Meet the Space Age collective out of Islington, North London.
This article originally appeared on Hunger TV.
The youngest member of Space Age is the quietest. Tilla; a sharp-witted seventeen year old with a fresh-boyish face and a DSLR camera he wears like a necklace, is sat in one of the recording booths in Red Bull’s expansive London Bridge music studios. He wraps his fingers around the winding lock of chestnut hair dangling from the back of his fitted baseball cap and broods; mostly in silence as friends Chuck 20 and Fady govern our interview. Every so often he’ll interject. Maybe with some new-age wisdom about legacy and longevity or just a general musing on his North London upbringing. Then it’s silence again; a pondering gape whilst he runs his fingers through his tresses. He might be riveted or totally unmoved. It’s hard to tell.
His brother Josh; crammed between Chuck and Fady like sitcom stars on Central Perk sofas, is much the same. His curls a tad more shaggy, his voice a tone deeper, but his face wearing the same inscrutable gaze. Chuck says the siblings “stimulate his mind” and talks warmly about how they can sit for hours and learn and argue and vibe and build. About how he’s never met a pair like the brothers and one thing becomes clear: Though they are sparing with their words, Tilla and Josh Arcé hold as much weight in this group as everyone else.
The four of them; Chuck 20, Little Simz, Josh and Tilla are Space Age; mates who make music. After that core is a growing extended family. Actors like Fady [Elsayed], producers like Osiris and Loner Muaka and model Sienna King (there’s even a football coach amongst the pack). Earlier in the afternoon when Little Simz’s manager Eddie rattled the heavy soundproof door open and led me into the studio; Tilla, Josh and Chuck were slunk in the corner chatting, rolling cigarettes, cracking jokes. But now it’s interview time. Four chairs have been mustered into the middle of the room; vaguely centred round a black wooden stand that balances my Dictaphone. It has the taken on the feel of one big informal job interview, with three of Space Age’s four founding members sat in a line, reeling off answers one at a time or all at once or finishing each other’s sentences or in bits at Chuck’s wisecracks.
There are a few missing. Notably Simz, and Fady; the latter doesn’t rap or mix or make beats but is still every bit as talented. He makes trade as an actor; in indie films and TV shows and, like the rest of the crew, grew up around the Essex Road in Islington. That’s before it was all plush flats and quaint craft beer breweries. They are basically, he tells me, ‘family.’ It’s why Eddie mused on his absence when prepping for this interview and it’s why the others nodded unanimously when he muttered ‘Fady should be here too’ as I went to click record on my dictaphone. After Eddie ambled off to get him from the lobby, Fady strolled in slightly sheepish, not because he isn’t at home amongst the brothers and Chuck; but because this for some reason had been billed as a music interview. In spite of that, it makes sense for him to be here. Like the other four, he bleeds Space Age.
They’ve been like this for years; turning out at each other’s shows: chilling, rapping, acting, growing. Now it’s all leading somewhere. Simz is in the foyer mingling with the flock of fans that have turned out for the art exhibition inspired by her imminent debut album. When I bring up her music Fady shakes his head in reverence. Rap fans have marvelled at Simz’ glittering ascent, but it’s been particularly special for him. No fan has been as close to things as Fady has. He remembers sitting in Chuck’s house watching the four of them toy with beats and concepts that are now racking up hundreds of thousands of plays on Soundcloud. People are crafting paintings and throwing exhibitions. There are fashion shoots and festivals and fans are playing their music the world over. What’s their secret?
Chuck shrugs, “If you feel the vibe of the beat then just work with it.”
Locked away in the suffocating cubed booth it feels like we’ve been shut off in a war bunker. The ceiling is low, there are no windows and the humdrum of London Bridge rush hour; a few feet outside these padded walls, seems oceans away. During the hour or so we spend holed up together, we talk Space Age, Islington and gratitude.
Space Age then: Who, what, when?
