Two Shell are for real

Thanks to their mischievous antics and hyperpop-flavoured techno, the anonymous duo have a strong buzz going in the UK's underground club music scene. During their first ever interview, they insist they're not trolling.

Two Shell might just be the UK’s most talked-about new dance act. Everything is going to plan. The anonymous duo have nailed their mid-year targets. They’ve extended a three-year run of inventive-yet-accessible club hybrids and cheeky pop edits with a critically acclaimed EP, snagged a Sunday night slot in Glastonbury’s rave zone and even sparked a niche meme.

But who are Two Shell? They’re definitely not Disclosure, as the rumour mill has suggested. We do know that Two Shell is the alias of an English duo who produce the kind of juke-garage-techno chimeras destined to end up on the USB sticks of Joy O, Four Tet, Ben UFO and Avalon Emerson. We also know that their rapid ascent has been helped along by a campaign of DJ pranks, interactive gimmicks, silly hats and a coating of zeitgeisty Y2K aesthetics.

Musically, they’re already in their second phase, after an early run of bass wallopers that got the nod from Bristol techno authority Livity Sound. Their output since January’s home EP, including edits raiding 00s hits by Sugababes, Justin Timberlake and The Corrs, is more glitter than grit, with a (hyper)pop sensibility slicing through the anthemic gestures. On this summer’s Icons EP, they’ve boiled things down to a single vision: four premium cuts for the main stage with a sprinkling of cyber-lol samples about digital rockstars” (plus a big beat throwback that wouldn’t sound out of place in a turn-of-the-millennium Guy Ritchie film.)

At some point in their evolution, Two Shell decided not to play it straight. No solemn studio press shots, not even their names out in public. Instead they embarked on a series of attention-seeking manoeuvres that protected their IRL identities: a custom website complete with hidden chatroom, a lockdown hotline” for text chats with fans, and a handful of weird public appearances – like their Boiler Room set at Primavera, where they hid behind bug-eye sunglasses and mimed the whole thing, laughing their tits off… if that was even them.

These types of antics are pushing everyone’s buttons at the same time. While Two Shell’s strategy has generated a genuine buzz, it has also triggered the trade naysayers. A glowing write-up on the internet’s most popular review site is mirrored by a sneering blurb on the underground’s most trusted webstore. A tongue-in-cheek tweet about the supermusical power of two guys making electronic music” mutated into a nonsensical online hypothesis. The hype is beginning to eat itself. Such are the dangerous forces unleashed when you inject a modicum of theatricality and gonzo wardrobing into the painfully self-conscious milieu of underground dance music.

Anyway, they agreed to do an interview – their first ever – with THE FACE, on the condition that it happened on their shell.tech site, through the stilted intimacy of text-only chat. Despite the artifice of the situation and the opportunity to play it for laughs, the digi-prankster masks begin to slip, as they steer the conversation towards matters of the heart: emotion, connection, vulnerability. Occasionally, a PR bot named el3000 interjects with wiki-sourced info searches”, but for the most part Two Shell stick to the script. Turns out they don’t want the industry’s love – they want yours.

chal

testing

is there a two shell in the house?

el3000

hello chal. two shell with be with u in a moment

twoshell

thanks el. hi chal. bzzzd are we live right now

chal

hi.

so what’s the deal with shell.tech? it’s a glorious day we could have had a PR lunch in shoreditch like they usually do. do you prefer life inside the mainframe?

twoshell

we can still do that. do u like aperol?

shell tech is our interface to the world

chal

i would like to know what kind of shell you’re made from?

twoshell

a few different types

chal

organic or artificial?

twoshell

binary code

and calcium carbonate

both org and arti :}

chal

what would the two shell equivalent of a number one be? what is the final boss you wish to conquer?

twoshell

that’s a cool question

we think there are internal final bosses… being vulnerable. looking after ur core…

and external final bosses… those ones are less important. but look good from the outside

and we will still beat them. yomp

chal

vulnerability is a big thing for shelled creatures

twoshell

u got it

chal

people are getting v excited about your music.

how do you want people to feel when they listen to a two shell track?

twoshell

we want people to feel like they can believe in themselves. and to not feel alone

but it’s different for different songs. some songs we want people to feel smooth n sxc

and… some to connect with the spirits

there’s a sort of soul and spirit that’s created from people being able to express themselves in cyberspace”

chal

what’s the most exciting music being made in the world right now?

