Billen Ted is on a roll right now. Having landed one of the biggest hits of the year so far with their dance-pop remix of sea vocals Wellerman, the duo – Tom Hollings and Sam Brennan – are committed to continuing to deliver music that, in their words, is about “having fun, having a good time – and not taking yourself too seriously”.
Their follow-up single When You’re Out – released today (June 4) – is exactly that. The track is a new twist on Kandi don’t think I’m not, turning classic R & B-pop into a 2-minute, 30-second sugar rush of dance-pop. The voice comes courtesy of rising pop star Mae Muller, whose 2020 single Therapist and EP No One Else, Not Even You are worth seeing.
In case you missed it, social media is currently inundated with 2000s nostalgia, and on When You’re Out, Billen Ted has managed to find that perfect spot by reworking a gem that seems familiar, but never lasts. was not. managed that they can’t play with it (their version has a new verse and a pre-chorus).
Before Wellerman, Billen Ted’s journey to the top of the charts is unlikely; both were members of death metal bands before turning to dance music. We chatted about this and more when we hopped on the phone with the pair and Mae to discuss their new track.
Raise your hand, who had the brilliant idea to rework Kandi’s Don’t Think I’m Not?
Sat : Me and Tom heard the trail – it happened somewhere, probably in the pub – and we immediately looked at each other and thought we needed to rework this. We’ve always been in the same circles as Mae and wanted to do a track together, and the scale that we did that made it perfect for Mae and she kindly said yes. Then we had to ask labels and management to sort out all the politics.
Was it difficult to get permission to sample the song?
To M: It was incredibly difficult! The writers come from America and they were difficult to access at first. There was a lot of waiting and it seemed tricky for a while, but we got to a point where everyone was finally happy. It’s cool to bring this track to a new audience – just in time for the clubs to open, I hope.
Mae: Right? Imagine hearing this song in a club for the first time. I am not responsible for my actions when this happens.
Speaking of which, if When You’re Out was a cocktail, what kind of drink are we talking about?
Mae: Looks like a cheeky drink, like it contains pink gin. A When You’re Out cocktail is actually a great idea.
Sat : You’re right, maybe a pina colada mixed with something. We want When You’re Out screaming Wetherspoons across the country. Yates, Vodka Revs, let’s go.
To M: While Wellerman is a pint of mead [laughs]. No, we don’t want to rebuff him, we just don’t want to hear him for a while.
Well you helped Wellerman become a huge hit on the charts …
To M: It was a complete accident, there are no two ways about it. With our Billen Ted project, we wanted a cool dance project and maybe come up with a few left-hand records. Suddenly it’s like, no, you’re on the radio tomorrow, you remixed a sailor’s song, you screwed it up. We threw the cool stuff out the window.
Sat : It was meant to be fun content that was beyond control. Suddenly it was this huge blow. It’s great because it puts us where we need to be – we’ve skipped a lot of work in terms of releasing songs and creating numbers. This is how we can now involve amazing people like Mae.
And your success came at a time when we were all stuck inside for the most part …
Sat : We are the pandemic popstars! It’s weird, in the past year, none of the records that have been successful seem tangible to me. It only feels real when you see it at a show or festival – or Yates’s.
To M: You hear music when you go out, or in an Uber, or in stores – there is context to it all. We’ve seen all of these numbers and data stand within these four walls, it’s hard to tackle it.
Billen Ted, aka Tom Hollings and Sam Brennan
Before Wellerman, you had released very little music together. How did Billen Ted get educated?
Sat : Me and Tom met in 2008 at a festival. We both signed death metal bands when we were 15-16, and we played the same shows on the same circuit. My band was called Heart In Hand, and Tom’s was The Arusha Accord.
Life happened, and five years ago Tom called me up and told me he was working at the Tomorrowland festival, and said we should try dance music for fun. We did a song and signed six weeks later. It turned into more sessions and the art of songwriting and producing songs. it seems to be going well!
Is there something from your death metal days that you bring to your pop records now?
Sat : “We are not really afraid of anything. For example, When You’re Out has the most ridiculous drum fill that goes into the second chorus. We come from a world where we’re not really phased into taking risks or trying something completely different.
To M: In a way, When You’re Out is also mixed like a rock record. It hits hard. Our mixer used to record and engineer all of our metal records back then, so there is definitely something in the sound.
Mae: It’s been really nice working with you because it’s so much fun. These days, it’s rare to find people in the industry who enjoy good vibes – there’s no pressure, it’s just fun!