Bursting out of Basildon, J B & Nice Nath are a pair of lovable MCs, joining forces for their debut EP, Greenhouse Romantics. Not only is this the Essex boys’ first project together, but it’s both of their first projects, period. Having dropped the EP in November, the duo’s witty one-liners have already led to support from BBC Introducing, BBC Radio 6 Music and countless playlisters.
Reverb Music writer Dom Walmsley sat down with JB & Nice Nath to get to know the men behind the mics. They discussed the importance of collaborating with female vocalists, exploiting Spotify analytics, and measuring success with Freddos. Read below to find out what happened when their music video shoot got confused for an adult movie. They’re charismatic characters with plenty to say, who are sure to grow greater as more light shines their way.
Listen to Greenhouse Romantics now
How does it feel to release your EP?
Nath: “It’s really sick.”
J B: “Yeah, it’s banging. It’s a nice buzz.”
Nath: “We’d been working on it for a while, it was sort of a lockdown baby. So to finally release it was relieving and exciting all at the same time.”
J B: “The reception we’ve been getting has been mad. Obviously, on Spotify you can see who’s got it on their playlists. It’s so surreal to see people you know of listening to your tunes.”
Nath: “I won’t lie, we’ve both been addicted to the Spotify for Artists app. It’s quality cos it tells you how many listeners you’ve got live, updates every couple of hours. As well as it breaks it down by gender, age, geography and how people are listening, whether it’s on playlists or suggested by the algorithm. It’s genuinely so exciting to see and the targeting will really help us tweak our sound and find out what we’re doing right.”
How did you two meet and what inspired you to do this project?
Nath: “So, me and J B went to school together. Since school we hadn’t really been in contact. But one of our pals, Jack Miller, is a director and cinematographer. And I stayed in contact with him after school cos I got into acting. We then started writing short film scripts and thought putting together a soundtrack for one of our shorts would be a good idea. Jack then contacted J B, as he knew he was into producing, which then brought us both together to make the track. Then ‘rona shut everything down. Hopefully we’ll get back to it in the future. But we’ve both got other work going on at the moment, so we need to prioritise that as it pays, rather than paying out to produce a short film.”
J B: “It’s almost a blessing though not being able to do the film. It brought us both together again and really motivated us to put something out there. I bought a mic and we just started experimenting, writing bars, producing and stuff. It’s been a really good creative outlet for us, cos you can’t go out and get pissed every weekend.”
Nath: “Yeah, there was no FOMO or anything. Cos of the restrictions, you didn’t get the feeling that you were missing out. So, we’ve been able to put the hours to productive means. It’s something that we’ve both wanted to do for ages. After the short film didn’t happen, we’d planned to do 30 second snippets so it could be shared on TikTok, with Jack Miller doing the video effects. I was gonna provide some vocals and J B was gonna produce. We started doing it and found it was just a dead idea [Laughs] and we both thought that we were capable of so much more.”
J B: “I think the more songs we did, the more we just started to love the whole process of it all. With each song we made, we could really start to hear the difference in quality. The more we did it and enjoyed it, the more we improved, and so the music just got better and better. We initially started off with some grime beats, but the more we played around with some ideas, it sorta slowly morphed into this jazzy/lo-fi kinda hip hop with more and more tracks.”
Nice Nath – Pic: Jack Miller
So why Greenhouse Romantics?
Nath: “So that’s linked to lockdown as well. The greenhouse is a metaphor for us being cooped up during the summer. And the ‘romantics’ part of the title came from the common theme that we started to notice across the other songs. I dropped a message to my mates in the groupchat asking if anyone had a greenhouse. One of them did, so we went round there and filmed the promo.”
Nath: “It was so handy us knowing someone who could do film and visual effects. I feel like it really helped push us in a certain direction and helped us with the branding.”
Many songs in ‘popular music’ are about chasing girls and dealing with heartbreak. Do you think rappers have paid quite as much attention to those themes?