twoshell

nice question

yum

we get a relli exciting snapshot into internet music through shell.tech

ppl send us music. we don’t know anything about them, just what their music sounds like, and we’ve found some amazing people through that.

it’s so cool how everyones connected & can see & feel the same things. there’s a sort of soul and spirit that’s created from people being able to express themselves in cyberspace. they create a scene in their head and make stuff for it as a memory

chal

that’s a really nice mirror image of how excited ppl get for tracking down two shell tunes online

twoshell

we also ♡ the community around the venue mot club in bermondsey

its real… there are some slick druids making that all work

chal

i was thinking about this community around the two shell universe seeking out IDs and stuff. reminds me of dubplate culture, radio rips, dubstepforum and that. do you come from that world?

el3000

INFOSEARCH: A dubplate is a one-off pressing of a record that is made out of acetate and metal’

el3000

INFOSEARCH: Culture can be defined as the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society’

we believe in letting go of our music and not having a hierarchy where the makers live up in the big oak tree and the villagers can’t get up to pick the good berries. it’s like, let’s shake this tree and let all the tasty fruit come crashing down”

twoshell

ah ok i think we understand. tbh we’re not trying to bring anything back, we want to make new ways for people to feel excited about the things they like, and to maybe change the perceived value of certain items, like music files.

it’s also about making things accessible, we believe in letting go of our music and not having a hierarchy where the makers live up in the big oak tree and the villagers can’t get up to pick the good berries. it’s like, let’s shake this tree and let all the tasty fruit come crashing down — and we do like to think we make tasty fruit.

chal

do you think that the job of a great artist is to challenge or even provoke their audience?

twoshell

that’s a deep one, do we have permission to bash the waffle stick?

chal

i don’t know what that involves, so i say: bash it

twoshell

thanku supreme leader. the best artists to us are always themselves and are sort of like channellers for feelings in the air. they can channel their emotions and put them into music

like in life, the things that make you feel uncomfortable/​scared are usually when the worlds telling u to listen/​grow/​evolve

chal

are you thinking of any particular artists?

twoshell

more a way of thinking where ur pre-existing way of looking at something is being challenged and ur being forced to reevaluate and look inside… like u said before, that’s one of the final bosses that pops up in order for u to access a new level

chal

mmm

twoshell

it’s so easy to be scared of this kind of stuff. especially as the means to create are very accessible now. it means connecting with our soul and spirit is more important than ever. this is sort of like our shining light, challenging yourself comes first, then the audience

chal

do you think that the kind of overexposure and oversharing that comes with social media makes people more timid about sharing what makes them scared/​uncomfortable

twoshell

oh ye for sure. but it can also provide safety and connection

but we have to work v hard to keep our heads from wobbling all the time

chal

ye and there are so many things to worry about online. so much depressing information coming at u

twoshell

yes. we usually only have one of us in download mode at a time

like rockstars flying in separate jets. we need one pilot connected to the earth and one to the mainframe

chal

nice. i like to think of it as input mode and output mode. u can scroll twitter all day if you want and call it input’. but then u must log off and create

twoshell

like ur style ^^^

we’re always trying diff ways to not get spun out by stuff. no phone, two phones, three phones. ig on, ig off

but that ends up feeling all a bit black and white. u can’t turn off the thoughts but you can see them for what they are, like evil spirits approaching out the mist, the brighter you shine the easier it is to spot those lil monsters

chal

because of the way you have been presenting yourselves – staying anonymous etc – some people on the internet think yr havin a laugh. like you’re trolling

but i think it might just be that you reckon loads of dance music right now is boring – or at least, presented in a boring way. you’ve rejected the usual music industry trajectory on purpose surely?

twoshell

not trolled. pushed. and taken less seriously

it’s like lots of things it sort of only exists for itself in many ways. it’s also run a lot by people who all look and think the same… in the same little world. freedom of thought is really important to us

what do u think of it?

chal

i am merely a vessel for transferring your ideas to the world. no thoughts just smooth brain

twoshell

haha — sounds like they’ve got you where they want u

only jokin :-)

chal

i think you believe in reinventing yourselves. will there be two shell 2.0? or 3.0? what form would that take?

