Playing the field! New bands to watch this summer: Nero

Lisa Key goes behind the decks to talk with Nero, another of dubstep's successes ahead of a summer of festival appearances for the duo.

2011 may well be the year that dubstep finishes its long journey from underground movement to fully-fledged chart fodder. This summer, Rusko, Toddla T, Redlight, Jakwob and the whole of the Kode9 camp will grace the prestigious Glastonbury Dance Village, while Radio 1’s One Big Weekend welcomes Skream, Benga and Mistajam to its decidedly pop friendly bill.

Leading dubstep’s storm on the mainstream are London duo Daniel Stephens and Joe Ray, or Nero to their 219,353 Facebook friends, who have been smashing the UK charts and airwaves to pieces recently with tracks like ‘Guilt’, ‘Me And You’ and that remix of MJ Cole’s ‘Innocence’.

The self-proclaimed “classically-trained noisemakers” have recently been nominated for BBC’s Sound of 2011 poll, an “honour” that, they insist, was “totally unexpected” and they are set to release debut album ‘Welcome Reality’ on MTA Records later this year.

The comparisons with Chase & Status, who run the label, are obvious – both acts make big room, radio and rave friendly dance music that has hit the mark with the student club going population especially. What do Nero think of the comparison? “Chase & Status have been really good to us,” they tell VF, “having their recognition has definitely helped us to be noticed more.” But they are also keen to remind us that, despite sharing a mainstream platform with their label bosses and acts like Magnetic Man and Sub Focus, “musically we’re all different in our own ways”.  Are there any downsides to having such a large student following, we wonder? “I don’t think there are any cons!” say the boys. “They have the energy of youth and are always great to play for as student crowds go off at our gigs.” 

There’ll be plenty ‘going off’ for Nero over the summer, as they prepare for a string of festival performances. First up is Radio 1’s One Big Weekend for their debut live show next month. Radio 1 have tipped Nero from the beginning, with Zane Lowe, Annie Mac and Jo Whiley all showing love for the dubstep double act. Has that kind of recognition helped them on their way from underground remix maestros (some would credit the rise and rise of Nero to have begun with their remix of The Streets’ ‘Blinded by the Lights’ in 2009) to burgeoning pop stars? “Absolutely”, they say, “the power of Radio 1 is phenomenal.”

After Big Weekend, the boys will headline the Tent at Deadmau5’s Victoria Park show, a massive booking considering that, aside from the fact that they could both be called ‘dance’, the two acts share barely any musical ground. “It’s great to have that billing, and the set time we’re playing is going to be great too,” they say. Can the crowd, who will (presumably) be made up mostly of trance heads, expect a different set to the usual Nero show? “We’ll be approaching the show in the only way we know how.” We’ll take that as a no, then!

With festivals winding down in August, Nero will release their debut album. What can we expect from the duo who started out as jump-up drum ‘n’ bass producers before finding their musical niche with their special brand of dubstep? “It’s a mix of all different types of electronic music, we’ve taken inspiration from dubstep, electro, house, trance, and drum ‘n’ bass and fused it into a sound clash.” They’ve said before that futuristic films like Blade Runner have been a big influence on their sound, and this vein continues on the album. “We love the whole Retro Futurism vibe, the vision of the future from the past, so films like Blade Runner that were made in the 80’s and set in the future are a great reference for this both visually and sonically. Most of them feature great soundtracks made on 80’s synths and that is a direction we took with this album.” The album has been a long time coming – Nero have been making music together for eight years – have they ever clashed either musically or personally? “Generally we get on quite well, but we’re always disagreeing about what sounds best, it’s part of our process when creating music.”

Nero and their peers will be taking dubstep out of the Croydon basement and into the sunshine this summer.

Debut album ‘Welcome Reality’ will be released later in the year.

Nero will play Victoria Park, London on 11 June as part of L.E.D. Festival’s deadmau5 show.

The event will also feature DJ sets from Mark Ronson and Calvin Harris as well as Skrillex, Modestep, DJ Hype and more. Tickets are on sale now for £42.

Click here to buy L.E.D. Festival tickets.

Find out where else the pair are playing here and check out where they will be DJing this summer here too.