Catching the shared musical journey of singer Sydney and her DJ brother Tones
Last spotted on 1 More Thing almost exactly a year ago – chatting about psychedelics and hosting this killer mix alongside pyxis and Iyre – Sydney Bryce returns to our platform for our boat party on October 21. Once again she’s rolling in esteemed company and this time it’s one of her biggest inspirations: Tones.
Brother, drum & bass enabler, badass DJ and soon-to-be-emergent producer. If you’ve so much as smiled or swayed to a line of Sydney’s dreamy dulcets then you can at least tip your cap at this man…
As the eldest, James Tones was the one who introduced Sydney to the movement back in their early teens. Studying his and mates’ every mix for years before eventually rolling with them to raves and parties around the area, this intense early exposure to beats triggered a now blossoming career for Sydney as labels such as Flexout, Critical, Spearhead and Shogun have all sported her vocals and songcraft.
It also triggered a deep musical connection between the two siblings which took a life of its own during lockdown and has since opened all kinds of doors for them as a duo, including regular broadcasts on Select FM.
As Sydney has explained in other interviews, Tones is her favourite DJ. She knows his style intuitively and knows exactly where to sprinkle her magic amid the grooves. She also shares a deep passion for hip-hop with him and they relish any chance to include it in their performances… Which is exactly what they’ll be doing when they join us on the 1 More Thing Boat Party on October 21 alongside flowanastasia & Tyr Kohout, Ragga Twins, MC Spyda and Agman Gora & Hanka for an all-out vocal bass free-for-all.
We linked up ahead of the event to find out more about their shared musical journey.
What have you got in store for us? I’ve heard your radio shows together, but that’s more on a drum & bass flex. I know you’re going full spectrum with this.
Tones: Yeah we can’t play hip-hop on Select. We do the little genre-switch at the end. They’re mainly house and garage. We were actually the first D&B show on there.
Sydney Bryce: The station’s remit is electronic so it can’t be too slow. But we love hip-hop and always love the chance to play some in our sets.
Tones: When we did the Charli Brix gig we went from hip-hop to drum & bass which was really cool and we’ve got a few favourite blends and sections we’ve already got in mind.
Sydney Bryce: We love it. Starting off nice and slowly with the hip-hop and work our way through the genres.
Tones: Nice bit of garage in the middle. New school stuff.
Sydney Bryce: Then finish on the drums. We’re really excited. We love playing these sets.
Can’t wait! Gotta chat sibling vibes. I used to DJ and make music with my brother. I loved the connection we had. What are your musical journeys together?
Tones: We’ve got quite a musical family. I was playing the trumpet when I was younger, she was playing the piano. I gave up the trumpet sadly, I can still play a bit, but I didn’t get anywhere near as far as Sydney did with the piano. My love for drum & bass came about when I heard Uncut’s Midnight. The original. Then I found the MIST remix and from there I was lost in drums. I was about 13 then so Sydney was too young to pick up on it then, but by the time I was 18, and she was 15, she was all over the music. She’d sit in the front room while we’d be having a mixing session and she’d be sitting there with a notepad and asking which tunes were which. There was no Shazam or Spotify then, just early YouTube.
Sydney Bryce: I was obsessed in finding out everything. In the end they’d be like, ‘Go away Syd, we’re trying to concentrate on the mix’.
Tones: That’s where your love for the music came about wasn’t it?
Sydney Bryce: And going out raving. I was going out pretty young. I got my fake ID at 15.
Yeah younger siblings do get a bit of a fast track into things!
Sydney Bryce: Yeah and you’re instantly in the know about the best underground raves or what things were happening. Mum didn’t mind so much if I was out with James either.
Tones: We actually bumped into each other in the rave. I was like, ‘What you doing here? You’re too young!’ Then I thought if you’re already out then you and your mates are much safer coming with us. So she ended up having 12 older brothers essentially.
Syndey Bryce: My boys! It was an amazing way to get into clubbing and raving.
That’s lush. Was there a defining moment when you started vibing together musically?
Tones: Lockdown was the defining moment. We started doing these streams, Sunday Sequence. It was mainly for mates and people we knew. We’d get 20-30 people all chatting and talking.
Sydney Bryce: That was on Twitch. It was a real vibe wasn’t it?
Tones: Yeah I’ve been mixing since I was 16. We had a set-up, you’d just started releasing music so it was like, ‘let’s do a stream.’
