An interview with FYI Chris

Northern bred duo Chris Watson and Chris Coupe’s distinct, lo-fi sound is imbued with hints of hip-hop and chalky rhythmic flex. Poised somewhere between DIY bedroom creations and a euphoric after party sunrise, FYI Chris streamline samples, melding transcendent piano and saxophone riffs with an infectious dub beat. By day the pair are friendly faces at Peckham’s Rye Wax. By night they can be found spinning discs across Europe and the UK, including at such hallowed establishments as Le Sucre in Lyon, Sala Siroco in Madrid, Glasgow’s La Cheetah, Groove Bar in the Czech Republic and the Superkilen in Denmark.

A vintage MPC 2000 provides the ideal medium to fuse contemporary ideas with old-school analogue spirit as they seek out weird and wonderful audio from Angela Davis to Alan Partridge. In between crafting remixes for Toy Tonics and On The Corner Records, the boys like to keep things local, having released two sought-after 12″s on trend-setting London house imprint Church (‘No Hurry / Juliette’ and ‘Home Alone’) and another two with Peckham-based party and label Rhythm Section.

Establishing their own imprint ‘West Friends’ spawned a platform on which to showcase ‘the strangest pingers from across the land’, including their own groove-centred repertoire and genre-defying creations by pals. With releases on the likes of  Ears Have Eyes and Ninja Tune to add to their ever-expanding discography, and a four track EP ‘Songs About People’s Feelings’ on Toy Tonics released at the end of 2018, last year was prolific for the pair. With further excitement as to what 2019 could offer, we caught up with both Chris’ for a chat…

Hello both! Lovely to meet you! First off, what have you been up as of late? Any interesting projects that you’d like to share?

Watson has been keeping busy with Rye Wax stuff  (a new webshop is around the corner hehe) and also messing around with A/V techniques with our mate Dilesh. Coupe helped out with the new Bleep pop-up shop in Dalston.

I’d like to talk about your most recent release, ‘Songs About People’s Feelings’; was there a lot of emotion that went into this EP or is the title entirely irrelevant, where’d the lifeblood come for it?

A lot of the vocals we used on the EP come from a private press record made by a sort of American rehab clinic. We sampled the group sessions and tried to keep the sentiment of what they were saying so it ended up being a few songs about people’s feelings.

Where does your inspiration come from? Obviously working in a record shop has its influences and that makes for a unique sound, something that really adds substance to your tracks, but is there a particular style, genre or geographical location that feeds into your productions more than others?

It can be a record we found, or something we saw on the news or some show or the web that gives us an idea to go in a certain direction. we’re both northern so think we make the best tunes when the weather is shit. Stylistically we owe a lot to producers who bounce round between genres, such as Fulton, Pepe Bradock, Levon Vincent, Omar S but also owe a lot to the mesmeric basslines of Kim Deal, Martin Hannett’s sparseness, Buckwild and DOOM productions and a shit ton more!

How did you guys meet?

We met through Ned Medlar and Tom Unlikely (Rye Wax) really! Watson was at Southbank University studying on the same music course as Ned and he moved in with Coupe (and a couple other mutual friends, all the Burcher Gale crew) so we got to know each other at house parties, Unlikely’s Wavey Tones shindigs and extended mix sessions and BBQ’s haha!

Can you tell us a bit more about your local scene?

We both live in South East London. Hardly anyone does any music around here. It’s so dull, especially trying to find friends who are up for having a mix or talking about records or DJing or putting on parties….(!) 

How would you describe your sound?

Whatever our sound is, it’s definitely a symptom of getting to know how to work with the MPC2000, and merging our different approaches through that. It also heavily depends on the samples we use from idea to idea.

Your use of sampling is top notch – everything from Alan Partridge to clashing bin lids, to Angela Davies – have you unearthed a sound that’s particularly great recently?

Watson found this old record at his Grandad’s recently, a BBC interview with an old bandleader who is completely pissed throughout – we’ve got to find something for that soon. Our EP on Toy Tonics samples a private press record Coupe found which is from a 70’s new-age rehab group. Finding clips that weren’t completely depressing was a challenge but they also talk about really universal problems, hopes and stuff.

What kind of production techniques do you use to create that warm, organic lo-fi feel?

We try and do as much out of the laptop as possible, it’s always buzzing when things fuck up a little bit in the signal chain as those are the bits you can’t plan for – let the computers do the heavy lifting! Trying to work within the limitations of an MPC2000 also makes a difference, the way sample chopping works, the swing, the limited memory and zip drives all means you have to maximise what you have and make something work. Saying that though we’re using Ableton and VST’s more and more recently, it’s always just about what will be the easiest way to get this “sound” or fit the idea.

What’s currently on your heavy rotation?

Watson: Italia 90, Ghost Car, The Chats, Tirzah‘s Devotion album, Niska’s album, Kamaal Williams – Gigi FM, Perko Pair, Dj Soda Stream, Moonbow, Cabasa – there’s a lot! Coupe: The above! + Hi & Saberghägen, Gallegos, Colours That Rise and The Soft.

Thank you guys!

Thank you!