British dance music producers Greg Stainer and Olly Wood, aka Hollaphonic, became, in 2013, the first act based in the Middle East to be signed to a global record label – Universal Music MENA. Now, the UAE-based duo are on a high with the release of their debut album, Personal Space, scheduled for Monday March 2. The album, which is now available on pre-order, has already hit the number one spot on the iTunes Albums and Dance charts.
Greg and Olly are no strangers to the music scene in Dubai, having been based in the UAE for more than ten years, with the former working as a renowned club and radio DJ. Olly worked as an MC warming up for international artists including Busta Rhymes and Ne-Yo. ‘Both of us just love music and felt that in Dubai, there was a lot of opportunity to get your sound out. The inspiration behind Hollaphonic was the pent-up desire to create music for the masses,’ says Olly.
Before moving to Dubai, Greg, a native of London, honed his engineering skills alongside British house and UK garage producer MJ Cole. Meanwhile Olly worked across the UK garage scene in Southampton. It wasn’t until 2012, when a mutual friend introduced them to each other at a gig in Dubai, that Hollaphonic was born. ‘Both Greg and I were very ambitious and we sat down and discussed exactly what we were going to create, which is a positive, outgoing, commercial sound. It’s pop, effectively, and between the both of us we are super critical. We stick by our convictions and we aren’t afraid to push something that we believe in,’ says Olly.
Hollaphonic have since opened for international acts Armin van Buuren – at the 2014 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix After Race Concert – and superstar DJ David Guetta in Dubai. ‘We are in such a cosmopolitan place that we can kind of get a handle on what people want to hear. When we opened for David Guetta it was different to playing a gig that is more acoustic or for a big and boisterous DJ like Calvin Harris,’ says Olly.
Though their debut album Personal Space isn’t out until March, the duo have already had a taste of success with their first single ‘Runaway’ –featuring Grammy Award-nominated artist Aaron Camper – going straight to number one on iTunes. ‘It’s a battle to get your music played on the radio, so you have to work twice as hard. We were lucky to have that initial support and we are making music that has an international sound, which has helped,’ he says.
The duo’s latest single, ‘Dangerous’, sees a pairing up with The Voice UK’s runner-up and Jessie J protégé Vince Kidd. ‘This song, for us, feels like the opening of a new chapter in the sound of Hollaphonic,’ Olly says. ‘The sound, combined with the awesome vocals of Vince Kidd, is something that really surrounds the listener, plus, it’s damn catchy and full of good vibes and wicked beats.’
Their debut album showcases a variety of styles for the group, which, according to Olly, fans may not be expecting. ‘I think people expect it to have this large electro kind of festival vibe, whereas actually, it’s got a mix of sounds. It keeps that house and dance aesthetic that both of us have grown up with, but it evolves in different spaces,’ he says. ‘There’s a bit of trap on there as well as rap and hip-hop influences and then there’s the big electronic sounds with deeper UK garage and house stuff. Every track is designed to be an atmospheric production, which is what we like, and it builds up emotions.’
The 14-track album has been in the planning since the birth of Hollaphonic, with the pair wishing to release a record that was representative of how they have evolved over two years.
‘It took us quite a few years to sift through the paperwork that comes with a major deal, but I think it was kind of fate, because if we had released the album 18 months earlier, it wouldn’t be at the stage it is now,’ Olly says. ‘We are relearning every instrument we can, because the live show is going to get bigger and bigger.’
The pair’s ambition to spread their music internationally is looking hopeful, as their remix of Philip George’s ‘Wish You Were Mine’ is set to be released with 3 Beat in the UK and Motown Records in America.
Hollaphonic’s debut album Personal Space is available on pre-order on iTunes and will be released on March 2. www.wearehollaphonic.com.