Catch the exclusive interview above, filmed in London, where we got to talk with British brother-sister duo SD-JEM about touring with Cher Lloyd, wanting to work with Calvin Harris & Labrinth, Mario Balotelli in their video, and Shanel dressing Denis up as Princess Jasmine when they were children (child abuse!).
Full transcript of the interview below:
LyricStatus: We’re joined today by the lovely SD-JEM.
LyricStatus: Been a great year for you so far. Big single, Roll With Me, and supporting Cher Lloyd on her UK tour. How’s it all been?
Denis: It’s been…
Shanel: Good times.
Denis: Hard to put into words really, how it’s been. It’s like emotions all over the place. So… You know…
LyricStatus: Sure. And you got signed recently? Is that right?
Denis: We did. Yeah. We got signed to a record label. A guy called Paul Hardcastle.
Denis: Who had a hit a little while ago – or quite a while ago – called 19. And – yeah. So, he heard our music and he liked us and then we got in contact with him.
Shanel: We’re quite lucky to have him giving us advice and stuff because he knows what it’s like from the artist’s point of view as well.
LyricStatus: Yeah. A whole wealth of experience I would imagine.
Shanel: Exactly. Yeah.
LyricStatus: So, just going back to the Cher Lloyd tour, how did that all come about?
Shanel: That was through Paul Hardcastle. Well, actually, when we were pushing the campaign for Roll With Me, we had quite a few people behind it. Like press agent, TV covering it, Radio covering it, etc., and our press agent, Sue Harris, was in contact with someone who is an agent and puts people forward for things like tours and support acts.
Shanel: And she recommended us and…
LyricStatus: …and you got the gig.
Shanel: Cher’s label liked us and they put us in for the show.
LyricStatus: So you weren’t competing against anyone else? So it was just…
LyricStatus: …you guys, come on board.
Shanel: I’m not sure actually.
Denis: I think what happened was she called up the booking agent and she said to him, “is there anything going at the moment? Are there any tours?” And, he said, “funnily enough I’m just choosing the support act for Cher Lloyd at the moment”.
LyricStatus: Good timing that.
Shanel: Yeah. Amazingly so.
Denis: And she said: “right, I’ve got the perfect act for you”. And he said: “alright, cool. Then I’ll send them over to Cher and her manager”.
LyricStatus: Okay. Brilliant.
Denis: Just all went – it was all good timing.
LyricStatus: Yeah. So you guys must have gone nuts then when you got…”
Denis: Oh wow. It was crazy.
Shanel: Oh yeah. That was…
Denis: That was…
Shanel: That was a good time.
LyricStatus: And she was good. I gather that she was really welcoming to you guys on the tour.
Shanel: Yeah. She was lovely.
Denis: Yeah. She was lovely. Yeah. We had a really good time with Cher. We’d chill with her before we both went on stage and just talk about stuff. She gave us a lot of advice as well which was really nice of her.
LyricStatus: So, is there any chance of a track? Maybe collaboration with Cher Lloyd at all, do you reckon?
Denis: Hopefully. Maybe sometime in the future. I would. We did talk about it vaguely. But, no nothing set in stone, so we’ll never know.
LyricStatus: Okay dokey. So, is there any musicians out there that you would love to collaborate with given the opportunity to?
Denis: There are a few. There’s quite a few actually.
Shanel: Quite a… Quite…
LyricStatus: Give us names. Give us names.
Denis: Let’s go. Right, let me get my list.
Shanel: Names… I’ve always said I’d love to work with Calvin Harris
LyricStatus: Oh right. Yeah. Good choice.
Denis: Calvin Harris is a hot favourite.
Shanel: I think the songs that he’s coming out with are just, you know, beyond amazing.
LyricStatus: More from like a production side of things?
Denis: Yeah. He’s really good.
LyricStatus: Or you’d have him as a vocalist?
Denis: But I actually like him as a vocalist as well.
Shanel: Production side… Oh, I think both. Yeah, definitely.
