Host in the Machine
Who are Host?
Like a truffle dog sniffing for answers at the roots of Londoninum’s fruiting music tree, I recently had the pleasure of burying my snout in the affairs of Host - a duo who have been cooking up a brand of pop-routed dance music with impeccable production values and a sonic palette coalesced from sound sources beyond the regular house music tropes.
With only a smattering of releases – one original track and a handful of remixes – offering a sparse perv’s eye view into the window of their sound it’s clear that they have many fingers groping at multiple pies. “Heartbeats in the House” offers up a contagious radio-friendly vocal woven over a classical pop structure, with their remix work so far operating closer to a DJ-oriented, extended mix tip.
I pressed lip to ear in their Old Street studio where they indulged me by elaborating on the sacrifices they have made on the cold stone altar of the God of Music, who will only reward the hardiest of souls with a career after they have appeased him with offers of their social lives, their time and their money.
The Men Behind the Music
It’s getting into the afternoon and amongst the diverse equipment in their studio – which ranges from drum kits to vintage synthesisers to a gorgeous sounding space echo – I have the distinct feeling that I am interrupting an impetuous workflow, so I aim to keep things brief.
Ben is first to open up, detailing his early successes which culminated in 2009 with a release on Warner Bros. Records, a lofty achievement which appears only to have cemented a long-standing ambition rather than inflate his ego.
An image of a journeyman musician begins to form as he describes his early experiences playing in bands and cover bands before his contractual success – of which at the time, he understood little, trusting the wisdom instead of his older band members.
Just 5 years later it is clear that he is anything but naïve, and in Host’s flirtations with major and indie labels I suspect he plays a similarly paternal role to Tom – the youngest of the pair -- as his former band members did to him.
This initial success appears to have landed on fertile ground, bolstered by an individual belief that he could make a career in music.
When I prompt him to indulge me on the intricacies he tells me that whilst he didn’t start out with commercial success in mind, making a living from what he loves to do is about exhausting all avenues.
Utilising PRS revenues and attracting the right interest by being selective in your output is essential. Exploring remix work for an eclectic mix of artists can bring your music to new audiences.
I ask to what extent commercial awareness has informed their music. “We both really like pop music, and we wouldn’t want to shy away from that” says Tom. “But we don’t want that to hinder us from making other things.
"We want to make remixes aimed at the club, but we want to make music that will get played on the radio”.
This dualistic approach might act to divide their audience, but the pair seem aware of this, believing that they can make music that works in both the distinct contexts of the radio and the club. “Look at 2 Bears and Hot Chip”, says Ben. “They’re musically distinct and the intention is different, but it’s still Joe Goddard. I heard him on NTS [Radio] playing with Keiran Hebden [Four Tet], just playing whatever he wants, but it still makes sense. He’ll be making music for a long time – he has a legacy now”.
I ask Tom how conscious they are of keeping this bifurcation of their music in check. “Whatever we do together, whatever way we do it, it just sounds like Host – we don’t have to think in terms of boundaries or restrict ourselves because the music always sounds like us.”
Ben agrees, seemingly unworried by their relative place on the spectrum running the gambit from pop to the underground. “If you have enough interesting output then you can build towards the place you want to be.
Sometimes it takes a long time with multiple albums, and bands can have their biggest pop moment when they’re starting out and then progress to something that is more underground.
As long as what you’re doing is informed by how you feel at that time, then it’s authentic."