Next Up 2020: Easy Life
Next Up is a campaign by UNILAD, celebrating some of the most exciting new and emerging music artists in the UK today.
Easy Life are a hard band to pin down.
Arriving in dribs and drabs throughout the morning, it soon becomes clear their laissez faire attitude doesn’t just apply to their music. In fact, it seems the band name may be more of a philosophy the members practice, rather than any kind of desire to standout on festival posters, for example.
However, while Easy Life may be the embodiment of ‘going with the flow’, after a few minutes chatting with the guys it’s easy to see there’s focus and intent bubbling under the surface of their ostensibly upbeat music and idiosyncratic worldview.
The thing is, much like the members themselves, the music is joyfully difficult to pin down. Having been described in the past as an ‘incongruous mix of wonky hip-hop beats, gossamer jazz guitar, afro-beat optimism, wavy pop melodies, psychedelic electronica and witty lyrics’, it’s no wonder Easy Life defy categorisation. Indeed, the members themselves actively avoid it when describing their music.
As vocalist Murray Matravers says when asked about it:
That’s a really hard question. I think we intentionally don’t really try and aim anywhere in particular when we’re writing the music, so it’d be difficult to try and put it into words and put it in a genre when we’re trying quite explicitly not to fall into one. So, I don’t really know… It’s just a lot of fun for us to create it and perform it.
Instead, Easy Life’s music may only really be describable as ‘Easy Life’, rather than, say, pop, RnB, hip hop-inflected indie or whatever else.
However, one unifying identifier of the band is their origin. Hailing from Leicester, the five members played in various bands and outfits before Easy Life came together. It’s reflected in their music, too, as the seemingly disparate styles from past projects make sense when added together, making Easy Life’s music arguably greater than the sum of its parts – something that’s emerged from their hometown, but is not a product of any scene or genre within it.
Guitarist Lewis Berry explains:
We didn’t really fit into a scene, so we kind of made our own little thing with our mates, we’ve got a studio in Leicester where a lot of other artists go.
There’s not really a strong scene of people [in Leicester] listening to one style of music, so we all grew up listening to different things and it just came quite naturally. We listen to such a wide range of music.
Though Lewis says Leicester is not exactly ‘outward-looking’, that’s not to say they’re hoping to escape the city. As bassist Sam Hewitt adds: ‘I think our East Midlands identity is pretty important, just as a feature throughout the band. We pride ourselves on being from middle England, and we can write about pretty relevant things… It’s not all about London.’
And when the Leicester scene, or lack of it, brought the five members together, things started to happen quickly for the band. Within six months of final member Jordan Birtles joining the group on keyboards and percussion, the band were signed. Breakthrough single Pockets came shortly after, followed by more singles, mixtapes, tours, festival slots at Glastonbury and Coachella, and an appearance on Later… with Jools Holland. All before a debut album is even written, let alone recorded or released.
As Sam put it: ‘We’d all been doing music for long enough that we’d learnt to get through the filtration process of writing music quickly, there was no messing around, so things could get written really quickly with a lot more ideas involved, which just meant there was more variance in the music.’
Still, despite the band’s impressive work rate, their debut album is yet to be unleashed. Thankfully, their plans for 2020 basically revolve around it, as Murray said this year is to ‘pretty much write and release the album, and then go on tour with it.’ Before adding they’re ‘collaborating with some pretty cool people on the debut album, hopefully. But not necessarily artists, more like producers and engineers and songwriters.’ So, it’s undoubtedly an exciting time for the band.
Easy Life may have made a name for themselves by living up to, well, their name. However, it’s no secret the band are addressing some serious topics in their music and lyrics. Take last year’s single Earth, for example, a song that addresses plastic pollution and climate change, wrapped up in a simultaneously humourous and eye-opening video. Then there’s Dead Celebrities, which scrutinises today’s obsession with fame and recognition; Nightmares, examining loneliness and poor mental health; and Pockets, which ‘documents that terrible sinking feeling of realising you can’t quite afford to pay this month’s rent due to your own stupidity.’
As Murray explains:
One of our favourite things to do is have quite uplifting melodies and rhythms in our songs that evoke happiness, but then contrast that quite drastically with something more severe in the lyricism. So, that juxtaposition of happy/sad is something we always play with, and I think it makes it more interesting.
To reference my favourite band, ABBA did that really well too, and loads of classic people – super uplifting songs but actually, if you look into the lyricism, it’s a little bit more dark.
I think it makes it easier as well, actually, because if you just write really miserable-sounding music and then be really miserable, people just feel really… miserable… So if you can actually lull them in with something slightly more enticing, and then be like ‘actually I’m still just really sad’, then they can respond better to it.
It’s something that’s reflected in the band’s videos too, which Murray says are ‘really important to the aesthetic of the whole project,’ and so far have seen the band wandering the streets of LA, eating junk food at an enormous rubbish tip in Morocco, waking up in hospital with a severe head injury, and brawling onstage with a grotesque Donald Trump.
It’s all a far cry from their Leicester upbringing. However, despite the whirlwind couple of years and even more to come, there are things the band members would be tempted to change if they could go back and do it all again.
As part of the class of UNILAD’s Next Up 2020, what would Easy Life do if they themselves could go back to school and start again?
Drummer Oliver Cassidy suggests:
I’d study a lot harder than what I did. Just because, as I’ve left school, I’ve found it more interesting reading, it’s opened my eyes way more than what it did when I was younger. If I got into reading when I was younger it would’ve been a lot better, rather than reading because school told me to.
And as for being taught by anyone, the band have all got their ideas:
Murray: Barack Obama.
Lewis: Someone really respectable.
Murray: David Attenborough.
Lewis: Yeah you’re not going to not listen to David Attenborough.
Sam: Imagine a field trip with David Attenborough!
School or not, it seems evident Easy Life – much like the different genres they traverse – were destined to come together eventually. As Lewis suggests; music, artists, bands will always ‘form anyway’, adding: ‘Music’s always going to be there. It is definitely lacking in schools, but it didn’t stop us all coming together.’
Sam agrees too, suggesting you don’t have to study music for it to emerge in cultures:
Just the nature of school and putting a lot of people in the room means there’s going to be music culture regardless, because whoever’s been more educated earlier on in life is just going to naturally spread the knowledge.
While 2020 is set to be a busy one (perhaps contrary to their Easy Life philosophy), the band seem excited to spread their own, newly acquired knowledge, bringing audiences to their own particular brand of culture. As Sam sums up: ‘All forms of entertainment [are] forms of escapism, and we’re just trying to be another one for people to rely on, and forget about their problems, and enjoy us and have a good time.’
Sounds pretty easy to me.
Listen to our Next Up 2020 playlist here:
Check out the other artists featured on our Next Up 2020 series here.