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Interview: Tough Love

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Comprising of Stef Brien and Alex Love, it’s likely that you’re already acquainted with Tough Love as the duo responsible for the infectious poolside anthem ‘So Freakin’ Tight’.

Tough Love have a distinctive quality to all their productions, incorporating punchy beats that will get your body moving; the London-based duo frequently describing their sound as ‘bumpy’.

“I think that we just wanted a sound that was fun and accessible to everyone,” Alex explains.

“At the time when we were making music everyone was like a bit slower tempo-wise.”

Predominantly spinning house records the pair's tastes also account for their combined love for garage and classic 90s tracks. Alex admits, “We were playing a lot of the old stuff, we wanted to bring that sound back into our sets.”

The boys are currently poised to inject dancefloors with some seriously seductive grooves as their latest single, a re-work of RnB legend, Ginuwine’s inviting debut hit ‘Pony’ is scheduled for release on 7th August.

“Originally we did it as a white label, as an edit,” Alex says of the record; the collaboration came later.

“We gave it out to a really select number of DJs. When ‘So Freakin Tight’ was in its promo stage we were checking the Shazam position and by chance Pony was in the top hundred so I did a tweet from our Tough Love page saying, “I can’t believe pony’s in the top hundred on Shazam, it’s only on white label,” and Ginuwine got in touch with us straight away saying “Congratulations, that’s amazing.” Literally a week later we were in the studio together. So, it’s just the power of the internet; that was pretty special.”

A hook-up with a platinum-selling artist like Ginuwine isn’t an opportunity that comes along every day, as Alex continued to explain: “We were pretty nervous to begin with as you can imagine.”

“His rider was pretty cool, he had a bucket of chicken, a bottle of Hennessey and a barber to cut his hair. He actually did an interview whilst he was having his haircut, and we were sat next to him trying to talk seriously to a camera whilst he was trying to get a trim. The barber was quite weird, he had a caving spotlight on his head to make sure the lines were like perfect, so I think he was pretty nervous as well.

Studio luxury’s aside, Ginuwine has lost none of his talent. Alex continued: “G’s really cool, we did the whole session in under two hours and he was really relaxed and really professional. He’s a good friend now, we talk every week. I think it’s amazing that it happened really.”

Alex and Stef are just as comfortable behind the decks in the club as they are in the studio. This summer has seen Tough Love atop the bill of Sankeys Ibiza’s new Thursday night party, The Redlight.

Recalling his favorite moment of the residency Stef told me, “So far I think the show with DJ EZ was probably one of the best nights on the island. The club hit capacity really, really early and had literally every single room packed solid. The energy in there was amazing, the crowd were brilliant. It was probably one of the best shows we’ve done in a long while as well.”

“Every week is amazing,” adds Alex.

“It’s just the line-ups on there are so different to everyone else on the island. We’ve already played with EZ, Todd Terry, obviously Matt ‘Jam’ Lamont is there with us every week, we call him burgler bill, I’ll let you ask him why we call him that. I think the whole ethos to the club is great. Sankeys is a really family based club and it is very different to everything else on the island and is drawing really big crowds really quickly for its debut year.”

It’s no surprise that Tough Love are in their element in Ibiza considering their long relationship with the white isle.

“I started going to Ibiza when I was thirteen, and then as a student I was pretty wild,” says Alex.

“I was playing rugby so there was a lot of beer drinking and stupidness, I won’t go into detail, but I’ve had some good holidays. I remember we were actually banned from doing a rugby tour when I was a student because the year before I went there they like smashed everything up. That was Brunel University. I ended up taking eight of us to Andorra for a snowboard trip, and I think we went every year after that, but fond memories and still some of my best mates today are the guys I met at Uni."

Similarly, Stef has had his fair share of the party lifestyle.

“I was actually djing from a very young age so I actually did some terms in the likes of Balleracky, Malia, and Kos. There are so many stories that could be thrown about, but while I was at university it was like a continual lads’ holiday because I was abroad for a long period of time. It was great, probably the best time of my life, before Tough Love.”

