kind of a 50/50 thing. We spent a lot of time and a lot of effort trying to get the music really fitting to the visual, working with some really good people to take the visuals that you see on the album cover and making it come alive.
One last question. Why are there two ‘i’s in OTHERLiiNE?
Lil Silva: It’s ‘Silva’ and ‘George’. ‘I’ and ‘I’.
George FitzGerald: It’s just a visual thing. It’s not that deep – there’s two of us!
01. Keppel, “Taken for Granted
02. Chris Simmonds, “I’ve Changed My Mind”
03. Channel Tres, “Top Down”
04. Wookie, “Battle 2015” (feat. Lain Gray)
05. Lone, “Vengeance Video”
06. OTHERLiiNE, “Silence”
07. Scuba, “Never Forgot”
08. Four Tet, “Baby”
09. Shigeto, “Silver Lining”
OTHERLiiNE play London’s Village Underground on March 11