Interview with PREP: British City Pop band talk about their music, recent collaboration, recording process and food, weather and wonderful fans in Asia

As PREP swang by Singapore on Monday, November 12 for their headlining tour Asia Tour Autumn 2018, AsiaLive365 had a chance to catch up with these British City Pop quartet. Here, the band shared with us their stories from the production process to hitting the road and other wonderful stuff in their lives.

Prep, an Indie City Pop band from London consisting of members Tom Havelock (vocals), Llywelyn ap Myrddin (keys), Dan Radclyffe (guitars) and Guillaume Jambel (drums), are on Asia tour. Besides Singapore, the destinations also include China, South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.

AsiaLive365 has recently got the chance to have a quick and laughter-filled chat with them at a cool (White Label Records) store in Singapore and this is what the lovely guys want to say.

Hi! You guys landed bright early this morning. Welcome to Singapore. You mentioned that this is your first time to Singapore? Tell us. How do you find the city? Tried any local cuisine?

Dan: Oh yeah. The spice standard is high.

You guys had some curry then?

PREP: Fish head curry.

This morning?

PREP: Lunchtime. Yeah, that was great! And I think we had some crab meat and egg soup.

Oh! Nice. Like salted egg crab?

Llywelyn: Yeah. It might have been. Like really thick soup. And some deep fried fish with insane quantities of chilli. (pauses)

Tom: Ahhh the chilli fish.

Llywelyn: Umm…so we’ve eaten well. (grins)

PREP: Yeah. And we’re enjoying the heat.

© PREP official Facebook page; PREP Live in Seoul

Yeah. Reckon it’s a big difference from London then…

PREP: Well, we were just in Seoul. Wintery Seoul.

But it’s been raining the last few days.

PREP: So we’ve picked a good moment. Does that mean it’s cooler?

Well… Still a bit humid.

PREP: Yeah. Really humid. We can feel that. Is it gonna rain today?

Well, I hope not! It’s been raining the last few days at the Neon Lights Festival and it was really muddy.

PREP: (understandingly) Oh no…

Yeah. It felt like Glastonbury.

PREP: (laughs) Yeah yeah, that’s the way to do it. Glastonbury was mud and heat at the same time. Interesting combination. (Everyone laughs)

What was it like teaming up with MONSTA X star Shownu and Korean indie band Se So Neon’s So!YoON! for “Don’t Look Back”? (Listen to the song below)

Tom: It was great. We didn’t get in the studio with them unfortunately so they were kinda sending in their parts, you know, from the other side of the world. But it was umm…it was really exciting. It’s such a cool thing to have this track and you feel it’s nearly there. And then you kinda click on a laptop and open up a file and then there’s sort of this amazing extra dimension to it.

What made you guys come up with the decision to work with Korean music artists?

PREP: Well, So Yoon we met in Seoul. She came to one of our shows. To our first gig.

Dan: To our first ever gig.

Tom: And we went out to a bar afterwards. She took us out to this really cool kinda music bar.

So Yoon from Se So Neon

Llywelyn: And we stayed in touch and we always thought that it’d be a nice idea to feature. ‘Cause she’s an amazing guitar player. And she’s really young. And we thought it’d be a nice idea. And then the track came out. And then we thought we’d ask her. And the schedule worked out. She did it amazingly. Really. Beautiful playing.

Tom: And then Shownu, we heard was a fan.

MONSTA X’s Shownu

Fan of you guys?

PREP: Of our stuff, yeah. We knew someone who was working with his band. And she put us in touch. We went to a MONSTA X show in London which was…pretty insane… It was like the first time that we’ve been to one of those shows.

Yeah. Korean shows are a big thing now.

Guillaume: It was amazing. Like you’re saying big Korean show…in London. Hammersmith Apollo. And it was a huge London venue. Which was completely sold out. I think it was two nights too.

Tom: So it was great and we met him and he was really lovely.

PREP: And there was also that…like in the middle of the set…there was sort of that shiny pop stuff. He and one of the other guys sang that Bruno Mars slow track, Versace on the Floor. And he sounded really amazing on it and I think that’s when we realised that we could collaborate with him on a song.


So, having now toured to Asia, you said you guys have been to this region four times. From your observation, have you noticed anything different or similar to the music scene in London as compared to Asia?

PREP: Oooh… Interesting question.

Dan: Well, they love Prep more than they do in London. We’re not gonna lie. (Everyone laughs)

PREP: That’s why we come here so often. There’s a trend I think at the moment. For City Pop. It seems to be all across different countries.