Fady: To me I feel like it’s a bunch of friends who happen to have a passion for something that brings us together. Whether it be music, whether it be acting. Space Age started with these lot as musicians, rappers, singers, everyone had a passion for music. Then it sort of just grew as a collective. We’d always support each other; go to each other’s shows. Then it just grew to…I don’t really know how it happened, it just happened. We’re just a bunch of friends that had something we’re passionate for.
Chuck: Exactly that. The way I see it more than anything it’s just like a friendship group and everyone is just passionate about what they do and everyone just helps to support each other and push each other. Yeah man, we’re all just sort of a family.
It seems like quite a natural evolution. Where did it all start?
Chuck: I don’t really know how it actually happened.
Tilla: I think we all just started chilling and started learning more about each other in terms of music and personal things and then it just became like an everyday kind of thing.
Chuck: Even though when we first met we all kind of knew that we did music.
Fady: I feel like once it started getting serious and the music started popping off it all just brought us together. Even just going to each other’s shows and supporting each other and turning up.
Chuck: The support is crazy
Fady: Together, the way we support each other is crazy. It’s just so real. I don’t know, there are obviously a lot of collectives that do the same thing but I find the way that we support each other is so necessary.
Chuck: It’s so genuine as well
Fady: I feel like that’s missing a lot in the scene today, we don’t push each other enough in life. It’s way more than music, it’s a friendship. And with us we all want to see each other do well. It’s not a competition. Like these lot [Josh and Chuck] are both rappers but they push each other the same way, you get what I’m saying? There is no competition at all.
Chuck: If I wasn’t around these a lot I probably would be a very shit rapper. [Laughs]
Fady: I’d probably be a shit person. I’ll be real. I’ve learnt so much from these lot. Together we just have mad conversations. We’re all on the same wave. No one’s heads gone to a different place. We’re all on the same wave, we’re all on the same come up. We’ve all got the same mind-set. It just happens to work perfectly.
Does that come from just being around each other so much that you end up breeding similar interests or was it the interests that brought you together?
Chuck: I think it was the interests that brought us together; the more we were together the more…
Josh: …we found out that it was more of a connection.
Chuck: The longer we spent together and the more we got to know each other, the connection just grew stronger. After our aspirations turned out to be kind of similar.
Fady: And it’s the sickest thing. I’ll never forget we were on holiday in Turkey and I had a self-tape that I had to do. Simz was writing bars. Chuck was helping me with the self-tape. Everyone was doing something. We were on holiday [laughs.] But everyone was doing something creative. I’ll never forget that moment; we are all just a bunch of creatives.
Chuck: I think it just shows how much we enjoy it as well. Because we could have easily just been on holiday.
Fady: Getting messy. Obviously we still have fun but it’s mad. I’ll never forget that. It was just a sick thing for me to see, that all of us are doing something and we’re all helping each other.
Following the creative route can be scary sometimes with the relative lack of structure. Was that ever a fear for you?
Tilla: I think it’s how you invest your time.
Chuck: For me personally I can’t really force things if I don’t really enjoy it. That whole retail lifestyle I don’t really enjoy it so it’s hard for me to force even though I know I’m getting paid at the end of the month. It’s a bit more than that, I have to feel it.
Tilla: You want to wake up one day and be happy to wake up.
Fady: You want a job to get you out of bed. I hear what you’re saying but I don’t like to ever think about it. I always try to stay positive, that I won’t ever need that because inevitably in the future we are going to be doing our thing.
Tilla: We’re not thinking about the future, we’re thinking about the now.
That kind of almost fearless mindset reminds me of your song No Reason. Who had the verse about thinking outside the box?
Chuck: It was Josh
That was incredible. Where did that come from?
Fady: His brain [laughs]
Josh: A lot of the time when I write…
Chuck: Even when you just sit down and have a normal conversation with him, it’s just crazy. The things they talk about.
Fady: They’re not real.
Chuck: It’s actually just real what they’re saying and it makes you open up your mind and see things in a different way. The debates that we have go on for hours.
Josh: Even if we don’t agree with the point we’re making, we’re just trying to make a point.
