“Drill music is a young man’s game,” explains an elderly gentleman in a vest emblazoned with marijuana leaves.
“But what we like to do is change perceptions. What we like is when someones goes ‘two old guys doing drill? What a load of shit.’ But then they hear us, and it becomes two old guys doing drill? Wow!”
It’s a Thursday afternoon in early September and Rolling Stone UK is in West London to meet the vest-wearing man and his friend. Together they are Pete & Bas – the two septuagenarians who have become perhaps the UK’s unlikeliest musical duo.
Drill, which emerged in Chicago in 2010, is a form of rap music characterised by furious lyrical flows and, in many instances, storied experiences of gangland violence. It has proved so controversial in the UK that drill lyrics were recently used as prosecution evidence in a joint enterprise trial.
Therefore, it’s safe to say that these two elderly gentlemen aren’t the genre’s usual faces. Pete, who claims to be a Royal Mail worker, was turned onto Drill when driving in his car with his grandaughter six years ago.
“I wasn’t sure about it at first, but being my granddaughter she won the battle for the radio,” he explains. A chance encounter with Bas then followed when he found him playing the piano in a corner shop one day.
Despite looking like two stereotypical cockney hard men, they have somehow become one of the genre’s most popular acts. They emerged in 2017 when a track called ‘Shut Your Mouth’ mysteriously appeared on YouTube. It has garnered over 1.5 million views on YouTube and allowed them to play sell-out shows and put out further successful releases.
Which brings us to today. They’re here to talk about an upcoming sold out UK tour and a string of new singles which have won genuine praise from drill fans for lyrics that show off a genuine love of the genre.
One of the latest, Mr Worldwide, offered globe-spanning observations that even took in the Nigerian Yoruba dialect. “E-se to the boys in Lagos, they hold it down when the man need favours,” comes their address on the track.
Life on tour, the pair add, has been “drugs & rock & roll, but maybe not the sex.”
But for all the praise and fandom surrounding the pair, there remains inconsistencies in their story that have left many wondering whether it’s all an act. Some fans believe that the pair are experts at Milli Vanilli-esque lip syncing – with an army of writers bolstering their act.
Batting away the accusations, Pete tells Rolling Stone UK: “There’s always been that, even Elton John used to face those accusations. Even Michael Jackson had it, I’m not saying there’s jealousy but we do change the verses sometimes to make it younger.”
Even if the truth remains somewhat hazy, there’s no doubt that any team behind the pair are doing an impressive job in keeping up the charade. For instance, a six month radio silence from the pair earlier this year was explained by a video on their Instagram which saw Pete meeting Bas as he left prison, popping open a bottle of champagne as his friend walked away from the gates. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we could find nothing to back up his apparent conviction.
Still, it is hardly the con of the century. Even if the truth has perhaps been slightly embellished, there’s something undeniably heartwarming about the idea of two pensioners taking an unlikely last shot at fame.
“We really couldn’t have left it any longer!” Pete jokes of their later life burst for stardom – which they’re determined to take to the top level.
“I’d love to be one of those little people on the O2 that you can see from miles away on a bloody big screen!,” says Pete.
“A 50 foot high screen. I’m just down the road from there, so to have people spending a lot of money on our tickets would be great. That’s my ambition.”
Bas, meanwhile, has plans for a big name collaboration.
“We could do something with, what’s his name, Ed Sheeran!”
“No!”, Pete corrects him. He’d do something with *us*. With a sell-out tour on the horizon in Autumn and millions of YouTube views under their belts, you sense that he just might be right.