In Conversation with: The Hics
“Music has been the soundtrack of my life...It was just a way we communicated with each other”
Following the 2021 release of their deeply personal comeback single Caught in a Lie, former band turned duo The Hics have been well received by fans, both new and old. After a lengthy hiatus Roxanne and Sam are back, with their five track Ep Harmine. The project includes the likes of: Tell Me - with its smooth, melodic RnB vibe; and the more upbeat, enticing Float; or for the neo-soul lover’s, their touching closing track Reprise.
The story of the duo’s return to the music scene is as interesting as it is modern – to say the least. After hearing their music on a GTA (gaming) soundtrack, American rapper Bas approached the pair to work on studio collaborations such as Ricochet as well as to support him on his 2016 Too High to Riot tour.
This recognition from across the pond, as well as the chance to work on new collaborative music, encouraged The Hics to explore new creative spaces as a duo. Throughout the past few years, they have been experimenting with fresh sounds, harnessing new creative skills – eventually co-directing their own videos, and planning for future live shows.
We caught up with The Hics’ Sam and Roxanne, after the release of their latest project, to discuss music, inspiration and their aims for the future.
Where do you draw most of your inspiration from for your music? Is it people and places or perhaps life experiences...
Roxanne: I think definitely people and places and life experiences. Places sets the mood location-wise.
Sam: Yeah definitely, the setting does form the idea.
Roxanne: For example, for On You I was in the woods, and that’s where the guitar comes from, those chords were chosen to emulate how I was feeling within that space. Then I add a personal experience to that.
What is it like performing for an audience that isn’t necessarily your own, such as accompanying Bas on tour?
Sam: I think that it’s really fun, you don’t have as much pressure, you’re not trying to meet anyone's expectations. It’s a clean slate to leave an impression and I think that the most exciting thing was we had only one song that the audience seemed to identify with which was Ricochet, so we had this moment to showcase our new music and see the reaction to it. It was like one of our first shows back in London when it was smaller audiences. It was nice to have that moment to receive feedback, or see it visually through people’s facial expressions! It was a Hip-Hop tour, which wasn’t necessarily the mood of The Hics, but the audience was super patient – they gave us their attention, and their silence as well. They would get to see two sides to us, our honest mellow songs, and then we come out, instruments away, a bit more lit by that point – and it's nice for the audience to see two personalities come out!
What is your go to drink if any, or your go to hype song before performing?
Roxanne: I tend not to drink before I perform, especially on tour. In terms of something to listen to before performing – anything that’s out that makes me feel on top of the world, I think when we were on tour it was Pick Up the Phone, I love that song so I would always play that. But afterwards it tends to be a double Gin and tonic!
Sam: G&T was the safe option though, the drink on that tour was Jamesons and ginger ale.
I heard that Bas discovered you on a GTA soundtrack, I also heard you’re big gamers yourselves. What’s your favourite game? And have you ever discovered an artist from a gaming soundtrack?
Sam: Me personally growing up, I always loved games, I was a big gamer, I still game a lot today – I think a lot of artists enjoy gaming, it provides a space to be immersed in a different reality and to zone out, I think it suits the personality of creatives. Soundtrack wise I discovered Hall of Notes - who I love - through Vice City. Me and Roxanne both love GTA.
Roxanne: I think Vice City, same as Sam, opened my eyes to a lot of 80s music. I think in terms of gaming I play San Andreas – which is a bit different I guess because it's Hip-Hop based, so I kind of already knew all the songs.
What else do you like to do in your free time?
Roxanne: We love the beach!
Sam: I play a lot of football, for two teams in North London every week, as a left back.
After a long, well-deserved break, what was it like coming back into a changed industry so-to-speak, with the takeover of streaming and the focus on social media marketing?
Roxanne: It’s been really mad! It’s definitely been a different kind of pressure, there’s not much room to take yourself away from it and create separately. I’d like to be able to not look at other people, not have anyone else on my feed – I always wondered why people don’t follow anyone, but now I get it - it’s not healthy to see what everyone else is doing all the time, I don’t think.
In terms of streaming, I think it's good to know numbers but again it's also kind of weird, you know you could always do more, you're always pushing yourself forward to get new fans and maintain that audience. When that dips and when it spikes, it’s not easy to not get attached to that.
Yeah, I suppose where it’s live, very accessible information these days, it’s hard to avoid, for instance on streaming apps where you can see numbers.
Roxanne: Yeah, I think it makes it more like a business, definitely since we started – back then everyone just made music. The marketing side wasn’t a part of artists’ worlds. Now it is, which is great for people who are good at both.
It seems like artists have to be musicians and influencers these days, and perhaps didn’t sign up for that role in regards to social media and marketing.
Sam: Yeah, I saw this meme that was like “Musicians before the internet: 30% creativity, 70% sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll. Musicians after the internet: 30% creativity, 70% social media and analytics.
Roxanne: I think we’re quite good at managing it, we have good ideas, it’s just finding the time to implement it and do everything else that we want to do.
During your hiatus we all experienced lockdown, I wondered how that affected you getting back into music, and the studio. Was it frustrating or did it help you adapt and learn new ways to create?