Nath: “For me, it really depends on the genre. I mean you have subsections of rap, like emo rap, where it’s all about pain and heartache. But then you’ve got other stuff like trap, which is more about what you’ve got and bigging yourself up.”
J B: “Yeah, I dunno. I think for our sound, we focussed on telling playful stories and cheesy rhymes, keeping it easy-going/easy listening, you know. But I don’t think we thought too much on what we were talking about or whether there was some sorta underlying meaning to what we were saying in our songs.”
Nath: “I think lyricism, especially in rap, changes with the type of beat you go for. It’s like with this new track we’re making, because the beat is harder, it’s bringing out a tougher side to our lyricism. I did my uni dissertation on rap, about the Compton/Kendrick Lamar scene, so I did quite a lot of research on battle rap and street rapping. It is completely different to the kind of stuff we’re putting out, cos they’re obviously not talking about pain and weakness. But, yeah, what we were going for… was complete cheese [Laughs]. It’s nice though, cos I don’t think it’s as common in rap. The sweetness and reminiscence of first love in ‘Chapter One’, for instance, is what I think makes us appealing to our listeners, as it’s not something they probably hear too much in rap.”
J B – Pic: Jack Miller
Do you have different creative approaches? And how do you bridge those differences in a collaborative project?
Nath: “Because we’ve been mates for such a long time, communication has always been easy between us. We’re just trying to be open-minded as well, I think. Because we’re both new to this and want to experiment, we’ve not clashed at all. When J B, for example, finds a beat or makes a beat, and because it’s different to the last track we worked on, neither one of us are going to shut down the idea as we want to have a good range of music. But if it’s shit, one of us will say it’s shit.” [Laughs]
J B: “Yeah, like Nath said. We both like experimenting and establishing different sounds. So we’re pretty open-minded at the moment whilst we try to establish ourselves and find out what kind of sound we want, that we’re happy with.”
Nath: “We’ll continue experimenting. Just you wait, our next EP will have harder lyrics and beats. We’ll call ourselves B J and Naughty Nath!” [Laughs]
Who are some of your favourite artists from Essex and the UK?
J B: “I think obviously a big influence for us is people like Loyle Carner and Frankie Stew & Harvey Gunn. People who really pioneered that jazzy sorta sound. And then on the hip hop side, it’s artists like J Dilla that have really influenced what kinda beats I like.”
Nath: “I don’t know about Essex artists. Most of our influence, I think comes from London or further afield. Artists, in a general sense, I love Easy Life. I think they’re wicked.”
J B: “In terms of local inspiration, Joe James and French the Kid are sick. But I’d say that they definitely inspired us in terms of our UK rap style, as opposed to the jazzy/lo-fi hip hop style.”
Nath: “We’ve just had a look at our Spotify statistics. My top one was The 1975. I’m fascinated by Matty Healy. Next was Dominic Fike, Lil Peep, BROCKHAMPTON and Billie Eilish. But this is obviously through the course of the year. Also, whilst these are predominantly American artists, I’d say I’m much more inspired by British artists.”
J B: “Just hearing the bars that Frankie Stew comes up with is mad. It’s just a lot more relatable than some of the US stuff. The slang, the tone, the flow.”
Nath: “Humour is such a big thing as well. This is something we kind of touched on in our last interview when talking about The 1975. During lockdown, I watched so many interviews with them. Probably something ridiculous like 13 hours. There’s one where Matty Healy talks about the importance of comedy in lyrics. So that’s what I try to incorporate into my lyrics. Comedy is a pure form of entertainment that really captures an audience’s attention. I think if you’ve got something comedic in there, even if its something stupid like in ‘Chapter One’, saying ‘Wear my church socks, they’re very holy”. You don’t often hear that in bars or in music. So when you hear it you’re like ‘Huh…. pretty funny yeah’ [Laughs]. A lot of UK rap is humorous and we’re not too serious with our bars, so we always aspire to the same sort of tone in UK stuff.”
