HomeWorld NewsFrozemode: strikingly singular punk-rap trio bringing chaos to a … – NME
Frozemode: strikingly singular punk-rap trio bringing chaos to a … – NME
August 23, 2023
The members of Frozemode are crowded around a wobbly pub table, a stone’s throw from where their first ever studio session took place. It’s early afternoon, so The Hand & Shears is quiet, but the punk-rap trio soon liven things up in the central London pub. Formed during a “drunken late night phone call” in lockdown, the group (consisting of friends I.V.GATLIN, Cho-Hollo, and Lisong – who prefer not to share their real names) pride themselves on high-octane, punk-drenched alternative hip-hop rooted in sharp storytelling and vignettes of everyday life.
“There’s a ‘fuck you’ attitude, there’s going against society,” says I.V.GATLIN, reflecting on the relationship between punk and rap that Frozemode have harnessed so effectively. On tracks like the riotous NOISY collab ‘The Motive’ and the swaggering grime romp ‘Vermin’, they’ve cultivated a savage mix of distorted guitars and venomous bar-spitting. Given the sound’s clear roots in the fierce spontaneity of London’s grime scene, it’s no surprise that live audiences have lapped up the trio’s music; they recently played five sets at Brighton’s The Great Escape, and are performing on the BBC Introducing Stage at this year’s Reading & Leeds festival.
After meeting as teenagers, cutting their teeth freestyling at school and college, and pursuing a variety of solo projects and ad-hoc collaborations over the years, it was Lisong’s move back to London from Lancaster (where he studied at university) that sparked the group into life. Since then, a trail of singles blending elements of rock, indie, grime, hip-hop, trap, and drill have steadily gained Frozemode a reputation as one of the capital’s most exciting alternative rap groups.
NME: For someone who is yet to see Frozemode live, how would you describe your approach to performing?
Cho-Hollo: “High energy, man. We’ve got a band there, a drummer, a bassist, a guitarist who also messes with the pads and stuff. We really want the audience to respond, we want to interact with them as much as we can. It’s really a show for them.”
Gatlin: “Making it so they’re not watching us, they’re with us. And the more that they can be performing like we’re performing, the better, and they usually do man, we’ve been lucky with that. It’s always nice to see a turnaround in an audience, knowing that they didn’t give a fuck about us 20 minutes ago, and now they do… I relish it. We always talk about controlled chaos, that’s the thing that the managers like to say. I don’t know how controlled it is, but it’s definitely chaos…”
You’ve found a sweet spot between rap and punk. Why do you think the two sounds work so well together?
Gatlin: “There’s a ‘Fuck you’ attitude, going against society. I think the main difference is that rap is generally speaking a little bit cooler with it, whereas punk is like making yourself look like an idiot while doing it, in a good way. I’m maybe more towards the punk side of that energy.”
Cho-Hollo: “I respect the punk ting init. The punk ting allowed you to take vocal risks, be a bit dumb, be a bit crazier when you rap. The effect is realer, it’s a bit more lit.”
“Being with your brothers allows you to take mad risks” – Gatlin
The pub we’re in right now is round the corner from the studio that the group started in. What were those early days like?
Gatlin: “We started with myself and Hollo, making music together for fun at school, and Lisong making music solo, and we were all releasing tracks here and there on Soundcloud. We started just replicating our influences, stuff we were listening to at the time, a lot of trap and drill.
“One day in lockdown me and Lisong were chilling in the park, cause we live next to each other, and he was showing me some new music, and I was showing him some new stuff. We had a drunken late night phone call to Hollo, who’s like, ‘I think Frozemode as the three of us makes sense!’. Pretty soon after that, we came down to the studio and got shit cracking.”
Where does the anger in your music come from?
Gatlin: “You’re at your best when you’re at conflict with the world, not with each other. We’ve gone through a lot of shit, we’re all humans, we’re all living our lives and we all go through some fucked up shit sometimes. It’s a good way to express it, not necessarily like explaining my problems on a track, but being able to tap into the emotion, we use that a lot. And hopefully, people listening to it feel like it’s an outlet for them. That’s what music’s been for me, for sure.”
How has London shaped you as creatives?
Cho-Hollo: “When I was in secondary school, from young, all the mandem were just rapping at lunchtime. It’s grown from young, the music ting. If it’s not rap, it’s singing, dancing… creativity is definitely around a lot in the ends.”
Lisong: “There’s a lot of influences, you hear a lot of music from a lot of different backgrounds and styles. That’s definitely shaped our ears. There’s a lot of stories to tell, you meet a lot of people here — some good, some bad.”
Gatlin: “I think that does birth a lot of genre-defying aspects within us because we listen to all sorts of fucking genres. Through all the influences, it comes out a bit different. But it’s hard to know, because I haven’t moved to London, I’ve always been here, so I don’t know what I would be like if I didn’t live in London.”
You’re building up to releasing a new project – do you have an idea of what you want to create?
Lisong: “It’s definitely on our minds. We’ve got tracks in our minds that we want to put into a project. We’ve got a lot of songs that we’ve made that we don’t feel are quite ready, and we wanna make sure that we get them to where we want them. Sometimes we might take them too far beyond that without even realising.”
Gatlin: “There’s no point in releasing something that no one’s gonna hear. It’s about literally being able to get ears on stuff as well, so we wanna wait until the time is right and we’ve got an audience to a space in which if we release a project, it’s not just the singles that are gonna be heard. We want people to listen to a project front to back because they know who Frozemode are and they wanna hear our project.”
If you had to boil down what you each bring to Frozemode, what would you say?
Gatlin: “I think I bring a slightly manic energy, slightly in-your-face, grimy, with harsh, skippy flows, sometimes a little bit off-beat. A bit all over the place.”
Cho-Hollo: “I feel like I bring a lot of straight greaze to a track. I’m Hollo man, you know my ting, I’m a gangster (laughs). But I respect the punk ting init. The punk ting allows you to take vocal risks, be a bit dumb, be a bit crazier when you rap, and the effect is realer.”
Lisong: “I feel like I bring a bit more of a smooth vibe. Sometimes a bit more haunted, or creepy as well, but in a good way. And I guess I sing the most as well. We’ve got a nice balance between us.”
Gatlin: “There’s not a pocket that each of us do that the other two could not jump into, even though there’s things that we may do more than others. We would all be able to lay down some melodies for a track, we would all be able to do some mad skippy flow, there’s nothing that the others wouldn’t feel capable jumping on. There’s a level of comfort, because being with your brothers allows you to take mad risks.”