Everyone knows that when traveling to new places, the best spots to visit aren’t the ones easily found on the web. It’s all about local favourites – those true hidden gems that make the place unique for its own inhabitants. In our new Hometown Hotspots series, we’re catching up with musicians around the world to find those gems on a personal tour through their own cities.
For our second spot in the series, we are travelling to one of the most famous cities in the world – London. This city kicked things off for UK band PREP, which simply stands for “PREParation.”
Known for their colourful pastel aesthetics, the London-based four-piece indie pop band PREP is a delight to the ears. They fuse contemporary R&B, electronica, and ‘70s and ‘80s-inspired pop sounds that have a little bit of something for everyone. PREP recently released a brand new catchy single, “The Kid,” out now from their upcoming EP.
Vocalist-lyricist Tom Havelock, a.k.a. Tom Cane, keyboardist Llywelyn Ap Myrddin, drummer Guillaume Jambel, and producer Dan Radclyffe came together in 2015 and have released three EPs (Futures, Cold Fire, Line by Line) and an album (PREP) since 2016, establishing their signature, genre-bending mix of soul and synth-pop.
The British indie-pop act is a combo of talented minds with vast musical backgrounds. Tom has worked as a songwriter in the pop world, including co-writing the title track for singer Cheryl Cole’s A Million Lights album. Then there is Llywelyn, who writes opera; Guillaume is a DJ and house music producer; and Dan, who works as a hip-hop producer.
Tom from PREP shares some of the band’s favourite spots around London with us. Keep on reading for a trip through this metropolitan capital, complete with his photos and specially curated tracks along the way.
Life in London
London is enormous, mixed-up, and stressful. I love it. I’ve lived in other places and been very happy, but I always end up missing the energy and the edge of London too much and coming back. And without London, there’d be no PREP. Only one of us, Dan, actually grew up here (and he was born in Brazil) but I think we all felt the gravitational pull and came looking for the musical life of one shape or another.
I’m lucky in that I live pretty centrally, near some great art galleries and places for music, really good food spots, and near the river which is great when you need some space to think.
An eatery you’d feel homesick for: Lupins
This is one of my top local joints. They have an amazing dish of whole fried spring onions with a spicy aioli. Incredible – these long, straggly, crispy treats with a beautiful pale pink sauce. Deadmau5 played a show on the roof a few years ago. I wasn’t there that night so I can’t tell you if he had the spring onions.
The song I’m picking for this one is by Takako Mamiya. She probably came into my head because of her song “Chinese Restaurant,” but I’m actually going to choose “Love Trip,” the title track from her excellent album. Lupins is a pretty romantic place so it feels appropriate.
Your favourite place to perform: Omeara
This is where we played my favourite PREP show in London. It’s a great room underneath a railway arch near London Bridge. We had loads of friends come, and it really went off. It can be a funny thing playing to people you know – suddenly you spot someone’s face and forget what you’re supposed to be doing – but when it goes well it feels amazing, like a very big happy party.
I should point out that despite my best photo editing efforts, that’s not actually our car.
My song for this one is actually one of ours. PREP’s “Who’s Got You Singing Again.” It was a total joy to play this that night. And it makes me realise how badly I’ve been missing playing shows, and how much I can’t wait to be on tour again.
Your go-to for live music: The Coliseum
I’m going slightly off-piste with this one. It isn’t really a venue for new artists – in fact, it’s usually an opera house – but I saw Björk here a few years ago and it was very special.
The Coliseum is a huge old theatre with lots of balconies and gold-painted carvings everywhere. At this show, Matmos played first on a very sterile white stage, a bit like an operating theatre. At the end of their set they blew up a massive red helium balloon and tied it onto a little black radio. They turned down all the music until the only thing you could hear was Björk singing through the tiny radio, and then they let it lift off into the space above everyone’s seats, this beautiful voice floating up towards the ceiling of the opera house.
It obviously has to be a Björk song for this one - I’m going for “Hidden Place” from her album Vespertine. Beautiful.
Your secret spot for new visitors: Red Cross Garden
London’s pretty hectic, and you guys don’t need me to tell you to go and check out Big Ben or the London Eye, but at some point you’re going to want a bit of peace and quiet. One of the best things around where I live are the little hidden parks and gardens. I love this spot. There’s a pond, a little wooden bridge, greenery, and you can find some proper stillness even though you’re right in the middle of the city.
For very obvious grassy reasons, the album that comes into my mind is Joni Mitchell’s album, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, and I’m going to choose “Edith and the Kingpin.” What a song.
The one place you hope will always stay the same: Trinity Buoy Wharf
This is where my studio is, out by the river in East London. It’s a really interesting place, a mix of Victorian warehouses, refurbished old boats, and buildings made of shipping containers. When I first moved in it was like this little island of activity, surrounded by a huge area of empty old factories, but in the last couple of years, that’s all been filled in with new apartment blocks shooting up, pushing right up to the edge of where I’m based. It’s been pretty startling to see somewhere transformed so quickly - lots of London is changing pretty fast, so I guess it’s a reminder to make the most of things while they’re there.
The combination of water and my studio makes me think of the video for “Rolled Up” by Benny Sings and Mac DeMarco, where Mac jumps off the roof of his studio into the pool. Such a great video, and one of my favourite lockdown records.
Hometown Hotspots is created in collaboration with Secret Signals.
Cover Credit: Em Cole
All Images: PREP