Chuck: It stimulates your mind
Even from just observing yesterday; you all seem to have different personalities, which is natural of course. How does it all come together?
Fady: It works
Chuck: We all have quite a lot in common.
Fady: I think that plays a part. We all grew up in the same place. We’ve got the same struggles. We’ve got the same everything, so I can relate to it. I can never judge him [Chuck]; I know what he’s been through, he lives right next to me. None of us are arrogant because we’re still here; we’re still trying to come up. I was even saying this outside….
Actually, nah I’m not going to go into that.
Fady: I was saying that there’s a lot of stuff going on in our lives right now that we haven’t taken the time to sit down and appreciate what’s actually happening. For all of you lot, for me, for Simz. I don’t think we’ve actually stopped to take it in. It’s all happening so quick and going past us.
Because you’re going all the time?
Fady: Yeah. I don’t think it’s sunk in for everyone.
Chuck: I don’t really feel like it’s that time though.
Josh: We’re just getting started.
Fady: But the fact that we all feel like that shows exactly what I’m trying to stay.
You mentioned growing up in the same area. Where is that?
Chuck: But true say you man are Hackney. [Laughs.]
I had relatives who lived in a council house in Islington. What I couldn’t get my head around was that the house across the road was Tony Blair’s.
Fady: That’s what happens.
Chuck: Growing up everything was just broken down. The older we got the more they’ve kind of…
Fady: Developed it
Chuck: Yeah developed it and that.
Tilla: It gives you a perspective. It’s your culture. This is what we see, this is what we know.
Fady: Yes, that’s the sickest thing. That’s so true. Because even for me as an actor, the emotions I’ve experienced make me different from a lot of actors.
Tilla: Your attitude, your presence, your lingo.
Fady: There are emotions that other actors haven’t gone through so when they’re trying to portray it, it’s not as genuine. You get what I’m saying? I’m not acting when I’m portraying it. For them [Chuck, Josh and Tilla] in terms of what they make, how they write, the way they make beats I’m sure it’s played a part.
Chuck: It makes me a bit more hungry I think growing up where we grew up. It’s not that you just want to leave the place because you still love it and your heart’s there but you know you want better than what’s there.
Fady: That plays a big part. We’re all hungry for it.
Chuck: Not thirsty though. [Laughs]
Musically there’s not much out there that sounds like Space Age. Your sound is very distinct. Who were you listening to for inspiration?
Josh: I think producing has opened me up to a lot of other stuff. I would listen to a heavy metal tune just to listen to the way it’s mixed, just to appreciate it in that way. I feel like I would rather open my mind up to everything and take things in in different ways. That’s what I try to put in my music. I want people to take it in in their own way.
There’s always been a bit of a question mark over Space Age; you’ve always remained very low key.
Chuck: I think it’s because none of us really sit down and pre-plan exactly what’s happening. We’ll sit there and a beat might come on and we’ll just write.
Tilla: We work organically. We’re never inclined to fit a certain standard just because we’re artists. We don’t have to release a project next week to be consistent or to be liked. If you like me, then you’ll respect me and you’ll be patient.
Fady: And they’re the only people we want. If there are people who are not patient with us or unfollow us because we haven’t been consistent then we don’t need these people. It’s the ones who actually appreciate us that are going to stay.
Tilla: Everyone grows at different paces as well. It’s not a rush thing. We’ve got time. I’m 17.
Chuck: And to be honest I don’t think we really look at how other people look at us.
Tilla: We just create. When it feels right to just release something we will. We’ve taken ourselves to this point where this our life.
Chuck: We don’t feel like we need to compromise.
Fady: That’s what makes us different.
Chuck: It’s not necessarily about trying to please people. More about pleasing ourselves.
Tilla: Essentially doing something because we love it, and not thinking about external things or the idea of success or what other people think.
Fady: It’s not a rush.
Any last words?
Tilla: Don’t sleep on us.
Fady: We might not be there when you wake up.