Sydney Bryce: Yeah I’d had my first release in 2018 so I was starting to feel I could properly sing on drum & bass and be a vocalist.
Tones: Then lockdown hit and we were just practicing together really weren’t we? When Select Radio got a proper FM licence they offered us a slot. We had this collection of videos of us doing exactly what they wanted, but on a stream instead of on the radio. So we started doing our show with them when they went official two years ago.
Love lockdown silver linings! Do you have any type of sibling short-hand or telepathic vibe?
Tones: I think so. She knows my mixing style like the back of her hand. Even when I’m freestyling tracks.
Sydney Bryce: I already know what he’s going to do. So I’ll know whether to let it roll or to sing.
Tones: That’s not just from performing together but her watching me all these years.
Sydney Bryce: Literally standing right beside him, watching him. Being his shadow.
Tones: We were doing parties for years and years and she was involved for a good 10 years and soaked it all up. Didn’t miss a trick.
You’ve said in other interviews about preferring to perform with Tones because you know his style and not having to MC blindly when you don’t know what the DJ is going to play
Sydney Bryce: Yeah. Especially if the DJ is just thinking about their set and not where vocals from a host might fit. Which I totally get. Or their sound is too heavy or already too vocal driven then I’m not that comfortable because I don’t feel I can do my best. It’s not the right fit. But with James we know what we’re doing.
Tones: I’ll find the best tunes to go as doubles with Sydney’s tunes and I’ll put them time in to find them perfect blends.
Sydney Bryce: In that sense it’s more of a show than a set and it all fits together so smoothly. I know every tune he plays and know how to complement it.
Love that. On the flip side, I know you must have had some proper arguments, too. All siblings do!
Sydney Bryce: Definitely! On Select I had a breakdown mid-show!
Tones: You said something and I critiqued you at the wrong time.
Sydney Bryce: We’d never done live radio before and the set-up is massive. You want to do a good job, you’re live on air. The pressure is there already and we kinda had an argument mid show.
Tones: I turned the mics off and gave you a hug.
Sydney: Yeah we were good, but I did have a mini breakdown mid show.
I bet the listeners were none the wiser
Sydney Bryce: Yeah! We listened back and I was like ‘was this the bit where I started to break down?’ You couldn’t tell at all.
Tones: Yeah I’ve stressed about certain mixes sound but listen back and they’re always fine. You make things worse in your head don’t you.
You do! You’re both back from Sun & Bass. James. Did I see a post about a tune of yours getting played there?
Tones: Nah, it was played on a beach bar while we were there. That’s a hip-hop tune I’ve got coming out. I’ve also got my full release coming out on a label down in Bournemouth and that’s coming out on a VA EP in November. I’m hyped for that.
This is the start of your journey as a producer?
Tones: Hopefully. I’ve been producing for five or six years but holding back. Sydney’s advice!
Syndey Bryce: I’ve told him to be too much of a perfectionist.
Tones: I think they want a solo EP and I’ll start to build up the confidence to send my music to other labels.
Slow and steady always wins the race! And Sydney, back to Sun And Bass. You were performing with DRS!
Sydney Bryce: That was such a wicked way to round off the summer. I’m still not over it. I don’t think I’ll ever be.
Tones: Big up Dogger and DRS for making that happen. She wasn’t on the line-up but they text her in the morning for the soundcheck.
Sydney Bryce: Me and Dogger live near to each other. We’ve made a song. He knew I was at Sun And Bass and arranged for us to perform it live. It was a dream come true.
Haven’t you played with them on a line-up before?
Tones: No that’s – Unorganised Ostrich, the label who are releasing my tune next month. They’re the only crew pushing liquid down that way.
Sydney Bryce: They’ve put me in some magical positions. I’ve hosted for acts like Artificial Intelligence for them in the past.
Tones: We handed over to Dogger and DRS. That’s how we all met. We love Unorganised Ostrich.
Sydney: We do! They’ve opened some magic doors for me and are doing really cool things. Everyone should check them out.
Vocalists are doing really cool things, too! Now is the time for vocalists!
Sydney Bryce: Absolutely. Considering I started raving 13 years ago. To watch the change and movem4nt of vocalists and be part of it is the coolest thing. I never saw so many active females in the scene. There’s a lot more respect for the vocalist now. The crowd interaction, especially at Sun And Bass was magical. I was floating. I want to do it over and over again it was so good. See you on the boat!