Jordan Stephens and Harley Alexander-Sule, the two halves of the UK’s Rizzle Kicks, were dodging paparazzi while the rest of us dodged class. A whirlwind of hype carried the pair, into celebrity back in 2012 when the lads were in their late teens. After a madcap few years in the mainstream, Rizzle Kicks took a hiatus from touring and recording to sharpen their writing, tackle solo projects and well…just live like normal twenty somethings.
CONVICTS recently caught up with Jordan and Harley in a Chinatown loft where they happened to be getting tattoos. Amongst other things, we got their word on blowing up so young, the pressures of celebrity, and the toxicity of fear.
Hey boys. To start, can you introduce yourselves for us?
Yo my name is Jordan Stephens.
My name is Harley Sylvester.
And we’re Rizzle Kicks and we are in New York working really hard. Doing that work, son.
What about right now, this very moment?
We are currently in a beautiful space in Chinatown where we are being tattooed by my dude Jared otherwise known Ruse. Crashed at his spot last time I was in New York.
What was that occasion?
A final proper blowout before the year really started.
We’ve almost finished our third studio album and this was a celebration of that. Although we didn’t actually finish it.
Tell us about the new album? It’s been awhile since your second album dropped.
Sometimes an absence is good for creating demand. I say if it’s sunny everyday you wouldn’t appreciate the sun. It has to rain a bit. I’m not saying in any way we’re like the sun or the pop is like the rain…
We took a little break between the second and third album. We thought we’d give ourselves a little break, focus on our own solo projects a bit. It’s been good. Rizzle Kicks feel older now.
We had some growing up to do. It had been pretty full on since we were eighteen, nineteen so we thought we’d take some time out to really get to know ourselves.
It must’ve been wild blowing up so young…
It’s quite a lot of pressure being pop artists in the mainstream. It’s a bit of a suspended reality. You’re not doing the same things as other people who are twenty, twenty-one. I remember I had to think about washing my clothes for the first time. It was ridiculous, I should have thought about that before. But now that we’ve had a year and a half off, there’s a good chance no one will really give a fuck when we release an album again.
You never know. It could be the perfect time to come back.
Are you guys nervous at all about re-emerging onto the scene?
Fear can make people do the wrong thing. The times I’ve been scared of what people think or how our music gets received are the times I’ve made the worst music.
Fear makes you cater to what you think people are gonna like.
Blind faith is probably a better way to go about it.
Respect. What did the time off do for you two, creatively speaking?
We’ve become better writers for sure, but that just happens as you grow. With our solo projects we were able to tap into parts of the brain that we hadn’t tapped into before. Those songs have really heartfelt moments.
We have a better idea of what Rizzle Kicks means. Sometimes, we would try to crowbar our personal feelings into something we were both about, but it’s healthier for those feelings to go out into their own spaces and for us to meet in the middle.
How’s the new album coming, by the way?
We’ve got the vibe, the first video and 90% of the album ready.
We’ve got our first intimate single.
Will the vibes be different from Rizzle Kick’s younger albums?
The general vibe is quite similar. All we wanted to do with this project is make people happy and dance. It’s still got the hip-hoppy influences. We’ve not really changed from the start too much.
Good to hear. Last of all, what does the word ‘pioneer’ mean to Rizzle Kicks?
A pioneer, in short, is someone who gets people to look at something differently. I would like to consider myself a pioneer at some point, but at the moment we kind of live in the wake of innovators.
Who would you consider a pioneer?
In terms of music, Tame Impala really pioneered a sound. They’ve brought back elements of something past and made it their own. Now a lot of young bands are in that world and I love it. It’s so intelligent.
I’m fascinated by the author Zadie Smith. With her words, I think she changed people’s ideas of what a black woman is capable of. I want to reinvent the wheel in that respect, do something my way. Real talk: in 2016, I personally think a lot of the charisma in mainstream music has died. I wanna come in and say interesting things.
Right on. Thanks for the chat, gentlemen.