Tom: Our music seems to have kinda connected to a lot of people here. Suits the hot weather, you know. That kinda of relaxing, smooth sound.

Yeah. To chill to…

PREP: Yeah, yeah. It’s really funny cause like City Pop is a world that we didn’t know very much about. I think it was the first time we came over actually. And I remember we did an interview with someone in Bangkok who was talking a lot about it and how many people were going back to that music and really loving it. And she gave us like amazing tracks to listen to. It was only then that we realised that we’ve been making this stuff that kinda quite fits into that world…which was a total accident.

Tom: When you buy records and you DJ and stuff,  like Giom and me, you know…you get to know classic tracks. But we didn’t realised that there was a whole world of albums and you would fit stuff like Tatsuro Yamashita – he was like a one-hit wonder but he was also a massive star in Japan who’s had a career for forty years and there’s a much to discover. I think that’s how we learn. (Try out Tatsuro Yamashita’s biggest hit song “Christmas Eve” below).

Llywelyn: At the same time, there are some similarities as well. I remember the first night that we went out to this club and they were playing like sort of this UK Grime. And I was like really…they’re listening. Cause for us, it’s like the most London kinda music. You know and everybody was loving it. Like the other night in Seoul, you know there’s a lot of that American-like hip-hop and track and stuff. So, you know. There are also people who are digging the same kinda music. And some quite London music, which was interesting.

You guys came from different musical backgrounds. Therefore, we’d like to know whether these differences help form the unique PREP sound?

Tom: Well, in the beginning when we first have, you know…, kinda written the description of the band and who you are, it seems really neat to say Llewyn does the harmony – he came from the world of classical composition. And Giom plays the drums and he’s a House DJ so he’s the groove guy. And I, my job is writing songs for other people. So I do that and the vocal bit. And Dan does a bit of everything and actually does the production at the end. But actually, it’s much more…than that.

Llywelyn: Fluid.

Tom: Yeah, it is very fluid.

Guillaume: So the three of us often write demos. We get together and listen to them. And often, one of them would sound better than the others and then it can sometimes completely restart. Sometimes we keep the chords and completely change the production. Sometimes it’s the other way around. Keep the production, change the chords. And then eventually. When we think it’s good enough, we bring it to Tom.

Guillaume: And then depending on what Tom does, we decide on what we can do to complete it.

Llywelyn: And then sometimes, we just change the whole track.

Guillaume: And sometimes, by the end, by the time it’s finished.

PREP: We decide to start from scratch again. (Everyone laughs)

Llywelyn: Yeah, it’s not quick.

(Listen to PREP’s latest track “I Can’t Answer That” below)

Tom: It’s funny. I mean the lot of other music that Dan and I worked on, you have to have a song. I mean, you start a day with nothing, and then by that evening, you have to have something that could be played on the radio pretty much. You know written. Recorded. Vocals all done. And polished.

PREP: And PREP is the opposite. (Laughs) We can happily take more than a year to finish a song. No one’s kinda rushing us.

Llywelyn: I think some songs have taken a lot more than a year.

Dan: Let’s just not name any.

PREP: But yeah, we get to sort sit with them for a bit and then think oh that sounds…you know…45-seconds in… Is it quite right… Let’s try some other stuff there and…yeah, this clap sound is unacceptable. (Laughs) That’s the process…

Describe the band or the band’s music in one sentence.

PREP: One sentence…

Llywelyn: When they ask us what we produce, we always say City Pop.

PREP: Yeah, but sort of modern City Pop. Cause really, it’s important to us that it doesn’t sound like music that could have been made…you know…like thirty years ago. (Pauses) I think we’ve done more than a sentence… (Everyone laughs)

PREP: City Pop from London. In 2020.

(Everyone laughs)

©Chris Baker

So last question guys. If you could say one thing to your fans in Asia right now, what would it be?

PREP: Come to our show! And thanks. We get so much love from our fans in Asia. It’s really…it’s really amazing. It’s a big part of really why we do it.

Llywelyn: You know when you’re a musician and you’re writing and there’s a lot of things going on in your head, the process and like the positive messages that we’ve got from the fans has definitely helped us. A lot. And we really appreciate it. And we really appreciate our fans, so we just say thanks. And thanks for listening!

So you’ll be back?

PREP: Oh we will be back. Absolutely!

Thanks for the interview guys and have a great set of shows in Asia!

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