Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes, whose new album What Kinda Music was released on Friday, are two "very different musicians," in the words of the latter. Dayes is a jazz drummer with a flair for the experimental, and Misch is a producer and guitarist whose dreamy R&B melodies pushed his 2018 debut Geography to be certified silver in the U.K.
But the two artists were admirers of each other's work and came together to produce an album that is perfectly summed up by the title: What Kinda Music blurs jazz, hip-hop and electronica.
Misch met Dayes at the launch party for his album, Geography in the summer of 2018, but Misch had been a fan of Dayes' work in the band Yussef Kamaal even before that. And strangely, Misch might have seen him play for the first time a decade and a half prior
"I actually remember going to a talent show when I was like 7 or something," he recalls. "I remember going to a local school in my area and seeing this guy play drums — he was about 9 at the time. I remember thinking 'This guy's amazing at drums,' and then fast-forward 15 years, when I'm working on this record, I realize that guy was Yussef."
Once a mutual fandom was established, Misch and Dayes decided to get into the studio — with no expectations to create a new project, just to play together and experiment.
"Before we knew it, we had three, four tracks and we thought, 'Why not make it an EP?' And then the next thing, we had 10 tracks," Misch says. "There was no pressure on the project, so it came about very organically."
Every day in the studio was different, but a key part of the sessions for What Kinda Music was top-tier musicians trying out new ideas together.
"Yussef's one of the best drummers in the world, so it's really exciting to work with him," Misch says. "And he's very spontaneous, full of ideas."
"There are no rules and there's not one recipe for making the tracks on this record," he continues. "We kind of just jam out a lot of time and then click record, and then we go back and listen and see what feels good."
One example of that is the song "Kyiv," which Misch and Dayes recorded while visiting Ukraine to shoot music videos for the album.
"And then they said 'Have a jam, we're gonna film it.' And 'Kyiv' was the outcome of that jam," he says. "It's a fully improvised piece of music that came out from having that last bit of film on the roll."
These days, Misch and Dayes have to make music on their own, but there's a silver lining.
"It's alright. We spent plenty of time together over the last few years," Misch says.
NPR's Will Jarvis and Kitty Eisele produced and edited the audio of this interview. Cyrena Touros and editorial intern Jon Lewis adapted it for the Web.
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes are, in the words of the latter, two very different musicians - well, aren't the best collaborators? They both grew up in Southeast London - Yussef Dayes, a jazz drummer with a flair for the experimental - Tom Misch, a producer and guitarist whose dreamy R&B melodies pushed his 2018 debut album "Geography" to go silver in Britain. And now, they've recorded a new album together, blending jazz, hip-hop and electronica. It's called "What Kinda Music."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NIGHTRIDER")
UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Don't listen to what they say. You can't take it slow.
SIMON: Tom Misch joins us now from London. Thanks so much for being with us.
TOM MISCH: Hey, there. My pleasure.
SIMON: And we should explain, Yussef Dayes - we wanted him to join us, but there were missed connections in these times, which happens. So we regret that. Some other time, we hope.
Tom, when you and Yussef Dayes began to make music together and producing it - what kind of music? What did you envision?
MISCH: We were both fans of each other, and we got in the studio with no expectations. We kind of got in the studio to just experiment - it was kind of a big experiment. And before we knew it, we had three, four tracks. And we thought, why not make it an EP? And then the next thing, we had, you know, 10 tracks. And there was no pressure on the project, so it came about very organically.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I DID IT FOR YOU")
UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) I did it for you.
SIMON: I gather you both grew up in the same part of London, just a couple of years apart.
SIMON: Southeast London. How did you hear each other? How did you get to know each other?
MISCH: Well, I met Yussef two years ago in summer 2018. I met him at my "Geography" launch album party. But I'd actually known about him for a bit longer because I was a fan of his work in Yussef Kamaal. So I've kind of been a fan of his drumming - he's an amazing drummer. And I actually remember going to a talent show when I was, like, 7 or something. I remember going to go a local school in my area and seeing this guy play drums - he was about 9 at the time. I remember thinking, this guy's amazing at drums. And then, fast-forward, like, 15 years when I'm working on this record - I realized that guy was Yussef.
(SOUNDBITE OF TOM MISCH AND YUSSEF DAYES SONG, "SENSATIONAL")
MISCH: So I actually first saw him about 16 years ago in a talent show at school.
SIMON: That's a wonderful story. The kid from the talent show turns out to be your collaborator.
SIMON: There's a lot of wonderful back-and-forth improvisation and playing off of each other on this album. And I gather this song, which we're going to hear now, was actually improvised. It's called "Kyiv."
(SOUNDBITE OF TOM MISCH AND YUSSEF DAYES SONG, "KYIV")
SIMON: So what was that like in the studio, listening to each other - playing off of each other?
MISCH: Yeah, I mean, it's really special. Yussef's one of the best drummers in the world, so it's really exciting to work with him. And he's very spontaneous - full of ideas. And that track features a guy called Rocco Palladino on bass.
SIMON: And why the title "Kyiv"?
MISCH: Because we went to Kyiv to shoot some videos for the album. And that track came out from us shooting another music video and we had a bit of film left on the roll. And then, they said, have a jam - they said, jam. We're going to film it. And they filmed it, and Kyiv was the outcome of that jam. So it's a fully improvised piece of music.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KYIV")
SIMON: Is this a tough time for musicians who are used to playing together? Are you playing together? Listening? Jamming?
MISCH: No, no - I mean, I'm not playing with anyone, but I'm doing a lot of playing guitar, and I'm looping stuff on my guitar. I'm doing these sessions called quarantine sessions, and I'm putting them up on YouTube.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MISCH: And I just do, like, covers. So, in that sense, I can still play - you know, I can still jam. But, yeah, I can't jam with Yussef.
SIMON: Well, that's sad. You must miss each other.
MISCH: It's all right. We spent plenty of time together over the last few years, so it's all good.
SIMON: Tom Misch - his new album with Yussef Dayes is called "What Kinda Music." Thanks so much for being with us.
MISCH: Thanks for having me.
(SOUNDBITE OF TOM MISCH AND YUSSEF DAYES SONG, "FESTIVAL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.