Denis: I think his actual solo songs are really good and all his feature songs. I think probably the stuff he’s done with Rihanna, We’ve Found Love, was probably his best work.
Denis: I would say.
Shanel: And Feel So Close as well.
Denis: Yeah, and Feel So Close. That was a good single.
What other artists? We’re quite big fans of Labyrinth. I’d love to work with Labyrinth. I think he’s – I’ve always liked him from the start. I thought he was a really talented guy and he’s actually a really nice guy as well.
We’ve met him before and he’s just so down to earth and really lovely. So, it’s nice to know that there’s a lot of artists who are down to earth and nice and…
Denis: …and cool because some artists, it gets to their head a bit.
LyricStatus: So, can you clear up – so just on your Roll With Me video – a couple of YouTube comments here – we’ve got MrHammerman3000 say, “I swear to God, that’s Mario Balotelli”. But we’ve got another user here that said: “that looked like Balotelli in 1:24”. So, can you clarify? Is that Mario Balotelli?
Denis: It isn’t Balotelli. Do you know what? I didn’t actually know who Balotelli was until I saw those…
Denis: And I was like…
LyricStatus: Quick Google.
Shanel: Quick Google. Yeah.
Denis: Let’s have a – quickly Googled it. And I was like “oh my gosh”.
Shanel: It does actually look like him.
Denis: And I rang him up. I was like “Balotelli! Balotelli!” And he was like “oh no, not you. Not you now”. But, no, it isn’t Mario Balotelli.
LyricStatus: So, one of your dancers is it?
Denis: It is. Yeah. It was one of the dancers that we got in contact with for the video.
LyricStatus: Okay. Well thanks for clarifying that one for us.
So, what were you guys doing before you formed SD-JEM?
Shanel: Well, we’ve always been in “The Arts” as in performing. We’ve always been dancing and singing and writing music. But before we put SD-JEM together we had – well, we were both training – and we had part-time jobs as well at the same time.
Denis: Yeah. We were training. She trained at Guildford School of Acting with PPA which is a joint college thing in Guildford for dancing, singing and acting. I was at a school in Tring called Arts Ed- … -ucation… can’t even remember the name of my old school… although I was trained in musical theatre as well.
So, we were both training full-time.
Shanel: We both did musical theatre so we’ve quite a – kind of a classical base.
LyricStatus: Sure. So it was inevitable you were going to come to this though.
Shanel: Well, I think, we’ve always had a bit of a commercial side to us in terms of our look and our style of singing and dressing and dancing. But, at the same time, I think, we’d both really love to go back to musical theatre later on in our careers maybe.
Denis: One day.
Denis: And, hopefully, you know, be in a West End Musical.
LyricStatus: What, to go and – the whole superstar thing?
Denis: Yeah, hopefully. Touch wood.
Shanel: But, yeah – so, we were both training at the time and had part-time jobs.
Shanel: And then we just started writing music together one day. Just randomly.
Denis: Just really randomly.
Shanel: It was really random. Yeah. We were actually just having a jam…
LyricStatus: Really? Just [over speaking 0:06:37.2]
Denis: She was actually just writing some songs with a friend and I came downstairs and just started rapping to one of her songs and then we just recorded it and everybody was like “oh, what’s that song?” And like, “can I hear it? I heard you were writing a song”. And I was just like “yeah”. Then we played and then before you know it everyone’s got it on their songs.
I remember walking down the street one day and I just heard this car just blaring out our first song. It was like “what…?”
LyricStatus: Really. Wow.
Denis: I was like “whoa…”
LyricStatus: That must have felt quite good actually. “Yeah, I’m onto something”.
Denis: Yeah. No, I was just like – no, I think after the first I thought we got a good reaction. We just said: “listen, let’s just write some songs together and see how it goes” and we ended up just forming SD-JEM.
LyricStatus: So, how long ago was that then? That that one came out?
Denis: Four years ago.
Denis: Four – yeah, four…
Shanel: Three – three, nearly four years ago.
LyricStatus: So, as a brother/sister duo, who’s in charge?
