For any rising singer-songwriter, discovering two of your songs have been picked up by one of the biggest bands on the planet is like winning the lottery.
On Friday, K-Pop sensations BTS released their new album, Map Of The Soul: Persona. It features just seven songs. Two of them were co-written by London-based duo ARCADES, comprising of Matt Thomson and Max Graham.
The album has shot to number one in charts in 87 different countries. It’s the sort of success and industry recognition that ARCADES have been aspiring to since they first began working together.
ARCADES and discovery by BTS
Matt and Max first met in a studio in London’s Parson’s Green. Although working on different projects at the time, they started writing together after discovering they shared the same influences.
‘We began with straight-up, four-to-the-floor dance music,’ Matt tells Gay Star News. ‘Then we gradually started writing better and better songs before we evolved into ARCADES. That was when started releasing our own material.’
Their debut single, In The Air, featuring Sarah Walk, hit Spotify last July. Although it didn’t chart, it was noticed within the industry. It also reached the ears of J-Hope of Korea’s BTS. He added it to his ‘J-Hope’s Jams’ Spotify playlist, bringing the band to the attention of K-Pop fans around the world.
J-Hope’s endorsement went beyond just adding the boys to his playlist. The duo were blown away to be contacted by BTS management to ask them if they had any material they’d like to be considered for the new BTS album.
‘We had a contact through our manager, James F Reynolds, who has mixed all the biggest BTS tracks so far including Idol, DNA, Fake Love, etc, along with some of the ones off the new album.’
BTS management gave them guidance on the types of songs they wanted. Matt and Max submitted several tracks. They then nervously waited to hear whether any met with the band’s approval.
To their amazement, their songs evolved into two of the album’s final tracks: Mikrokosmos (co-written with Ryan Lawrie from X Factor and Marcus McCoan plus some of BTS) and Jamais Vu (co-written with Marcus McCoan, Bad Milk and some of BTS). As ARCADES don’t rap or write in Korean, BTS had a hand in the lyrics.
Is the future of pop collaborative?
ARCADES have already worked with Years & Years and Julia Michaels. Matt, who is gay and originally from Scotland, says being involved with such a huge album has been unlike anything he’s experienced before. The BTS collaborations is sure to result in other artists knocking at their door.
A quick looks at the charts, at least here in the UK, shows many tracks are now collaborations or include ‘featuring’ artists. Is collaboration now the norm?
‘Everything is about collaborating nowadays,’ says Matt. ‘Both of our own tracks we have released on Spotify so far have featured vocalists and most of our time is spent in our studio working with loads of different singers and writers.’
ARCADES followed up In The Air with Fragile in January. The duo’s schedule is hectic over the coming weeks.
‘We have a ton of new music on the way and we are just in the process tying up our next single as we speak. In terms of songwriting, we are off to Sweden all next week, Spain the following week, LA for the whole of June and then hopefully going to Seoul in July to do more writing, so we get to do lots of travelling, meeting new people and getting our new material out there.’
They’ll also, hopefully, finally meet up with BTS at some point.
‘We’ve not actually met the band yet as all their vocals were recorded over in their studio. We are going to the Wembley stadium gig though, where we will hopefully meeting up, but even hearing the 100k crowd singing our songs will be an experience in itself!’