J B: “So I reckon my biggest influence is Mac Miller. I really liked his progression through music [Mac Miller’s ‘Ladders’ goes off in the background]. That was sick! But yeah, uhm. How he changed from his early stuff, which was easy listening and cheesy raps, and then to come to the end of it, through Swimming and through Circles. His progression was just unreal. But yeah, I like Easy Life, Loyle Carner… quite a lot of indie stuff too. Especially when I was a teenager. I used to listen to so much Arctic Monkeys.”
What is the significance of the costumes in the ‘Modern Day Fairy Tale’ video?
Nath: “It’s quite on the nose this one. There wasn’t really any metaphorical meaning behind it. It fit the story. But funny story about those costumes… So obviously we were under lockdown and all that, and it was the day Essex went into Tier 2, but Southend stayed in Tier 1. We’d booked an Airbnb in Southend, which was really lucky as it meant we could shoot. So, the costumes were just ordered from Amazon and then sent back the next day [Laughs]. You know the economy ain’t so good right now, so you gotta keep the costs down. What’s funny as well is that whilst filming, there’s a part where J B walks through the door wearing his costume with his girlfriend, Beth, in her Cinderella costume. At the time, a group of lads were next door and kept seeing J B walk in and out of the house with his girlfriend whilst wearing the outfit. Some of ‘em were like, ‘Whoa, whoa, what the fuck’s going on ‘ere? Oi, they’re shooting a porno, they’re shooting a porno!’” [Laughs]
J B: “I was just standing there like ‘Oh my god, no’. There were about 20 of ‘em.” [Laughs]
Nath: “I was so glad that weren’t me! But yeah, the costumes were just to play to the transition of normal clothes to a fairytale ideal.”
I especially like the vocals from greysea in ‘Chapter One’. How did you find her? Is she also singing on ‘3 L’s’?
Nath: “So greysea is a girl we know called Grace Marchant. She’s my mate’s girlfriend. We knew that we wanted a female vocalist for the EP, so I contacted her asking if she would be down and she was like ‘Yeah definitely’. Literally came round the same day and we did it there and then.”
J B: “I think the tone of her voice made the rest of the track sound so dreamy, which is what we were going for.”
Nath: “I think it’s so nice to have a female vocalist. They’re able to bring so much range to a song, and so that really provides us with as many options as possible when experimenting. I think collaboration with local artists, early on, is really key to finding what kinda sound we want and just getting our name out there.”
Nath: “As for ‘3 L’s’ that’s another artist called Leilani Liberis. She’s my sister’s best friend’s sister and she’s incredible. She’s only 17 years old, I think. But yeah, we got her in before greysea for a different track called ‘Sunshine Girl’ which we’d recorded. And when we went to buy a lease for the track, someone had bought exclusive rights to it, so we couldn’t use it at all. So, the track is just sitting there now. We might release it on SoundCloud eventually as you’re allowed to share stuff for non-profit. We got Leilani in for another track, but she just had different plans and stuff, she wanted to do a more solo thing. I will pester the life outta that girl though to get her back in the studio.”
J B: “We definitely need another song with her. She’s so talented. She’s everything big nowadays; when you look at artists like Billie Eilish and stuff like that. Her voice is just incredible. Her backing vocals on ‘3 L’s’ were mad, especially with the distortion as it goes from left to right. That was really Billie Eilish-esque. She added such a different element to the hook, it kept it interesting, you know?”
Nath: “Yeah, that was always the bit of the song that got stuck in the head. But hopefully she’ll get more music out, because if she does, you’ll definitely hear about her. I’m so confident about that. With greysea as well, she’s got a track that she’s been sitting on for a while and over the past couple of days I messaged her and was like, “When you getting that track out? Hurry up and get that track out.” But she’ll get it out soon, I’ll make her.”
Why do you think some artists are hesitant to put music out and sit on tracks for a while?
J B: “Obviously, I can’t speak for greysea or Leilani. But it is almost like wearing your heart on your sleeve, if you know what I mean. It takes a lot of balls to put a song out. And you don’t want to have done yourself.”
