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Tough Love: Giving The Redlight a name in Ibiza

On '90s revival, playing after EZ and shuffling.

A recent spell of bouncy, catchy tunes with one foot pointed towards the 90s, demonstrating a competent ear for what works, has seen Tough Love crossover to chart success. Paving a way for island reknown, they're halfway through a red tinted residency in Sankeys.

Having released on Toolroom, OFF Recordings and Suara, 2014 was a breakout year for the two. Their DJ Rashad sampled Lonely Highway took off, winning Best Single at the Bass Music Awards, the pair was put on a fair amount of remix duties, all the while establishing a name for their imprint Get Twisted Records.

Using people's interest as a gauge, Tough Love incept productions on the dance floor. Well-loved additions to their sets eventually end up as standalone tracks, such as So Freakin' Tight and Pony, the first of which debuted at number 1 in the UK dance chart. “We used to mix both these as a capellas over house records and chop up the vocal. We eventually got around to building these as edits for our shows and after two years of them featuring in the majority of our sets, we finally decided to release them purely based on feedback and demand.”

Brought up on a diet of R&B, the sound has found its way into their record construction, one influenced by a multitude of genres, “there's a few curve balls in there as well.” Their take on Ginuwine's 1996 hit Pony ended up in the Shazam charts, successful enough for Ginuwine to hear it, and suggest redoing the vocals for the forthcoming release. “Truth be told, we tried to release Pony before So Freakin' Tight but we couldn't get it cleared at the time. Once So Freakin' Tight had come out we both wanted to move onto our original material which we're still desperate for people to hear, but when a legend like Ginuwine hits you up about releasing his biggest hit, you do not say no.”

The pair gives an interesting insight on why they think certain elements of the 90s decade in music are enjoying a revival. “There was something really special about the 90s. The music was expressive, fun loving and often sexual, something music hasn't seen since until now. In the darkest economic climates comes the most creative and artistic works. People need to find an outlet to have fun and music is often this outlet. Following this you get a new breed of positivity and this is essentially what you had in the 90s in all form of arts, and probably the same could be said for the last five years.”

The Redlight, David Vincent's brainchild for Sankeys Manchester based on sleazy house with a US & UK garage slant, was brought to Sankeys Ibiza this year. Given their affinity with the 90s, Tough Love being put on as weekly residents seems a natural fit. During their weekly set at Sankeys the two have been digging up some oldies for reinventing purposes. “We often make our own edits to bring some classics up-to-date, as sonically they're not always on par due to vinyl recordings and newer production methods, so we attempt to recreate that nostalgic feel but with more of a bump. The crowd at Sankeys has been surprisingly varied and cosmopolitan this season, which has meant we've been able to experiment a lot more, especially when we get to play three-hour sets.”

All hands are on deck at all times as they DJ in a style that's more than just back-to-back, not seeing each other as separate DJs. “There is rarely a moment's rest. Outside of the CDJ setup, we run some effect panels and remix our records on the fly. Each and every set is unique, as is each mix. We're both involved in each and every process from cutting and chopping the record, to the blend of the mix itself.” Sharing bills with DJ EZ, Todd Terry, MJ Cole, Matt Jam Lamont, Chris Lorenzo and Low Steppa, the speakers in Sankeys are sure to be put to the test each Thursday. DJ EZ can be spotted on four of the lineups for the summer, not an act many DJs would eagerly like to follow on from. Admiring his prestige they talk business on how they'd tackle such an occurrence...

“Every DJ does things their way. EZ's energy is unreal so there's not much you can do really do to take that level up a notch. You have to applaud his achievements, he's earned his respect and he's a guy we've always looked up to. We'd have to keep the energy going in typical Tough Love fashion, gradually bringing the tempo down whilst introducing the odd familiar sample loop and vocal chops before we break into some more hard-hitting material we've enjoyed playing this season. One thing EZ doesn't have is four hands and two brains which is an advantage working in a duo.”

Kiss FM has also acted as a home to their mixing as they host weekly shows; juggling touring and a radio show is something they've become accustomed to. Pre-recording when out of the country hasn't seen them miss a show yet, even if it means recording parts in the bathroom of their hotel room. After releasing Oochie Bang on Hannah Wants' behalf, relished in dark rooms up and down the UK last summer, they recently shared studio time to create a VIP of So Freakin' Tight, updated with a staggered tinge. “We wanted something a big darker and bumpier, and Hannah wanted something that would stand up in a warehouse. At the time, Hannah was digging a few stripped-back techno records so we worked on something that had a blend of everyone's ideas.” They watched Hannah debut the record at an Annie Mac Presents show in Brixton, for Annie to grab hold of it for a world exclusive on Radio 1 a week later.

A video sent to the boys, dubbed with their track Keep It Burning, was later uploaded on their own site as: ‘Teaching your mate to shuffle'. It sees Wednesday Addams shuffle across the floor in an enviously slick and weightless fashion, as Lurch struggles to follow. Is this in line with Tough Love's own moves? “We invented shuffling, there's not even a name to some of the shapes we cut,” they joke before admitting to having zero shuffling skills. “We keep things simple with the occasional fist pump and two step. As long as the guys on the dance floor are in good spirits and having fun we couldn't care less what dance they're doing. Dancing is an art, and art is about expressing yourself, you could be doing the waltz to our music if it made you happy.”

Following many ‘almost' and ‘not quite' moments which left them wondering if it was ever going to happen for them, year three of Tough Love saw them put pen to paper, signing to Island Records. “When paying the bills became a struggle and the light at the end of the tunnel looked miles away, we always kept our self-belief even when many around us didn't.” Learning over the last few years what a tough industry it can be, “you have to have the never give up attitude because in this industry every day is a rollercoaster.” Nothing good ever came easy. At the midpoint of their residency it's safe to say they're reaping the benefits of a hardworking recent history.


WORDS | Emma Gillett

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