The duo agreed that students continue to be both the most discerning crowds, an essential test of any DJs’ finesse.

“It’s vital to be able to do student events,” Stef explained.

“Playing to that kind of crowd, you have to adapt, because their music taste is so eclectic. That’s one thing I think we do really well as Tough Love. We never plan our sets, we always judge the crowd first and go in experimenting.”

It’s clear that the boys are still just as tuned in to the student audience as ever, as Alex detailed one of their most recent outings.

“We played a wicked student gig recently with Sub Focus at the Leicester O2 Freshers’ end of year ball. It was really good. It was quite weird, watching everyone in black tie going mad to our music and drum and bass and real mixed genres it was quite funny.”

Alex and Stef often treat their fans to some exclusive productions in their sets and have put together some coveted edits over the years. Quizzing the two on their favorites proved difficult simply due to how many they’ve got up their sleeve.

Stef conceded that having been picked up for release as singles, “Obviously ‘So Freakin’ Tight’ was one of the best ones and ‘Pony’ too has been floating about in our sets for the last two years”.

“We do have another one which is a sample of ‘You’ve Got The Love’ and that always seems to get a response. One that’s been getting a really big response at the moment is Duke Dumont’s ‘The Giver’, we’ve got two different edits, one’s vs Gabrielle, and the others which is a straight jackin’ edit, they’re going down really well, especially in Ibiza at the moment.

Tough Love are clearly passionate about the music they play, placing it as their first priority. This commitment evolved in 2012, as the inception of their own label Get Twisted gave them the ability to provide a platform for their favorite artists to release their music. Of late the imprint has been receiving plenty of attention. Alex gave us an insight into what they’ve got coming up:

“Next up for Get Twisted we’ve got a full release with Island, from two guys called Hot sauce, the record’s called ‘loving you’, that’s due out in September.”

“We’ve also just done a deal with ministry of sound for a track called ‘Just Another Face’ by Hard Soul and Dirty Freak. We’ve got MO, a UK RnB group we’ve done the topline on that. I think that actually gets aired this week, which is exciting.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“We’ve got so much more material to come, a full single from two guys called Midnight City, we’ve got club records from Robert Sanchez, Andy Riviera, As I Am, Purple Disco Machine. Our schedule is packed right until the end of the year right now. And we’re doing our first UK tour as Get Twisted starting in November which we’re really excited about.”

As both Alex and Stef are continually sourcing new music for their sets, label, and radio show, it’s pretty apparent that Tough Love have their finger on the pulse. I Invited Alex and Stef to offer us their predictions as to what records we will likely to be hearing in the clubs as the soundtrack to Freshers 2015.

“There’s one in particular that I really like,” Stef explained, “It’s a Roger Sanchez record called ‘Remember Me’. I think there’s definitely something in that record, if it gets serviced right it could be massive. That’s definitely a personal favorite at the minute.”

“There’s one that looks like it’s going to blow. It’s not really something we play, it’s an old Jackson 5 remake by some unknown guy called Cigarlo, which is coming out on Ministry. I think it’s actually coming out on freshers week, so I think that looks like it’s going to be a big one.”

Of course, keeping on top Get Twisted and two Kiss FM shows alongside weekly appearances out in Ibiza and still finding time to produce their own tracks too, Alex and Stef have an intense schedule.

 “We don’t sleep,” Alex emphasizes.

“Literally, we do not sleep ever. I survive off coffee. It’s just graft man, it’s just the two of us that get everything done, it’s just grit and determination just to get it done without any excuses.”

Alex and Stef’s commitment is commendable and is certainly paying off as Tough Love are becoming one of the most talked about duos on the club scene right now.

Tough Love’s new single, Pony (Jump On It) ft Ginuwine is out August 7th.

Hear Tough Love on KISS FM Friday’s 12am-1am and on KISS FRESH Sunday’s from 9pm-10pm.

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