Shanel: That’s a hard question. I think…
Shanel: He’s more dominant than me – I’ll admit that – but, I think, that we both have different things that we’re in charge of.
Denis: I think we share in equal…
Denis: …amount of things.
Denis: But, I’m generally…
Denis: …generally quite pushy, aren’t I?
Denis: I mean she’ll – if she’s telling me to do something, she’ll go “Den, can you do this dah-dah-dah” and I’ll be like “yeah, alright. In a minute”.
Whereas, I’ll be like: “Shanel, now!”
Shanel: Now! Do it now!
Denis: I’ll just like yank her out of bed and just like, “do it now. I’m not leaving until you do it”.
Shanel: Don’t ever, ever go and work out in a gym with him. Just don’t. If you want to live.
LyricStatus: So, as children growing up did you guys get on?
Denis: We did. Yeah.
Shanel: Yeah. We’re really good friends.
Denis: She used to dress me up in – as Princess Yasmin from Aladdin.
Denis: Jasmine. That’s not the point. You used to dress me up as a girl.
Denis: And – yeah. So, yeah. No, it’s alright…
LyricStatus: So, not emotionally scarred from the experience?
Denis: No, I’m not emotionally scarred luckily. But um…
Shanel: We have funny stories of when we were bullying each other when we were kids. But it’s all stories that we look back and laugh at. Where we weren’t seriously fighting. At the time were just play fighting with each other. And…
LyricStatus: So you never used to argue too much?
Denis: No. We don’t really.
Shanel: Not seriously.
Denis: We don’t ever really argue seriously. We have a bit of banter between us but we usually end up in giggles anyway. So…
LyricStatus: So, you guys just got back from Cyprus then. Who got the better tan?
Shanel: You can see.
Denis: Well, hold on a second.
Shanel: He’s darker than me though. Like, I know I have got highlights in my hair that…
Denis: And she went on the sunbed today as well.
LyricStatus: Oh, that’s cheating. You’re a cheater.
Denis: That is cheating.
Shanel: But I’m peeling so I had to even it out because I was starting to get patchy. We went out with my cousin today because Den’s got his lip pierced.
Denis: I did. I got my lip pierced. Yeah.
Shanel: Den was really panicky about…
LyricStatus: Oh, that’s fresh today then, yeah?
Denis: It is fresh today.
Shanel: So, were on our way to the piercing shop and…
Denis: It’s still like… weird.
Shanel: …and our cousin started calling me “patchy, patchy”. It was like: “alright, patchy” and I was like “nah”.
LyricStatus: So you’re like, “right, I’m not having that”.
Shanel: Even it out.
LyricStatus: And just finally, when can we expect a SD-JEM album?
Shanel: We’re working on an album at the moment. So…
Denis: It’s very close to being finished, but – I could actually say it’s finished – but it’s not because I want it to be perfect. Well, we want it to be perfect.
Denis: We’ve been working really hard. Gone over some of the songs about 50 times. Just going back in and just staring at the screen for a good few hours. Just all the nitty, gritty stuff because, I feel, that a lot of the artists today are really – are bringing out really, really strong albums. So, you know…
LyricStatus: You’ve got to really up your game?
Denis: Yeah. Really up your game.
I don’t believe in – we don’t believe in album fillers. We don’t like the album filler kind of thing that, you know, some artists do. You’ve got to have like maybe three or four strong tracks and then they’ll just…
LyricStatus: …pad out the album.
Denis: …you know, the other tracks are good but just pad out the album.
Shanel: Yeah. Just pad it out.
Denis: I’ve always said that I want a track…
Shanel: …full of numbers ones.
Denis: I mean I want a – yeah – I want an album full of tracks where everyone goes: “oh, that could be a single, that could be a single, that could be a single”. You know.
LyricStatus: Guys, I think that’s it. We’re pretty much wrapped up.
LyricStatus: So, thanks so much for coming down.
Shanel: Cool. Thanks for having us.
Denis: Thank you very much for having us.
LyricStatus: No worries. Yeah. We’re done. High five, guys.
Shanel: You can see our arms like: “aaah…!”