twoshell

^^ hell ye

evolutions. the world’s always changing. it’s cool you get that too, we’re always trying to understand how music can last forever. that’s the magic potion

it’s hard to think about once you have something the world likes cos you’ll always get the business men telling you to stick to the same formula but eventually that will end up having diminishing returns

chal

it’s such a truism but ye, you see people falling into that trap all the time. like read any memoir written by a musician and there’ll be some chapter on this moment. when you’ve got the formula but you know you have to destroy it in order to grow

chal

scary

twoshell

exactly. it’s okay to get it wrong if you’re trying something new. the main thing for us is trying to be ourselves

no one can take that away from u

chal

it’s funny tho because sometimes in public you are… not yourselves

there is a rumour. which i personally choose to believe. that you have sent people in your place to dj. like mf doom or something. please set the record straight?

twoshell

ah ye. any specific show u wanna know bout?

this is the circle of truth

chal

how about the boiler room at primavera?

twoshell

that one was so fun

chal

to watch?

twoshell

ye. we pressed play and then rocked out in the crowd

chal

my question is simply: why?

twoshell

it’s important for us to to push the form and focus the attention on the music

like we were saying before about the music industry thing, it’s kind of the same with djing in a diff way. in some circles it sort of exists for itself, like some big networking machine where it’s more about clout and name dropping than the music

chal

lolll

i’ve got some pop music questions now

twoshell

:- }

chal

if you could produce for any pop star… who would it be?

twoshell

we actually want to make our own pop stars. sort of like little characters to share our world with

chal

like avatars? or real kids

Shell Club 7

twoshell

yomp. we’re not closing any doors

chal

yr sugababes edit has been a real hit

chal

best british girl group evs??

twoshell

we don’t believe in the best

it’s diff to everyone. we like the concept of groups tho. we’re all stronger when we’re together rite? it’s so nice when you can feel the love group members have for each other. have had lots of that lately

chal

i’m not sure sugababes are the paramount example of group love

but, yes

twoshell

just wanted to say that tbh. been feeling it strongly

chal

do you have a favourite hyperpop artist?

el3000

INFOSEARCH: Hyperpop is a loosely-defined music movement and microgenre, characterised by a maximalist or exaggerated take on pop music’

twoshell

oh cool. in our world lots of things are hyper. hyper sensitive, hyper real

chal

i find that the exaggerated artifice of hyperpop is what makes it more convincing as emotional music. so like, by not trying to appear earnest and real’. it ends up being a more efficient carrier for the emotion

twoshell

mmm ye that sounds like something we wud like

chal

a bit like what you said about trying to focus attention on the music. instead of attempting to present yourself as an accessible normal person, you can just… be the avatar, the channel

two shell

for sure ♡

two shell

we have to go soon

we’re here to help peeps feel something in the now. we don’t need to bring back the old days for our grandaddies to feel smooth and sexy, we love him just the way he is”

chal

ok. 1 more question?

twoshell

ofc

chal

you can pick. a question about time machines or a question about mr blobby. i know it’s hard

two shell

time machines plz

chal

ok. you have a time machine

two shell

ooo that’s nice

chal

we’re somewhere between bill + ted and kevin + perry go large. yr in the time machine. what party are you going to?

two shell

easy tiger

chal

unfortunately you cannot choose to go back in time and murder any would-be villains. just, simply, party

el3000

INFOSEARCH: Bill & Ted is an American comedy film series about two metalhead slackers who travel through time.’

el3000

INFOSEARCH: Kevin & Perry is a television comedy spin-off about two desperate teenagers who travel to Ibiza to expose their musical talent to a wider audience and to lose their virginity’

twoshell

they both sound funny

we went to ibiza in march. and starting making one of our seedlings. mindflipper.

chal

you can go to any party, not just one that bill or ted or kevin or perry went to

two shell

in the past?

chal

would you rather go to one in the future

two shell

oh ye for sure. we’re here to help peeps feel something in the now. we can use music to bring back spirits of dead people, we don’t need to bring back the old days for our grandaddies to feel smooth and sexy, we love him just the way he is xxxx

chal

thank you for your time, shells

two shell

thank U chal. its been gr8 meeting u

chal

it’s been virtual insanity. i’m gonna unplug now

two shell

☼.★.☼

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