Territory: Italy

Performance: Live | DJ set

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Belfast-born/London-based duo Bicep (Matt McBriar and Andy Ferguson) are childhood friends who bonded over a shared love of dance music. In the decades since first meeting, aged 8, Bicep have become one of the world’s most avidly appreciated curators and producers of electronic music.

Recently hailed by the BBC as “one of the biggest names in UK dance”, Bicep continue to cement themselves as one of the defining global electronic acts of our times. Their most recent release “Water” — which arrived alongside a mind-bending video directed by celebrated filmmaker Aoife McArdle — was described as nothing short of “anthemic” by Mixmag, and saw Billboard opine that the duo “consistently creates some of the most powerful electronic atmospheres on the market”, as well as commending their “mind-blowing live performances.”

In 2022 Bicep also played their biggest UK Live shows to date with back-to-back performances at London’s 10k capacity Alexandra Palace on 2nd and 3rd of December — both of which sold out in just 5 minutes — a headline arena-tour throughout Europe including Zenith Paris, Lotto Arena Antwerp and UFO Velodrom Berlin, and a run of high-profile festival and headline shows across North America which included Primavera LA and Portola festival in San Francisco. They will also embark on a sold-out tour of Australia in 2023 including stops in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.

Comfortably installed as one of the biggest names in dance music, Bicep released their hotly anticipated second album, ‘Isles’, in January 2021. Met with widespread acclaim from critics and fans alike, ’Isles’ was described as "a tour de force of neon euphoria" (Resident Advisor), "brimming with restless energy" (Evening Standard), “one of the defining dance music albums of 2021” (Mixmag), "intricate, moody, nostalgic, introspective and emotional” (Billboard) and named The Guardian’s ‘Album of the Week’. It debuted at #2 on the UK Official Albums Chart and #1 on the UK Official Vinyl Albums Chart, earning the duo two BRITs nominations — for Best British Group & Breakthrough Act — in the process.

Born and raised in Belfast, the pair’s home listening ran the gamut from Slayer and Tangerine Dream to Irish legends Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher and Moya Brennan. Both, however, cut their musical teeth in their hometown’s thriving club scene, centred around legendary Belfast venue Shine.

“Going to Shine was like being smacked in the head with a hammer” says Matt. “It was either very intense, in-your-face italo tinged electro or really aggressive techno. Anything that sounded moderate was back bar music. The main rooms were always harder”.

“If it wasn’t energetic, it was boring” says Andy, of the music that predominated at the time. “Especially in the 90s, even the local radio there would be playing trance hits. It was way more ingrained in Belfast than in London”.

Shine became a breeding ground for the city’s DJs and producers, as well as a welcome respite from the divisions that predominated in Belfast at that time. “It’s a cliché” says Matt, “but dance music will have a big effect in such a place. I think that’s why it was, subconsciously, a bit more important there. No matter what, it gave people a chance to switch off, even just socially, to not feel it was us versus them”.

The duo parted ways after school, both leaving Belfast for further afield. Andy went to study Chemical Engineering in Manchester, while Matt studied design in Newcastle, but both took their love of dance music with them, regularly one-upping each other with deep cuts and lost classics they’d email back and forth. This habit grew to become FeelMyBicep, the blog they started in 2008 as a showcase for their favourite lost-but-not-yet-forgotten synth, house, funk and Italo disco rarities.

From those humble origins, FeelMyBicep became a vital online destination for dance music afficionados, regularly chalking up over 100,000 visitors a month. This spawned a club night, and record label, while its signature Bicep trefoil logo - designed by Matt himself - became one of the most iconic symbols in underground dance music. It wasn’t long before the pair graduated to being highly sought-after DJs, their sets reflecting the eclecticism of these online curations.

Initially playing individually as FeelMyBicep in Europe and Asia, they reunited in London and “have been making music every day since”. As producers, too, they soon found success. Following a releases on Throne of Blood, Will Saul soon snapped them up for a string of releases on his Aus Music imprint. Chief among these was the certified classic “Just EP”, whose dazzling title track became the undisputed club sound of 2015, earning both Mixmag and DJ Mag’s ‘Track of the Year’.

Bicep have collaborated repeatedly with compatriot Hammer, as well as with another groundbreaking UK duo, Simian Mobile Disco. They’ve also remixed for the likes of Blood Orange and 808 State, and been remixed by industry titans Steffi and Four Tet.

Signed to Ninja Tune in 2017, their self-titled debut album was released to universal acclaim later that year. “Bicep” attained a Top 20 entry in the UK charts, garnering plaudits from the likes of Pitchfork, Resident Advisor and the Guardian, as well as a cover feature in Mixmag to add to that magazine’s gong for “Album of the Year”. Tracks like ‘Opal’ — and the subsequent Four Tet remix— as well as he record’s lead single ‘Glue’, with and its iconic Joe Wilson-directed video, became touchpoints for electronic music in 2017, with the latter named DJ Mag “Track of the Year”. The ‘Glue’ video, alongside Bicep’s RA Live performance were also recently included in the lauded ‘Electronic’ exhibition, first shown at the Philharmonie de Paris last year and most recently at London’s Design Museum.

