Prep is a band that has a little something for everyone to enjoy. Their genre blending of synth pop and soul combined with their vast musical backgrounds create a musical experience that anyone could fall in love with.
Prep is a UK band, formed in 2015 with members Tom Havelock, (vocals), Llywelyn ap Myrddin (keys), Dan Radclyffe (guitars) and Guillaume Jambel (drums). What happens when you put together a classical composer (Myrddin), a singer-songwriter (Havelock), a house DJ (Jambel) and a producer (Radclyffe)? Intricately creative and unique dreamy indie pop that is available to listen to now.
This album truly feels like an introduction to Prep’s sound, both funky and whimsical all at once. It is a windows down, long drive, wind in your hair on a sunny day record and it instantly puts me in a good mood. When you listen to their groove you have to dance: those aren’t directions, it’s an instinct.
Substream had the chance to chat with Tom Havelock about the blessing and curse that is recording a debut album during a pandemic and the meaning behind their melodic sound and sleek lyricism. Read the full interview below and click here to stream Prep’s debut album.
Substream: Your single is “Carrie” off your self titled debut album that came out on October 30: What inspired that song, is Carrie a real person?
Tom: It’s hard to say. Partly real, and partly not. When I start writing a song, whether I have someone in mind at the start or not, pretty quickly the song starts to dictate where things go, and the images and episodes that come into my head could come from all sorts of different people I’ve known, or things friends have talked about, scenes from films and books, anything. But it’s always connected with something I’ve felt myself. And I hope it all comes together to make Carrie feel like a real person when you listen to the song.
Substream: All your songs feel very dreamy and nostalgic. Why do you choose to create music this way?
Tom: We make this kind of music because it’s what we love. But I know what you mean about that sound. I suppose a lot of the stuff we’re inspired by is that late 70s, early 80s smooth music which can make you feel pretty nostalgic when you listen to it now. There’s nothing like a reassuring dose of Tatsuro Yamashita when the future’s feeling a little uncertain.
Substream: Why a self-titled album? Is this the way of introducing the world to PREP?
Tom: That just felt like the neatest approach. There’s no grand concept to the record, and we didn’t want to draw attention to any one song in particular. It’s our debut album, here we are, PREP. It also means you can see more of the nice artwork without it getting covered in writing.
Substream: Is PREP an acronym for something, or how did you arrive at the name of the band?
Tom: It’s Prep as in Preparation. Llywelyn used to use it all the time when he was getting ready for big nights out, or music festivals. “Have you done your prep?”
Substream: You call come from different backgrounds, a DJ, a hiphop producer, a classical composer, how did you all come together to create PREP?
Tom: We knew each other through the music scene in London. Guillaume, Llywelyn and Dan had all hung out a bit, and had all talked to each other about wanting to start a band to do a kind of modern version of smooth music. I was working with Dan writing and producing for other artists, and one day he played me a demo of Cheapest Flight, I loved it and straight away knew what I wanted to sing on it, and that was the start of PREP.
Substream: Are you a lyrics first or music first kind of band, and why?
Tom: We start with the music. That doesn’t mean the lyrics are less important, but it’s the way we’ve always done it – and as I was saying before, it’s the way the band started, the other 3 making a whole instrumental track and then me singing over the top. I love working this way. It means I get to listen to these pretty complete instrumental songs, which already have a really strong atmosphere that straight away takes me somewhere and I usually know pretty quickly what I want to write about.
Substream: How did the pandemic effect your recording process?
Tom: In a funny way it enabled it. We were due to be touring pretty heavily earlier this year and had a vague plan to finish making the record around those shows, but when everything got cancelled it actually gave us the three clear months we needed to get the album done. Otherwise I think our label would probably still be waiting for those master tapes to be handed in. Some of the recording had to be done remotely, people doing bits and pieces on their own with files getting passed back and forth. And there was a bizarre moment where I was at home watching Llywelyn on my phone, while he held up his phone to the studio computer to show me a livestream being beamed in from Macedonia, on the other side of Europe, where a guy was standing behind a plastic screen in a massive old radio studio conducting a masked up string section for us.
Substream: “Pictures of You” has such a groovy beat, what was the inspiration behind it and the song in general?
Tom: That one’s definitely at the snappier end of what we do, but the groove is always important in Prep songs. Guillaume comes out of the house music world and he’s the caretaker on that side of things. The song is about being a long way away from someone you love. Definitely inspired by time on tour.
Substream: It’s very clear in your music that you are old souls, what musicians would say have inspired you the most?
Tom: Well, I think we’d all give massively different answers to that, but the first music we realised we all loved and that made us want to do Prep together was stuff like Bobby Caldwell, Boz Scaggs, Bill LaBounty and especially Steely Dan. But the aim with the band was always to take some inspiration from that 70s / 80s smooth world and then mix it with the more modern stuff we’re into, people like Tyler the Creator, Thundercat, Mac deMarco.
Substream: Is there an overarching theme to the album?
Tom: There’s no big concept, no. But there’s a mood across the whole record. A kind of danceable melancholy – or swayable at least. Everything has a groove, everything sounds smooth, but under the pink-tinged surface there are some slightly more complicated feelings going on.
Substream: What is something you would want first time listeners of PREP to know about your band?
Tom: One thing that people are often surprised by is that I’m a guy, so maybe I’d tell them “the singer is a guy” just to avoid some of the surprised faces we sometimes see in the front row.