First dates can often lead to their fair share of unexpected surprises. Seldom, however, do they end with a partnership that can also call itself one of the hottest new names in UK dance. Yet, for Manchester-based piri & tommy, not only did an Instagram DM slide lead to a new relationship, it also conjured up a musical viral success story and an eagerly-awaited forthcoming debut project. They have slight differing opinions on how it all started though…
“That was not at all how it was!” singer piri - aka Sophie McBurnie - laughs after her producer boyfriend-bandmate Tommy Villiers hints that she began singing right after he first showed her how he makes beats. “I did not just sing in front of you straight away, I was bare nervous!” she corrects, adding: “tommy was a proper musician and I didn’t consider myself a musician, so I was obviously very, very intimidated. I went on GarageBand on my phone and wrote down a million different ideas and eventually showed him one, and I had to leave the room while he was listening to it. Then he liked it and I was like, ‘Validation!’”
Music, piri explains, never felt like a realistic career path until this project. “I didn’t really ever intend to be a musician. I always played guitar, but I didn’t really see any way to make actual music. It seemed like, super impossible. I would always just write songs, [but it was] very much a hobby”.
But ever since they first met online, piri & tommy have excelled together. With tommy having previously cut his teeth in several bands including fellow Manchester outfit Porij, from the first time the pair started writing together, they knew they were onto something special. “It was definitely that dance vibe straightaway,” piri notes. “I was like, ‘Man, this is straight up the most ethereal vibes’,” tommy recalls thinking. “It sounded like Fleetwood Mac house!” piri agrees: “Yeah, it just kind of worked, literally from the go.”
Releasing their disco-infused first single ‘it’s a match’ last year, they soon began to pull inspiration from dance, jazz and funk as well. “If you hear a break in a certain way, or just a rhythmic pattern, you’re like, ‘Ah, I’ll use that, that’ll be cool,” tommy explains of his process. “Then I just jam, and try to create a vibe.” piri nods, saying: “We hear a lot on the radio and we’ll be like, ‘Ooh, we should make a track for this vibe’.”
“The pop songwriting and dreamy vocals make it more accessible than just instrumental dance music.”
The duo’s subsequent offerings have seen them hailed as a revitalisingly fresh asset to the UK dance scene, from their effortlessly catchy hit ‘soft spot’ to recent sunshine-soaked single ‘on & on’. “Overseas in America, the new youth - like Gen Z and younger - haven’t really heard much drum’n’bass or all these old school UK sounds,” piri notes. “With the pop songwriting as well a dreamy vocal, it makes it a lot more accessible to a lot of people rather than just instrumental dance music, which is a little bit more niche. [Our sound] marries these two really popular things in a cool way, I guess. Also we just try and make good songs, that’s always the goal.”
Currently boasting nearly half a million monthly listeners on Spotify, the pair have tapped into an escapist and euphoric sound that’s already winning them legions of fans: check their recent TikTok viral moments for proof. “It really came out of nowhere,” piri recalls of seeing ‘soft spot’ shoot up everyone’s For You page. “I was obviously trying to promote it, but then this totally random video just blew up. Then a couple of others blew up, and it was just really lucky.” “It was the most life-changing moment really,” tommy smiles. “It was just like, ‘Bloody hell, I can do this’.”
piri & tommy have even picked up a few famous fans along the way, getting shout outs from the likes of PinkPantheress and Charli XCX. “Obviously, between ourselves, we were going mad,” piri laughs. “But on the outside, we were trying to be cool and not be annoying. It’s hard when you’re starstruck!”
It’s something the duo will only have to get more used to as their debut mixtape arrives later this year. Based on their first year of writing music together, they promise lots of different genres, “all good vibes,” and a debut lead vocal from tommy. And they’re already pumped for what the future holds, with that forthcoming mixtape’s follow-up already half-written when we speak.
“I want to make a proper disco record,” notes tommy of their next venture. “I just want to be in Chic, basically. That’s the goal. Just make big, big disco tunes. That would be really hard and I like a challenge. You’ve got to keep setting the goals high, you know? It’s so important. You’ve just got to go for it. Anything is possible!”
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