After being placed in the Top 15 of the BBC’s Sound of 2011 list, Nero, aka North West London producers, remixers du jour, DJs and artists Dan Stephens and Joe Ray, have had a constant presence in the music world. The duo not only recently released their debut album, Welcome Reality, to rave reviews, they also produced the No. 1 single “Stay Awake” for English MC/vocalist Example.
Nero, who tell me their music is best described as “epic flamingo-step”, formed while the pair were still in their teens. “Back when we were 17, we all used to be friends and would go out clubbing at places like Fabric,” the duo recall. “Drum and Bass inspired us to become producers, so we started writing beats together.” Their sound was inspired by everyone from punk/new wave band Blondie to composer Steve Reich, who is widely regarded as the third major pioneer of minimalism.
Having perfected their sound over the years, Nero released their official debut album, Welcome Reality, last year. Upon its release, the album topped the UK Albums Chart and peaked at No. 9 on the US Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums. “For it to go Number 1 was something we never expected,” Nero reveal. “It wasn’t really an aim or hope, but was really flattering there were so many people out there who wanted to get it.” Welcome Reality manages to blend dubstep, electro, drum and bass and pop into a solid cohesive sound. “It was tricky to keep a balance and a flow through the album,” Nero explain. “It’s our debut so in a way sums up all the influences and styles we’ve been involved in, which is why there’s a lot of variety to the sound.”
Welcome Reality spawned several hits on the UK singles chart, including the No.1 hit “Promises” and the recent hit “Crush on You,” a cover of The Jets’ 1985 top 5 hit. Nero chose to cover “Crush On You” because of the tracks infectious beat and lyrics: “It was on a disco/boogie/80s pop mix we were into for a while, and the melody and lyrics got stuck in my head. We found an a capella and decided to play around with it.”
“Reaching Out,” Nero’s current UK single, samples an arpeggio from 80′s Italian dance group Kano’s “Another Life”, and features guest vocals from Daryl Hall. The song peaked at No. 9 on the UK dance charts. The video for the track was inspired by 80s American television series Miami Vice. “It’s basically an update on Miami Vice, really suits the track and we loved it,” the duo tell Allure of Sound.
After experiencing overwhelming success over the past few years, Nero have met the difficulties that come with success with a positive outlook: “There’s a lot of stuff to juggle, so keeping fresh with all the touring and work can be tough. But I can’t say it’s not fun or rewarding.” Adding: “Thank you for all the support. Every time we go to a gig we’re still flattered people have come to see us!”