He ain't heavy, he's my brother

Text by William L. Hunt

Photography by Inc.

"Swear" and "Heart Crimes", the A-side tracks on Inc.'s debut EP, 3, share an inextricable emotionality. Laments about promises made and promises broken respectively. Telling, therefore, that these are songs written by brothers. "We have pretty much lived the same life. We obviously have different perspectives but a lot of what we do is unspoken in the process of making music "says Andrew Aged, one half of LA-based Inc. Former session musicians for pop heavyweights such as Pharrell Williams, Raphael Saadiq, Beck, Cee Lo Green, Elton John and Steve Miller, the Aged brothers began carving out their own sound, often compared to Prince, in late 2009.

"Making music is often a visual thing for us. It's a feeling that we'll talk about. We used to have this car in high school - a Cadillac, with subs in the back. We would drive around, we would just drive, listening to D'Angelo, Gil Scott-Heron and Curtis Mayfield." Pushing together the styles and sounds of funk, soul, jazz and R&B until they are no longer distinguishable, the tracks on 3 seemingly use retro tools to deliver a sound that is surprisingly fresh. But Daniel Aged doesn't see it this way. "I think part of that is just growing up around a lot of music and refusing to categorise. It's not a conscious decision to combine genres."

Perhaps it's better to understand the music of Inc., as they recommend, in visual terms. 3 being a triptych of Helmut Newton nudes: glamorous, dramatic, sexy. Each song a snapshot of mortality. "Some sounds make the emotion of a song clearer. They paint the picture better." The Ageds speak about music with disarming sincerity, a symptom of their upbringing. "We were playing older people's music, for older people, with older people. When we were younger the focus was on ourselves getting as good as possible on our different instruments. That's how it started and we became more schooled as we went along."

Sincerity, sophistication and maturity are not adjectives usually associated with a band's debut, but 3 is an exception. "Swear" begins with a camp stamp of the foot; synthesized whispers demand sexual fidelity with a bomb-drop of organ and kick drum backing up the point. Assurance soon turns to suspicion with the vocal repetition, "cross your heart and hope to die". The use of melisma adding to apprehensive melodies that ultimately paints a picture of a jilted partner. Track two shares the same depth, building on the narrative of the previous. Its title, "Heart Crimes", becomes a distorted lament ringing out. On the B-side, "Millionairess" is the most "pop" of the three with all the grandeur of a James Bond theme. It changes keys as it broods its way through ostentatious mini-movements. A glamorous track worthy of its name.

Inc.'s music just stops shy of schmaltz. The syrupy tweaked vocals could, if heard in passing, be mistaken for a technical glitch during a wedding singer's set. Instead, driven by a fearless expressive energy, it works. "We're not trying to ever mask the words or anything like that. What takes precedence is the feeling of expression," Daniel Aged says. Undoubtedly, Inc. is an exciting proposition, a fact recognised by the forward-thinking UK label, 4AD. They have followed up the single release by signing the band to a three-album deal, something the Ageds' clearly relish. "We never expected to be on 4AD but it's cool that there's a quality in our music and a quality to them as people. That there's something about all this that makes sense." Famous for championing alternative rock bands, it remains to be seen whether the label and Inc. will be a happy marriage. "We see it being very big. We'd love to play in a stadium, that's our canvas, that's how we imagine it. It's pop music and it would make the most sense if it were done on a huge scale. Pop means something to us that it may not to other people. It's beautiful. Just like Coca-Cola. Big and beautiful, glorious, historic, pure and legendary. That's beautiful to us and exactly how we'd like to go down in history."

Things go better with pop.

3 is out now on 4AD.

  • Inc.