Egyptian Hip Hop are a hard band to pin down

Photography by Tom Cockram

Photography by Tom Cockram

Egyptian Hip Hop are a hard band to pin down. After a last minute dash to Manchester we get them all together to discuss Johnny Marr, Oasis and the improbable explanation for their band name

Shuffling uncomfortably at the prospect of a grilling, singer/bass player Alex Hewett fiddles with his lighter, nearly setting fire to the table while his band mates bicker quietly in the background. Finally, guitarist Nick Delap chimes in: “I liked it when I Googled Egyptian Hip Hop and it found stuff, that was pretty cool.”

Keyboardist Louis Stevenson-Miller: “It was funny having people hearing about us‚””

Drummer/second keyboardist Alex Pierce: “My mum hearing about us‚””

Soon the stoic silence is replaced by a mass of voices talking over each other, with manager Max given the unenviable job of reigning in the chaos. The band are all 17, still at college and only started playing as Egyptian Hip Hop less than a year ago, guitarist Nick being the most recent addition to the line-up.

Their band name has caused some puzzlement, so we attempt to coax out an explanation.

“Eurgh, it’s really boring,” starts Louis “but we sort of made something up to make it more exciting, give it more mystique…”

“There was a paper aeroplane flying along and it hit Alex (Pierce) in the eye,” tells Nick “and we opened it and it said Egyptian Hip Hop on it.”

“Yeah, we don’t know where the paper aeroplane came from,” says Hewett “we think it came from Egypt really, from Cairo.”

Nick: “We fished it out of the Nile, with a submarine. Splash!”

Hewett (miming the actions): “The paper aeroplane made its way down the Nile in a Hippo that squirted it out of its blowhole.”

With regret, I inform him that, sadly, Hippos don’t live in the Nile, or indeed have blowholes.
Louis laughs: “That’s why you’ve never been to a zoo, the most exciting thing you’ve ever seen is a guinea pig.”

Hewett trails off: “I went to a rabbit farm once‚””

With a gift for storytelling on a par with Let’s Wrestle, the nature of EHH’s influences are no less complicated. Alex Pierce starts with, “Errr, Donny Osmond”, Louis offers up Talking Heads (“Yeah, David Byrne, what a guy!” interjects Pierce) and throws in The Smiths, before Hewett tells us how Johnny Marr taught Nick to play guitar, even though his friend “listens to Blink 182.”

After the Hippo with a blowhole, we can believe everything or nothing Egyptian Hip Hop say, and choosing the former seems like a hell of a lot more fun.

Their first live show was a spot on BBC Manchester’s Raw Talent in March, swiftly followed by airplay on Steve Lamacq’s radio show and tip off’s in the Independent’s playlist.
Hewett and Nick had already had their first taste of fame appearing at a Skins party whilst making up two thirds of electro scuzz band Copycats. Pierce also makes his own music and remixes under the guise of masked crusader, Leveret.

Finally, Nick explains the Johnny Marr connection. “I was in band with his son and JM, from now on he’s called JM! He gave me some trainers.”

“He thought you were poor!” puts down a grinning Louis.

“‚” and some guitar pedals and loads of Krispy Kreme donuts,” continues Nick, undeterred.
“Was that the high point?” Hewett interjects, incredulously “that you got a crappy donut?!”

Descriptions of Egyptian Hip Hop’s music range from ‘lush scuzzy pop’, to the less imaginative ‘doss wave’ and ‘post math-rock’. The chiming keyboards and dreamy vocals of ‘Heavenly’ definitely feature at the lusher end of the spectrum, while ‘Rad Pitt’ is more resolutely post punk.

“We always say pyramid pop,” explains Alex “just to be awkward.”

“We could be ‘Math Goths,'” suggests Hewett, followed by Nick quoting a recent NME review: “Definitely ‘Mancunian Post 8 bit dosh wave’,” he smiles. “I play ‘post math dosh rock.”

“The thing is,” says Hewett, stopping the meaningless and growingly absurd descriptions “we don’t know ourselves what it is, so they can’t even come close to what we think.”

“Anti-genre” and “sound unit” manage to sneak out when Hewett suddenly breaks off fascinated, peering at my papers. “You’ve got notes?” he says surprised.

“That guy earlier didn’t, did he?” adds Louis. “He wasn’t very good.”

Pierce: “He wanted us to talk about the 80’s revival and stuff. Wanted to see what we thought about La Roux and all those bands.”

Hewett then drops his lighter down a crack in the table and lets out a lament of, “Oh fuck, I always do that and then regret it!” and causes a confused Louis to look up apologetically. “Sorry, what was the question?”

Despite being local lads, Egyptian Hip Hop don’t fit the mould of a stereotypical Manchester band and hate the generic, Brit Pop-honed, ‘Lad Rock’ sound. Contemplating the recent Oasis split, Louis says, “Loads of people see Manchester bands as bands like Oasis and I sort of want to change that.”

Up coming gigs with Django Django, Copy Haho and Good Shoes, as well as a Loud And Quiet tour show with Crocodiles and Mazes, the next few months are set to be busy ones. There’s even a mini-documentary set to be shown soon on Channel 4.

“They recorded us in our rehearsal room, when we had one,” explains Hewett.

“Yeah, we got kicked out for being bad boys!” adds Nick.

Hewett: “Badass! There was graffiti in the hall or something.”

So now the band are searching for a basement that can accommodate their vandalistic tendencies, while Nick is also branching out with new band The Youth Gang. Pierce is also set to record some tracks in his Leveret guise with electro pioneer Danimal Kingdom.

And amongst external projects, plans to record an Egyptian Hip Hop album are well under way, with Sam of Late of the Pier on producing duties.

After extolling the virtues of Mount Eeerie, Sir Yes Sir, Iranian Pop and Russian Church Rock, while Hewett sits readjusting his mountainous indie mop, Louis adds, “Dutch Uncles are going to do a second album, probably a lot better than their first. They’re pretty underrated.”

“The Mandigans, they’re pretty sick,” says Nick of bands Egyptian Hip Hop are currently excited about.

“The Harks,” offers a sarcastic Hewett “or what about The Harringtons, and that fucking lame ass indie?”

“Is every interview you do going to be about The Harringtons and how shit they are?” says Louis, turning to the bassist. But as Egyptian Hip Hop seemingly tend to do, the conversation has already moved on without the need of answers being given to trivial questions or thoughts.

Melodic grunge, doss wave or pyramid pop, who cares? Egyptian Hip Hop make dreamy slices of electro induced grooves that traverse boundaries and defy labels. That’s well worth crossing the Nile for, with or without the promise of Hippos.


Originally published in issue 10 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. September 2009

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