EXCLUSIVE: Introducing Who We Are and Their Powerful Debut Project

From experiencing loss to reading bedtime stories, new British duo Who We Are assembles collective stories of the human condition into stunning songs and visuals.   

This collaboration between vocalist Tommy Jules (Rudimental and Professor Green) and Cannes award winner,  Simon Bass (Madonna, David Guetta and Sigur Ros) debuts with a heart wrenching short film. Directed by Academy Film’s Novemba, the film juxtaposes the stories of two parents told through two (currently unreleased) singles and emotional choreography performed and choreographed by  Anna Watkins and Dickson Mb. 

We chatted with Tommy and Simon about the short film, collaboration, and what fans can look forward to next!

How did you two first meet? 

We met at Simon’s studios in Soho, London in 2018. We were working on a charity campaign with Maverick Sabre and an amazing group of singers and rappers. We hit it off and as we came from such different musical backgrounds, we thought it would be cool to see what happened if we put our two styles together – what would an R&B voice sound like with cinematic music?

How would you describe your music? 

Cinematic, Soulful, Deep, Real and Powerful

Where did the name Who We Are come from?

It’s from the lyric of one of our songs, ‘Handmedowns’. We asked our families and loved-ones to get together one evening to choose the name of the band. We were all listening to the songs and someone noticed the line and everyone loved it as our name.

What inspired you to introduce your collaboration with a short film? 

We wanted to do something different which really meant something to us. We didn’t want to be just another band doing just another music video. That felt like boring marketing bullshit to us – we wanted to do something that was important to us and the people we love.

Where did the concept for the visual come from? 

We are both full-on fathers and we wanted to tell two different stories about parenting – the good stuff and the bad stuff. We came up with the idea of telling stories from a father’s point of view and a mother’s point of view. So two different stories and two different songs. We also wanted to tell a positive story about a black father, which you don’t often see in the media.  Working with one parent and one child in each film makes the story easier to connect with and using world-class dancers means you don’t need dialogue. So it all fell into place! And thank God, it ended up working!

How did you get connected with Academy Film’s Novemba and dancers, Dickson Mbi and Anna Watkins? 

We were very clear that we wanted to make this film in a completely collaborative way. We wanted to work with directors and choreographers on an equal creative level where we all had equal input. So they had to be absolutely top of their game. Simon had composed the music for one of Novemba’s films and they were our first choice. Simon had worked with the choreographer Merce Cunningham in NYC and met the great dancer Jeannie Steele through him. Jeannie was in London and put the team in touch with Dickson and Anna. It was a dream team and whilst the production was tough, it was something we’ll never forget, such a great experience.

What was it like to collaborate with them on the project? 

Absolutely terrifying haha! We knew that we needed to let go and leave Dickson and the dancers to do their thing but when we got to rehearsal it looked like nothing was ready and we hadn’t got a clue what we were going to film. But of course Dickson knew exactly what he was doing. He was sketching what the dance needed to feel like but was going to improvise a lot of the choreography as it depended on the locations. He wanted the freshness of the improvisation in the spaces and that’s what you see on film. The Directors had never worked with dancers before so all of us were tense but very respectful. In the end it was an amazing experience and we all want to work together again.

What was it like to see your music come together in the short film and to see it interpreted by other artists? 

It was amazing for us both to be on set during the filming and to see the cast and crew reaction. It was a really moving experience and there were a lot of tears! Watching other people react to the music and the dance is the most important thing to us. On set, remember that you only see short sections of the song at any one time and you only see it come together in the edit. When Tommy and I saw the first rough edit we were a bit stunned and so happy, it just seemed to make sense of the songs. There is a lot of luck involved in making films and we got really lucky!

Do you have a favorite memory from filming?

Our favourite memory was the first day of filming, watching the monitors and seeing the dancers on camera for the first time. We had worked so hard to bring it to that moment and we’ll never forget it.

The film features two songs, “Book At Bedtime” and “Daydream.” What inspired those two tracks and what was the writing process like? 

Tommy started “Daydream” before we met back in 2012. He had broken up with his long-term partner and had moved in with a friend. He was in a really dark, lonely place and couldn’t deal with what was going on – it felt to him like he was in a daydream and nothing was real. Tommy played the idea to Simon and he loved it, so they finished off the song together.

“Book At Bedtime” is about trying to be your best for your children. The song is about the message that is hidden between the lines of a bedtime story. No matter what’s been going on, there is unconditional love that is passed down the generations.

If you could set your fans up in the perfect environment to listen to your music, what do you imagine it looking like? 

At home or wherever you are most comfortable, sitting down/in the bath with a glass of wine with your headphones on relaxing and soaking up the music.

What can fans look forward to next? 

We’ll be releasing “Daydream” in the next few months and we’re so looking forward to that. Then three or four more singles before the EP later this year. We’ve just filmed some more live one-shot videos at the Covent Garden Social Club and they’ll be coming out soon. Tommy will be doing some DJ Sets on Twitch and watch out for Simon’s live piano meditations!

But most of all we’re looking forward to playing live again – so hope to see you at a show soon!

What can listeners expect from your upcoming debut EP? 

The EP is very moving, very cinematic and beautiful. It’s about our real lives and relationships – and it’s really honest and relatable. We’re so proud of it. 

What is one quote that you have heard or that you go by that you want to ECHO out to the world?

Be Who You Are!