During this depressingly redundant period for live music, the need for inventive and progressive alternatives is vital. The underground music scene is more fluid and explorative than it ever has been in the digital age, with dynamic artists swimming beneath the constant stream of populism, holding their breath. There is an esteemed collection of platforms carrying this heavy burden; one of the most exciting and profound of these is the media company Lockoff, founded by Willem Lord and Luke Stilwell, and their cutting edge series ‘Ear To The Ground’.
Staged in the enigmatic Shoreditch venue Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes, Ear to the Ground marries eclectic, superlative and buzz-worthy Grime, Hip Hop and R&B artists with first-rate videography, set design and sound production. Refined and subtle, there is significance in the projects modesty and directness. I chatted to the co-founder of Lock off, Willem, who described the series as ‘a great way for an artist to get a high end visual of their tracks, whilst showing their fans and potential fans their persona and delivery in a live performance’. It feels like a hybrid of live performance and the generic music video formula.
When discussing influences for ETTG, Willem paid homage to UK platforms like Daily Duppy and Mad About Bars, as well as the remarkably consistent COLORS. Whilst taking influence from these established channels, Lockoff realises that there isn’t a ‘high quality platform showcasing the depth of sick alternative artists the UK has to offer’. This idea, combined with strong marketing, a unique aesthetic and an unwavering desire to shine a light on the undiscovered, is a recipe for success.
The visual approach is a combination of Willem’s creative vision, merged with the technical execution of director/editor Kristie Glennon. Willem said ‘the setting and scenery is a fusion of stuff I’ve rated in music video concepts and other freestyle platforms plus some individual addition’. The execution of this ‘urban jungle’ is impressive, with cascading naturalism and deft lighting consistently evident. This is clearly a team of individuals who excel in their respected fields; sound producer Tim Kramer, photographer Kojo Dwimoh and videographer Harrison Peck are all key members of Lockoff’s creative team.
The calibre of artists they have so far recruited is impressive; the suave Finn Foxell, smooth Manga Saint Hilarie and (my personal favourite) the indefinable CLBRKS. Each episode has the added bonus of being an exclusive visual, which lends the series added authenticity and exclusivity. When I asked about what artists they hoped to get on the series in the future, Willem offered me ambitious, but realistic, names like Berwyn, Knucks, Nayana IZ and Pa Salieu.
When I ventured to ask how the boys planned to expand and improve both ETTG and Lockoff as an entity, Willem said ‘For the series itself, keeping consistency and ensuring the artists involved are the best of the best coming through, gotta have the platform looking like Ajax academy. For the wider company we have plans to essentially be a multi-faceted music platform that runs events and creates content and manages a select few of the most promising artists coming through Downtown Koyoto being the first of these’. There is a definite intention to return to live events as soon as possible, as Willem remarked ‘online sessions and cool and all but there’s nothing like seeing shit kick off live with a crowd’. I, for one, cannot wait to get down to an infamous Lockoff event!
With the way we discover music constantly evolving, fresh, modernistic series such as Ear To The Ground feel vital; not only for underground artists, but to the UK music scene as a whole.