Snakehips Interview: Jon Bovi tattoos, 'Rush Hour 2', and fake stories

‘It’s been a bit of a trip’: Snakehips are still processing their wild success


Dance heavyweights Snakehips are back in Australia, and they brought the good vibes with them for the journey.

If you’ve been to a party in the last seven years, there’s no doubt you’ve heard a Snakehips song. The British electronic duo have been serving up some of the decade’s hottest bangers, teaming up with the likes of Anderson .Paak, Chance the Rapper, Tinashe, and Zayn Malik.

Snakehips AKA Ollie Lee and James Carter, are about to embark on a two week tour, hitting clubs in Sydney and Melbourne as well as playing Groovin the Moo.

We took the chance to chat to the duo about the time they made up a meet cute story when they chatted to GQ, meaningless tattoos, and a possible collaboration with Mallrat.

Snakehips interview
Credit: Press

HAPPY: How’s your day been so far?

OLLIE: Yeah, good. Haven’t done anything really. 

JAMES: Yeah just chilling out, man. Had some porridge. 

HAPPY: *laughs* You’re in Australia at the moment, hey?

JAMES: Yeah yeah yeah. 

HAPPY: What’ve you been up to since you got here? 

OLLIE: Oh, man. Well, I got a friend that just moved out here. They got married on Friday, so, just been hanging out and going to weddings and then enjoying the holiday weekend. 

HAPPY: Oh wow, eventful few days. What else are you looking forward to while you’re here? 

OLLIE: Well, all our shows are starting tomorrow. So we’ve got a show in Sydney and then we’ve got festivals on the weekend and stuff. So looking forward to getting into the DJing. 

HAPPY: Nice. What have you got in store for the Groovin sets that are coming up on the weekend?

OLLIE: Just good vibes, man. Good vibes. We still need to plan the final set actually, because I think it’s like 45 minutes. We usually would do an hour, so we need to like concise it and make it a bit different. But yeah, it’s going to be good fun. 

HAPPY: Yeah, yeah. Nice. Do you think you’ll get a chance to catch any of the other acts at the festival? 

JAMES: Hopefully. I want to see Wolf Alice so bad. 

OLLIE: Yeah me too. I don’t think I ever have seen them live. If I have, it was many, many years ago. So looking forward to that for sure.

HAPPY: Do you listen to much Australian music as well? 

OLLIE: Yeah loads. Yeah, we always have really. It’s such a great scene out here. 

HAPPY: Do you have any favourite Aussie artists at the moment? 

OLLIE: I mean, at the moment, we’re really loving Mallrat, she’s killing it. We really want to try and do a tune with her. She just dropped a new one with Azealia Banks like two days ago that was really cool. 

HAPPY: Yeah, nice. That’d be so good. A collab with Mallrat would be very, very fun. 

OLLIE: I know, we’re trying to do it. 

HAPPY: I’m excited. I also read that you two had a bit of a meet cute when you first linked up. How did that come about? 

OLLIE: Is it the whole Hong Kong thing? 

HAPPY: Yeah, yeah, that’s the one.

JAMES: None of it’s true. It’s all a lie *laughs*. 

OLLIE: It’s fully fake news *laughs*. Yeah, we just made up a fake story that sounded more interesting because we just met down the pub through some mutual friends. 

JAMES: Yeah, just at university. 

HAPPY: No way, that’s so funny *laughs*.

OLLIE: It didn’t sound quite as interesting. So we kind of used a bit of the plot of the movie Rush Hour 2 and then used it as our story *laughs*. 

HAPPY: That’s even better than the Hong Kong story *laughs*. So then when you met, you kind of bonded over a mutual taste in music? Is that how your production style came about as Snakehips?

OLLIE: Yeah, I think so. I guess it was about nine, ten years ago now crazily enough. But I think we were both just really into nineties and 2000s RnB, and we always really enjoyed flipping old acapella and things and making them kind of futuristic and a bit crazy. And yeah, I think that’s definitely where the project started and where the direction came from.

HAPPY: Nice. And you’ve also got the new single coming out next week, Water. It’s got a bit of a club sound to it, is that the vibe that you were going for with that track?

OLLIE: Yeah, I think it’s a slightly more chilled out kind of club/disco type thing. It’s got good energy and I think. I guess it’s not quite as clubby as some of the other stuff we’ve been doing, but it’s definitely a fun one. 

Snakehips GQ
Credit: GQ

HAPPY: Speaking of clubs, you’re playing at Ivy tomorrow night. Have you played at Ivy before? Because they’ve got a pool there…

OLLIE: Oh shit!

JAMES: *laughs* I’ll bring my trunks. 

HAPPY: *laughs*

JAMES: No one wants to see me in my trunks.

HAPPY: But even the crowd, I reckon you could get them jumping in if you played Water

JAMES: *laughs*

OLLIE: We’ll do our best.

JAMES: Good idea, good idea. 

HAPPY: And you’ve also mentioned that you’re working on an album that might be released later in the year. Are there any updates that you’re allowed to share about the album?