Nath: “Yeah, I think for some people as well, there’s just a massive creative block most of the time. Life just gets in the way as well. You’ve got to prioritise making money at the end of the day. You’re not gonna make anything with making music to begin with, so you’ve just got to fit it around your work routine. That’s the treadmill of employment I suppose.” [Laughs]
J B: “I think some people are just a bit anxious or maybe perfectionists. They want it to sound a certain way and sometimes are never satisfied.”
How would you measure success?
Nath: “It’s so different for everyone. I wouldn’t necessarily put it down to money. I’ve never really been that interested in money. I’ve always liked being creative and performing. I’d really like to do a live gig soon. Someone actually got in contact with us after hearing the EP and gave us a couple of dates in December or a date in January/February. But there’s a 30-capacity limit. And with the changing situation, that’s probably changed as well.”
J B: “Everything’s so up in the air at the moment. But we’re both really keen to do a gig. So, I’d say that’s our goal at the moment.”
Nath: “Success, I think, at this point, is making the most of opportunities. We’ve already got 10K streams on Spotify, which is just unbelievable. A little bit of money is alright too I guess.” [Laughs]
J B: “If we could do it full time, that would be the dream. But, if you have the financial support there—”
Nath: “If you can afford to get a Freddo from the shop, summin like that.”
J B: “—then that would be ideal. I’m happy with what I’ve got, I just want the opportunity to make more music with Nath and see where it goes.”
Nath: “I mean, what we should’ve said is Ferraris, swimming pools and girls’” [Laughs]
How did you go about producing beats for this project?
J B: “For this project we bought the beats. We wanted everything to be quality, but we’re learning at the moment and hope to produce more of our own stuff going forward.”
Nath: “The big aim for this project wasn’t to produce our own stuff, but to get some music out there and build ourselves up.”
J B: “Yeah, now that we’ve done the EP, we’ve been contacted by so many local musicians who would like to work with us on our next project. We’ve got a proper list of collaborators now which we can use going forward.”
Nath: “And each track will be different. We know from the stats that we can make tracks genre specific and include other sounds that haven’t been heard in the EP.”
J B: “As for the type of sound, I do normally make trap-type beats. There’s a couple of local artists over in Canvey and Wickford that I’ve been working with. Just trying to cook up beats with them and learn a bit really. Yeah, just playing about with different styles. I dunno, I used to listen to quite a lot of emo rap, like that Lil Peep sort of style, which is what I’ve been trying to do with some of my beats. So yeah, I’ve been trying to branch out and learn as much as I can about each sort of genre. To see how much we can grow out of it and take certain elements we like from different styles.”
J B: “That was our rationale for the ‘Regrets & Desires’ beat changing halfway through. The first one was quite intense, playing off the pictures and adlibs and everything. And then it kinda cuts to this really wholesome, easy sort of rapping. I think they just contrasted really well with one another. I’ll definitely do that again.”
So, what’s next for J B and Nice Nath?
Nath: “I think the best route to take now is singles. If you upload it to Spotify, you’ve got a chance to tap into the algorithm, which is the treasure chest. I think it’ll be a lot easier as well to promote individual tracks over something like an album, as we can do more promotional stuff with it and capture lots of different people who like other genres.”
J B: “Singles will definitely allow us to be more creative. There’s no need for coherence, we can just chuck it out the window. Ultimately though, I think people are less likely to listen to a whole album than just one song. Which kinda sucks if you wanna do an album, but for now, it’ll really help with promotion. Especially with targeted ads. I saw something about Russ, the American artist, about how he just kept releasing constant singles. It took him years and years, but it eventually paid off you know.”
J B: “Plus, if we establish a sound that people love and recognise by producing singles, we can then look at doing bigger projects. But yeah, only after we’ve established ourselves and it can be pushed as far as we can.”
Listen to Greenhouse Romantics now
Stream our dedicated playlist of songs and artists mentioned in this chat:
J B & Nice Nath: Facebook
Interviewed by: Dom Walmsley