Barely two years ago, Bondax were trapped in limbo. Adam Kaye and George Townsend had shot from schoolmates to a worldwide touring act soon after signing their first record deal aged 17. Early singles ‘Gold’, ‘All I See’ and ‘Giving It All’ brought them radio hits, festival slots and tours in the UK and around the world. But soon after, they hit a hurdle. Locked into a major label deal, their heads buzzing with ideas they couldn’t bring to life, Bondax had thoughts of change, and even packing it all in, after too many nights on tour and half a lifetime of living in each other’s pockets.
Instead, they took a leap of faith and started all over again – and the result is Revolve, a radical makeover and a glittering calling card for two young producers who’ve truly hit their stride. Ambitious, eclectic and irresistibly tuneful, their debut album is a heartfelt homage to the music that made them and the world they’ve discovered since their breakout success.
When Bondax broke through five years ago, their sun-drenched dance-pop was the perfect platform for collaborators like Tanya Lacey, Joe Janiak and Karma Kid, and that breezy sound was captured at its peak on the duo’s 25-track mix album, Bondax & Friends – but Adam and George knew they had much more in their arsenal than sleek radio hits. And when you’ve spent almost every day together for three years, “you’ve got to work that shit out like a marriage,” laughs Adam. “There was a period of time where we didn't actually enjoy DJing at all,” remembers George. “But we decided to stick it through – ‘we felt we had some unfinished business & many ideas than hadn't be realised.”
That unfinished business is exposed on Revolve: 11 tracks of globe-spanning rhythms and stunningly detailed beats, with the duo flexing their songwriting skills as they find their own route through hip-hop, jazz, Latin and African rhythms, neo-soul and disco, while never missing an opportunity for a catchy pop hook.
To bring their creation into the world, Adam and George decamped to a remote cottage near Silverdale, between the tranquil beauty of the Lake District and their hometown of Lancaster. Finally released from their label limbo, the ideas poured forth, fuelled by industrial amounts of coffee: “Thirty kilograms of coffee,” Adam advises. “That's what it takes to finish a record.” Friends were banned from visiting as they spent their days making field recordings, jamming on the piano and tending the barbecue – each day collecting their milk from a nearby farm. In these idyllic surroundings, free from outside influences, their creativity went into overdrive. “The whole idea was to be completely relaxed, but to put the pressure on ourselves to finish it,” explains George.
A month later, they had the bare bones of Revolve: a record that digs deep into their personal musical passions, revealing a pair of songwriters with ever-expanding tastes (and a sizeable record collection). From the warm Latin jazz of Stan Getz to the stormy neo-soul of D’Angelo and the Soulquarians to the lavish Philly Soul strings of Dexter Wansel, their palate has expanded exponentially since they started recording together almost a decade ago. “We've got way more into soul, Latin music and African music,” explains Adam. “We really wanted to pay homage to that, so it's an electronic take on all these old influences.”
Bondax explain Revolve as a journey from day into night and through to morning again: a single earthly revolution, beginning with the luscious soul groove of ‘Waking’ and Sara Z’s dreamy diva vocals. From there, Andreya Triana lends a smoky nuance to the disco shimmer of ‘Real Thing’ before we hit the midday heat of ‘Deeper’, featuring Lancashire duo Aquilo, and the balmy soul of ‘Mind Love’, where a snaking bassline and subtle brass licks are the perfect framework for their old touring buddy Zak Abel.
As the evening approaches, African percussion, jazzy brass lines and a myriad of different Latin influences lead the smooth shakedown of ‘What You Do’, featuring Shells, before the album’s hazy rap highlight ‘Air’, which they wrote with rapper Duckwrth in an afternoon. “We were in LA at Bag Raiders studio, Duckwrth rolled up, I laid down some chords, George made a beat on the 808, then he just wrote this whole song in, like, four hours!” On ‘Air’, the low-slung hip-hop groove switches to a frantic jazzy 3/4 finale in the final bars. “It's about expressing ourselves differently on every track,” explains George. “We don't expect everyone to like every track – and to be honest, we hope that everyone has a different favourite track. That's the whole point.”
As night draws in, the tempo ramps up – J Warner brings hypnotic harmonies on ‘Horizon’, while Poppy Baskcomb's husky vocals guide the tipsy disco stomp of ‘Give It Back’. Fluttering percussion and fingerpicked guitars signal the start of the comedown on ‘Eyes On You’, which showcases singer Daniel Alexander, before we reach the blunted, bleary calm of ‘All Inside’. The revolution finishes where it started on ‘Last Light’, a soulful anthem for the last dancers standing – or the first to start up again, whichever it may be.
With so many collaborators on board, the challenge for the duo was to rescind control and allow the talents of their collaborators to shape the final results. “We really did have to let go of our egos,” says George. “It's very much about being pragmatic,” adds Adam. “We were definitely helped a lot by the fact we finished the record with Tim Burns, who was our engineer on the project. He knew this amazing keys player, Laurie Blundell, who plays on a couple of tracks. He took the chords and added the Latin touch that we wanted.” They also borrowed the talents of another old school friend, Ben Chetwood, whose skilful touch adds a different swing to every track, reflecting the duo’s globally sourced inspirations. “Basically the whole thing was made with friends, and that's been one of the best parts of it,” says Adam.
For the final touches, they travelled to Macedonia to record with an orchestra in a Soviet-era recording studio. “We had 40 people there we'd never met, just with a piece of paper in front of them, doing it exactly how we wanted it, first take,” remembers Adam, awestruck. “It was emotional! Credit has to go to Simon Whiteside, who took what we wrote and perfectly translated it to a score."
Bringing their transformation full circle, Bondax have set up a their own record label to release Revolve. The freshly launched Recur Recordings will also release music from their circle of talented friends. Meanwhile, the Recur podcast continues to dig into the duo’s ever-expanding record collection, giving them a chance to play the records they love which don’t fit in their club sets.
Revolve is the 180-degree turn that has allowed Bondax to make music that’s true to their passions and their evolving songcraft. It’s also their graduation, as they drift away from the dance past and take a leap into the unknown. Looking back on the last six years, says George, “it was just a fight to grow up.”