The pair cite moving to London, and the breadth of music this exposed them to, as key to their growth as musicians in this time, expanding their musical pallet with a world of new sounds, taken from every conceivable source. Both cite the joy of discovering Hindi vocals, Bulgarian choirs, or manically hitting Shazam in the hopes of identifying a Turkish pop song in a Dalston kebab house. London offered Bicep the sounds of Detroit, Delhi, Durban and Derby, all in one place.

“We embraced it” says Andy. “There’s so much choice. You just don’t get bored. When we arrived here, you could go to a different night every day of the week, that was the big selling point for us. The amount of excitement and hunger, the chance to experience new things, it was off the charts. So, we came and lived on the breadline for a few years, not even phased at all”.

These influences fed into their second LP, “Isles”, a record they describe as being more moody and introspective than their debut. “The previous record was written from a very happy and almost naïve place” says Andy. “Our starting point was very different this time”. Drawn from 150 demos, its ten tracks see the pair distilling their sound to its purest essence, from harder Belfast origins to the more global and contemplative influences they’ve picked up across the water.

Debuting 2017, their Bicep Live show is now an infamous spectacle, renowned for its epic, immersive production and visuals from Black Box Echo’s Zak Norman. Their subsequent touring has seen them play across some of the world’s most revered festival stages, as well as sold-out headline shows across the UK, Europe, North America and beyond.

Almost 1 million people will have had the chance to see Bicep play live in 2022, including headline performances at Glastonbury — where they closed the festival’s second biggest stage in front of 35k people with a now legendary set that was televised by the BBC — Primavera (Barcelona and Los Angeles), Parklife, Wide Awake, AVA and Field Day. They also completed a sold-out UK tour that included three headline shows at London’s O2 Academy Brixton, and two North American tours that included a sold-out show at NYC’s Knockdown Center, Portola festival San Francisco and shows in Denver, Chicago, Austin and more.

The closing night of their triumphant three-night sold-out run of shows at Printworks in London in 2018 was recorded by Resident Advisor for their ‘RA Live’ series, with 3.2 million views to date on YouTube alone, and in September 2020, with the live music & touring industry in a state of flux, Bicep announced an innovative one-off ticketed livestream performance — one of the first of its kind for an electronic artist — broadcast across 5 different timezones, and watched by people in over 70 countries.

Bicep are also ambassadors for Youth Music, a charity working to change the lives of young people through music and music production. The pair take an active role in mentoring young people coming through YM programmes, reflecting their own eagerness to give back as musicians who themselves received industry support when they were coming up.

Over the span of their 10-year career, they have celebrated the music that inspires them via their Feelmybicep blog, initially an outlet for, and now a contributing factor to, their intense record collecting habit. Founded in 2008, its runaway success (it now sees over 100,000 visitors a month) spawned a record label of the same name, a club night, and took the duo out of the UK and embedded them on the international stage via highly sought after DJ sets that refected the eclecticism celebrated on their blog - an impeccably curated blend of upfront tracks and exclusive edits mixed with deep-dug house and disco cuts (rediscovered, dusted of and given a new lease of life). Accordingly they are venerated as trusted and esteemed curators in electronic music today.

Cutting their production teeth with releases on Throne Of Blood, Traveller Records, Mystery Meat and Love Fever, Will Saul then snapped up the duo for a string of releases on his Aus Music imprint, including the now certifed classic “Just EP” bearing the dazzling and ubiquitous title track that became the undisputed club track of 2015 and earned Bicep both Mixmag and DJ Mag’s ‘Track of the Year’. The duo have also collaborated with another trailblazing UK duo Simian Mobile Disco and remixed for the likes of Disclosure, Blood Orange and 808 State.

The formidable DJs (#8 in Resident Advisor’s 2016 poll) have toured the world over, curating and selling out a long list of Feel My Bicep parties including Manchester Warehouse Project, a 12-week residency at XOYO and their annual Italo Disco parties.

In 2016 Andy and Matt built and tested a roof-raising live show - a powerful counterpoint to their much loved DJ sets that not only highlights the breadth and depth of the Bicep discography, brings to the fore both their skilful production and formidable engineering chops, but again reinforces their genius curatorial fair. Earlier this year they took Coachella and Primavera festivals by storm and sold out their recent London show at Village Underground in 3 minutes fat. Following the album’s release, they’ll embark on an extensive live headline world tour including a stop at Electric Brixton in London.

The album “Bicep” is the perfect summation of the duo’s career to date - it’s a sonic tour of their history touching the cornerstones of underground club culture. Matt and Andy have pulled of the rarest of feats, to make a singularly unique electronic record founded on the blueprint of classic house, techno, electro and Italo disco, but fipped and morphed into a fresh design bearing the unique Bicep sonic signature. It’s a perfectly succinct album: loose, raw and energetic enough for the dancefoor, yet refned, artfully composed and contemplative enough for home listening.

Their spirited, daring approach brings them into the Ninja Tune fold. “For us it’s important to be part of a label that looks broadly at music,” Matt says. “We felt no restrictions at Ninja to be pigeonholed,” continues Andy. Displaying a theme of technical experimentalism and a deft melodic touch which runs throughout the entire record, it’s this openness and no-rules approach to music making which has allowed Bicep to establish a unique position all their own on an increasingly crowded global dance stage



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