The Scribes are a multi-award-winning hip hop trio based in Bristol, UK. We caught up with Shaun to talk about their new track Stir Crazy, how The Scribes formed and what’s next for the trio.
Introduce yourself and tell us what you bring to the group?
Thanks for having us! My name’s Shaun Amos, I produce and rap for UK hip hop group The Scribes. On the Stir Crazy release, I do the vocals over a beat by J. Boom.
How did it all start for you?
I think I was first introduced to non-commercial hip hop around the age of 13, mainly through kids at school in Bristol. There were a lot of Rawkus Records and Battle Axe Records CDs being passed around. Artists like Pharoah Monche, Talib Kweli, Swollen Members, Dilated Peoples, Ugly Duckling, Jurassic 5.
I remember hearing conscious rap for the first time and just being blown away. Like the realisation that this could be used to say meaningful shit, not just gangster stuff was amazing for me. It immediately became something I could relate to a lot more and, as a result of that, became something I felt I could try and do myself.
I started making beats on free production software off the net and had this haggard recording set up using an old karaoke machine and two tape decks. Every track in one take. It sounded horrific but it was a way of learning and perfecting the art.
How was the group The Scribes formed?
Me and Jonny Steele had been best friends since like 5 years old. We both got into writing at around the same time, so it was pretty inevitable that we’d form something together. God knows who else would have us!
Started doing live shows as soon as we turned 18 when I moved down to Plymouth for uni. It was there that we met Lacey our beatboxer and he joined up full time later that year. We also had DJ SpinZ doing production and cuts, had our first vinyl out within a year. It was pretty crazy how quickly things took off!
What’s the scene like in Bristol at the moment?
Like everywhere, the live music scene in Bristol has been hit hard by the pandemic. Socially distanced shows are effectively halving the capacity of most venues if they are able to open at all. But everyone’s really pulling together.
There’s so much support out there for good independent music and it’s really showed throughout this year. Be it through crowdfunding to keep places open or people turning up to gigs as soon as they’re allowed.
I think every socially distanced show we’ve done this year has sold out almost instantly. I’m pretty sure that’s mainly due to people wanting to show solidarity and love for the live music scene.
The scene in Bristol, and throughout the UK, is strong, and will come through this strange year one way or another!
You guys write and perform under different outfits and alter egos. Explain your style and the concept behind the different guises?
I think a lot of it is down to us having different influences. I listened to a lot of Blur and indie rock before getting into hip hop, and that definitely shows on my solo productions! I like to get a bit of live guitar/bass in the mix if at all possible, especially doing the ill Literature releases with Jack Joyce and Jake Galvin.
Separate from that, I also love writing stories, like songs with a narrative. So the alter egos tend to come from that. Mr Teatime was born on a concept album about the end of the world. During lockdown, it seemed entirely fitting to bring him back for the Stir Crazy project with J. Boom.
He’s got a sound that’s a lot more sinister than mine and it really fitted with how I was feeling at the time with lockdown and everything.
Earlier this year you collaborated with Astro Snare and the legendary MC Duke. How did that come about?
Astro Snare has been with us for a long time now man. He’s produced some absolute bangers and we’ve been lucky enough to jump on a few of them. Our last EP, The Totem Trilogy Part 1 was entirely produced by him.
He met MC Duke through his travels and convinced him to get on board a track with us. It was a real honour working with one of the genuine originals of UK Hip Hop!
As a group, you have shared the stage with artists from the UK and worldwide such as Dizzee Rascal, The Wailers, MF Doom, Sugarhill Gang just to name a few. What has been the most memorable show for you and why?
Oh man there’s been so many, it’s hard to whittle it down! Some things feel like real moments, you know?
Whenever we get to play Glastonbury it’s huge, just to be a part of something so big. We’ve done Urban in Ibiza shows a few times as well and that’s always felt special. Some of the people we’ve been able to support or work with just blow my mind!
Sharing the stage with KRS One was insane, or GZA, just being able to interact with these almost mythical figures is beyond anything we dreamed of when we first started.
I think my most memorable show was a beach festival in Italy. It wasn’t particularly massive or anything, but the stage was looking down onto the beach. Mid-way through the set forked lightning started crashing down over the sea. Just the image of that over the heads of the crowd will stay with me forever.
Tell us about the track/video that you recently released called Stir Crazy produced by Finland beatsmith J-Boom.
Stir Crazy was born entirely out of lockdown. The feelings of loneliness, isolation, helplessness, that we all went through and to some extent are still going through. I wanted to express all of that and as soon as I heard the beat by J. Boom, I knew it was the one!
I kept going back and forth between negative and positive about the whole thing. The Mr Teatime alter-ego seemed like the ideal way to show that on the song. Representing the negative thinking that can easily become overwhelming in testing times.
The video pretty much followed on from there! We were in full lockdown at the time but luckily my wife is a mad talented photographer so we had all the equipment at home already. She helped me set everything up and film everything. I’m so happy with how it turned out! I’d definitely recommend people give it a watch!
Stir Crazy is a double A-side release on 7″ vinyl with Haunted House Party as the second track. Tell us more about this project.
After putting Stir Crazy together J. Boom sent over another beat that I just loved and that eventually became the track Haunted House Party. Musically it felt like an ideal companion to Stir Crazy and my mindset at the time being very similar. Both tracks ended up feeling like part of the same world. They both feature Mr. Teatime which gives them a familiar vibe.
We sent the tracks over to The Get Down Records, a Bristol-based label that works with some crazy good international artists. They were totally on board with the sound. It’s exclusive to thegetdownrecords.bandcamp.com. You can grab a digital download or a limited edition 7″ transparent vinyl with both tracks on right now which is cool as hell.
There’s even a little secret on the vinyl release that gives you access to a hidden remix of the track by Krisengebeat.
How did you hook up with J-Boom?
I heard some of his work online, he does a lot of live production videos with an mpc and sp404 and I stumbled across one somewhere. The man’s a beat machine! I think the beat that became Stir Crazy was originally one of the first live videos of him I saw and I was hooked.
He’s got that classic dusty boom-bap sound down with just enough of a twist to give it an edge. I got in touch and things just went from there.
Will you be releasing more music with J-Boom’s production?
There will be Haunted House Party at least, we’ll be putting together a music video for that too. We’ve spoken a little about maybe a full-length release for next year. God knows J. Booms got the beats for it! So fingers crossed and watch this space!
With a new (hopefully better) year looming what’s next for The Scribes?
The Scribes next release is The Totem Trilogy Part 2 EP, we finished recording on that a month or so ago. It’s produced by the mighty Vice Beats and features Dizzy Dustin from Ugly Duckling so can’t wait for that to drop. Though we’re playing it by ear at the moment with everything that’s going on.
We’re mainly just hoping that we can get back to a normal gigging schedule next year, at least in time for festival season!
Thanks for taking the time out to do this interview. Is there anything that you would like to add?
It’s been a hard year for everyone but I’m sure better times are coming! If you do want to support an artist like ourselves for free, sharing things like music videos can make a huge difference!
God knows we can’t afford marketing like pop music artists can, but word of mouth is still the best way of people finding us. So please do share whenever you can. Peace!
Photography by Rachael Amos
Interview by Jai Boo