OLLIE: I don’t know if there’s anything else. I mean, like the Water track is kind of the first one that’s going to be a part of the new body of work that we’ve been working on. So, I don’t know if there’s anything else that we could necessarily say yet. But we’re working with a bunch of cool people, loads of new artists that we’re really excited about, and then some old friends that we worked with before and meeting in the middle somewhere. But we’re working on it at the moment and we’re having a lot of fun making new music. So yeah, it’s all happening. 

HAPPY: Yeah, nice. Is the other music on the album kind of that same vibe as Water or is there a bit of a mixed bag? 

OLLIE: It’s a bunch of different stuff. There’s some more chilled bits and we’re getting back to writing more songs and some more ballad type stuff as well. So it’s quite a nice mix and I think there’s going to be some new school stuff with some more classic, Snakehips sounding stuff. 

HAPPY: I’m keen to hear it. And obviously you’ve had a chance to collaborate with some incredible artists, but are there any moments in your careers that have just been completely unbelievable that you’re still getting a grasp on?

OLLIE: I mean, all of it really. It’s been a bit of a trip to be honest. 

JAMES: *laughs*

OLLIE: I think a lot of the time when you’re doing stuff it doesn’t quite compute. And then you look back on it, and you’re just like, ‘Whoa’, like I was just rolling with it. And some of the people we’ve worked with, people like Chance and Anderson .Paak, I don’t know, it’s quite crazy to actually look at a list of some of the people we’ve made tunes with in the past and you’re like, ‘Wow, yeah, that actually happened’. You don’t really stop to think about it at the time. And then it’s pretty amazing really when you think about it. 

HAPPY: On top of releasing music, you’ve also started a record label recently as well. What’s that experience been like? 

OLLIE: Yeah. It’s been cool, man. We just kind of had a bunch of new tunes around last summer, around last June. And we finally got out of a really long record label deal that we’ve been in for like six years or whatever, and just decided to start our own thing. And it was like, we’ll just roll with this for the moment and put out some cool stuff, like tracks that we did with EARTHGANG and Armand Van Helden, and Tchami and it was just a way of putting out some stuff, just having a bit of fun with it and just putting out some club music and then just releasing a bunch of different artist tracks. And it’s just nice just creating a bit more of a world around our sound and being able to showcase tunes and artists that we really like. It’s been cool, man. It’s obviously quite a different experience, but it’s been nice to be able to do that that way as well. 

HAPPY: How do you go about choosing which artists to sign? 

OLLIE: We’re just kind of doing it tune by tune. But I mean, we’ve always just kind of spent a lot of time digging for music and, you know, just through being DJs and playing out and just being fans of music. It’s just something that I would do anyway. And people send you stuff as well. So I guess I’d be hunting on SoundCloud and things like that and just a mixture of that and getting sent demos and finding cool stuff. 

HAPPY: Nice. And just jumping from the music. I wanted to ask about the tattoo that you’ve got on your arm James, it looks like a wolf or something but I couldn’t read what it says.

JAMES: Oh, the cat!

HAPPY: Yeah, yeah, that’s the one. What’s it say in the speech bubble?

Snakehips 2022
Snakehips via Instagram

JAMES: *holds the tattoo up to the camera* ‘Sorry mom, I am so high’. Then it’s got a funny cat. 

HAPPY: *laughs* I love that. Is there any story behind it or did you just get it when you were high? 

JAMES: Yeah, yeah it’s just a bit of a laugh. I’ve been high for a lot of my life *laughs*. 

HAPPY: Do either of you have any other ones? 

JAMES: Ollie’s got a funny one.

OLLIE: I’ve got this really bad snake here *rolls up his sleeve*. It’s the worst snake I’ve ever seen.

JAMES: *laughs*

OLLIE: And I’ve got this one that says Jon Bovi *rolls up other sleeve*, which is a tribute to this tattoo that went viral a few years ago. It was someone in Eastern Europe and they’d written ‘It’s is my life – Jon Bovi’ *laughs* and they just spelt the whole quote wrong. It’s fucking amazing. So that was a homage to whoever that genius was. 

HAPPY: That’s so good. I love the snake as well. Sometimes the most simply drawn animals look the best. 

OLLIE: It’s like a cave man painting or something *laughs*.

JAMES: *laughs* It is a bit cave man-y isn’t it.

HAPPY: Yeah, it’s like the lion on the Norwich City badge. Like, that’s the most wonky drawing ever, but it looks so good I reckon.

JAMES: *laughs* That’s so funny.

HAPPY: Well, that’s all I’ve got for you, thank you so much for jumping on the call. 

JAMES: Yeah, thanks very much man.

OLLIE: Thank you! Have a good one.

HAPPY: You too! Have a great weekend.

Snakehips are playing at Ivy in Sydney tonight (Thursday), then Groovin the Moo festival in Maitland, Canberra, and Bendigo, and finishing off the tour with a set at Brown Alley in Melbourne.

Water featuring Bryce Vine is out April 26th, but you can pre-save it now, or listen to more from Snakehips below.

Interview by Lochie Schuster.