Sam: Musically it was really hard, not being able to be in the same room and have that synergy, but it allowed us to learn a new craft – which was visuals and being more aware of our business. We had a project mastered and ready to go, but we didn’t have any videos, so we looked at how to make our own videos, which was hilarious! Luckily my housemate (Spike Silverton) is a videographer and projectionist, and my uncle who's good with photography suggested we look at old video tape formats. He found this little camera for us in a charity shop and got us experimenting with mini DV, and we instantly fell in love with the format. Me, Spike and Roxanne co-directed and came up with three music videos, Tell Me - that we shot in the basement, Reprise - which was shot in my car, and Caught in a Lie - which was shot in my living room. That was a really cool experience for us three!
Your sound is really unique, having a listen to some of your older discography I can hear the indie inspirations, and then listening to your newer releases, there’s an RnB feel to it. How would you define your style, or would you rather not define it in one way?
Roxanne: That’s a really good question, I like the last part! I think we’re always asked to define our sound, but Sam and I have so many different genres that we like and grew up listening to, so it doesn’t really make sense for us to define it. The response is always that people can’t put it in a box. I guess the closest label would be alternative.
Sam: Our manager’s abbreviation for it is AIR – Alternative Indie RnB. And it’s interesting to see that ‘Tell Me’ features on more RnB playlists, whereas Reprise features on the Indie playlists. If you listen to our first EP Tangle I think the songs have a similar tone, but a different approach in the sound. In this EP too, we’re trying new things with each song, we never approach one record the same. We’re always like start everything again!
What are your personal favourite songs from the new EP Harmine?
Sam: I like On You a lot. It’s more metaphorical than it is personal, I find they last longer in my mind, I find you can go back to a metaphorical song and connect with it at different points in your life, whereas when you have a strong narrative-based song it might really connect with you in the moment, but you’re not as likely to go back and revisit it.
Roxanne: I like Float, it’s not like anything I’ve written before – usually I’m miserable about some idiot – but this represents my personality more than the others do, the communication, the directness – I guess what some people would call sass – it’s more who I am.
Do you have a preference between performing or studio?
Sam: I think our touring experience is so limited, we’ve never been on tour as The Hics alone, we’ve only done UK shows as a duo, a European one and an American tour supporting. When we toured in the US it was a reduced version of what we would like to do on the road. We have an idea for live shows, we’re working on it, once we polish that I could see myself being performance over studio. I’m sick of London!
Roxanne: I think the way I feel when I come off stage is different, I feel like Tony Montana after he does a line – invincible. Studio is more like LSD, it’s more like ‘this moment is so amazing wow’.
Sam: [After performing] The dopamine hit is addictive!
Roxanne: It’s crazy!
I can imagine it’s quite difficult to adjust after tour then...
Sam: It’s so nerve wracking. On the road when it goes bad, you can’t come back from it in your mind. We've had some slip ups – we've had laptops fall off the stage, ironically those were the moments that made us a memory in people’s minds.
Roxanne: Yeah, and we recovered really well!
Being a duo, do you have the same creative process, or do you do a lot separately?
Roxanne: I’d say we work more separately; the original ideas are separate. Then we’ll come together and go into each other's projects when the other isn’t around, play around with it, and then be like ‘look what I added to your beat or song’.
So, you can edit each other's work, in a sense you have constant feedback...
Sam: I think the stigma around male-female duos is that the woman’s there to sing and the guy makes the tunes. But me and Roxanne are both producers and songwriters, we both have the ability to edit, work and produce records separately, it’s that combination of taking each other’s projects and reproducing and remixing them in a way, that’s the key to it.
What’s your dream venue to perform at?
Roxanne: Hollywood Bowl. We saw J.I.D there, and it’s an amphitheatre which I loved!
Sam: I think there's one on Mount Etna, my dad (who's a musician) played there, I think it's an amphitheatre too.
What does music mean for and to you?
Sam: Unfortunately, I don’t have any qualifications outside of this, I could teach I suppose, I have done that before. But music is the only language that I’ve learnt, I don’t speak other languages – though I’d love to – music is all I know really. I started as a drummer, you learn it as a craft, it’s the ingredients to my life, I wouldn’t know how to operate without it. I didn’t go chasing a career in it, it presented itself to me when I was around 17, I think I would’ve loved to have gone to university and studied history maybe. I just got to a point in my life where I realised, actually this works for me, and if it provides an opportunity for me to have bread and butter then why not? I think it’s a language and a way to express yourself.
Roxanne: Ever since I was little, I’ve liked my solitude, I’ve liked being alone and creating. Music, still to this day, functions like my journal. I make playlists by year on Spotify and I have a teenage playlist which I just add songs I listened to as a teenager whenever I hear them – I call it Teenage me. Music has been the soundtrack to my life, I’m very influenced by being alone and sitting with it, it’s been like another person in my life that I can go to.
That’s a nice way of viewing music, as a companion...
Sam: It is. You know I look at my friends who are from other parts of the world, and can speak different languages, and I see similarities in the way it exists within culture. In my upbringing, for instance, there was always music around. My dad is a musician, my mum is an artist, it was just a way we communicated with each other. It wasn't really a decision; it was kind of an expectation.
Roxanne: Yeah, it’s all encompassing!
Throughout our chat, The Hics’ love for music and passion for creation shines through, as well as their desire to grow and express themselves through new artistic ventures. Following the success of their eclectic tracks on new EP Harmine, we’re excited to see what The Hics do next.