What do you get when you cross a vibrant saxophonist with a dynamic DJ? The electric pairing of Lovely Laura and Ben Santiago, that’s what!
Laura and Ben, who are a married couple in addition to a musical duo, have been setting the world of music alight for a number of years with their incredible live performances. From residencies in Ibiza to travelling the world, the pair have captured the attention of music lovers across the globe thanks to their talent and energy.
When they’re not hyping up music lovers in clubs, Laura and Ben have also worked with a number of brands including the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, Tommy Hilfiger, MTV, Mercedes and Storm Models.
We recently had the opportunity to quiz Lovely Laura and Ben Santiago about their incredible connection, what to expect from their live shows, what draws them to Ibiza, plans for 2018 and much more.
How did you first get started in the music industry?
LAURA: A little by accident actually! I was studying a BA in Jazz at Leeds College of Music back in the 90’s when a fellow saxophonist on my course asked if I wanted to take over a local residency he had involving him jamming with a DJ. I’d never seen this concept before but the music was awesome to improvise to, with deep, soulful, funk grooves that I loved! From that moment on I was hooked and gradually more people asked me to go and play with them. Never did I think I would have had such a successful career out of it – I owe that guy a massive drink!
BEN: I used to work for various London rave promoters back in the early 90’s, handing out flyers and generally helping with other stuff at the events. I loved it and they were very fond days indeed! I started in Ibiza years later through no connection of that, it was just a case of coming out here and trying my luck!
Combining a DJ and a saxophonist is an unusual concept but it works so incredibly well. You’re also married, so it’s definitely a unique dynamic. What’s it like getting to work alongside your other half?
LAURA: The best! We’re a good team personally, professionally and musically so I hope that comes across when we play. It is also a dream to share this journey with the one you love, I make sure I never take any day for granted as right now we are well and truly blessed.
BEN: Somebody please kill me! Haha, only joking… It is amazing to travel the world and share all these amazing experiences with the love of my life, I genuinely cannot believe how lucky I am.
For anyone who’s yet to witness you live, what can someone expect from a Lovely Laura and Ben Santiago live show?
LAURA: High energy sax driven house music that hopefully keeps you dancing all night!
BEN: Unforgettable memories.
How do you go about putting a set together?
LAURA: Ben receives many promos so very often he is the one to introduce me to a potential track, however, sometimes he also gets a shout from me in the kitchen saying ‘I love that one!’ I’ll then have a play over the track with my sax to see if it works and then we try it out live. Sometimes it can take me a while to gel with a track and no matter how hard I try it just doesn’t sit right. We have some favourites that we always keep in as I think people expect to hear certain tracks but we also keep trying to freshen things up.
BEN: We’ve been playing together for long enough now that I can get a good feel for tracks that work well with the saxophone. There has to be space in the track for Laura to play, but more importantly it has to be something that Laura can vibe off, so what tends to happen is I send any potential tracks to Laura, and if she gives me the thumbs up I add them to the playlist for our live sets. Then when we play out, I chose tracks from the playlist according to what the crowd are reacting to. This formula works well because Laura can be confident that I am not going to play anything that doesn’t work or she doesn’t know, but at the same time we keep our sets fresh and different with each performance.
Are there any songs that you find are particular crowd pleasers?
LAURA: Jubel by Klingande still gets a massive reaction!
BEN: Any big tracks with saxophone or horns always get a big cheer for some reason!
You’ve toured so much of the world this year – where has been your favourite place to perform?
LAURA: It would take a lot to better our Ibiza gigs, but outside of that I always enjoy playing the UK and Ireland – we have some very loyal and energetic crowds here, they are the best!
BEN: Ministry of Sound in London was pretty special for me. Outside of Europe, we recently did an open-air gig at Zero Gravity in Dubai which was incredible. To be honest, not every gig is amazing so when you get one that goes extremely well, it really is quite special.
You have a busy schedule for the rest of the month, with gigs up until Christmas and on New Year’s Eve. Will you get a chance to rest at the start of the year, or are you straight back into work?
LAURA: Rest? What’s that?! Haha, no, Jan & Feb we’ve blocked out for studio and writing and then it’s back on the road in March. Before you know it Ibiza season will be here and then we’ll be heading for Christmas again! I love it though, only rarely does this job feel like work.
BEN: We’ve blocked January & February in the diary, but our plan is to spend that time in the studio working on productions, so even when we’re not gigging, we are still working in some sort of capacity. That said, we recently had a lovely time in Boracay chilling out for ten days, so we’re well rested at the moment!
Is there anywhere left on your travel bucket list?
LAURA: Work wise I would love to tour the US and Australia but for pleasure I would love to go to the Galapagos islands. We were meant to go for our honeymoon five years ago but we didn’t quite make it. One day hopefully!
BEN: We’ve been trying to get the Galapagos islands for a long time. I absolutely love nature so the Galapagos islands will be a real treat for me.
During your career, you’ve also had the opportunity to work with high profile brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Tommy Hilfiger, MTV, Mercedes and Storm Models. What has been your favourite experience so far?
LAURA: The Dolce & Gabbana gigs were wonderful. I fell in love with every dress they put me in! They looked after us so well and gave us great memories.
BEN: Probably the Dolce & Gabbana gigs. We did a tour of Europe and Asia for those guys and as you can probably imagine, the events were pretty special.
Are there any other brands you’d particularly like to work with in the future?
LAURA: Oooh…. Gucci, Chanel, Adidas, Nike – I wouldn’t say no to any of them but I’m pretty sure they would have a lifetime of artists to choose from before they got to me! LOL
BEN: I wouldn’t mind working with Oakley and getting some free sunglasses. I’ve spent way too much money on Oakley sunglasses in the past so it would be nice to get something back from them!
You reside in Ibiza – what is it about the island which is so special to you?
LAURA: My answer to this question could be very long as there is so much about this island that I love. In short, I find it my little bubble of heaven! You can dip in and out of the craziness yet also escape to some of the most beautiful and tranquil spots that I’ve ever been to. Two minutes on my roof looking out over the sea with a Yorkshire brew in my hand, and I’m the happiest girl alive!
BEN: For me it’s the nature and the people. It’s such a beautiful island, and we are blessed with some really nice friends.
You’ve been in the industry for a long time now – what are the biggest changes and challenges you’ve faced?
LAURA: Again I feel I could write an essay on this but I also need to choose my words carefully! Music tastes and evolution have sometimes been against me. I struggled playing to EDM the first time it surfaced but had to adapt accordingly as the dance floor was craving it. Also being a female in this industry has proven to be tricky at times with having to deal with the odd sexist male. However, on the flip side, I know that people have loved the strong image of a female playing the saxophone so I guess you win some, you lose some!
BEN: The biggest challenge for me at the moment is the people who chose to enjoy an experience behind their phones rather than actually live it. I get that people want to film things to capture the moment and that’s all good, but when you’ve got a dance-floor full of people who won’t or can’t get off their phones and actually enjoy it, you can’t help but feel like they’re missing out.
What has been your overall highlight of 2017?
LAURA: There has been some incredible moments this year but playing on the Amnesia terrace for Cream after Fatboy Slim is way up there!
BEN: Playing at the Hï Ibiza opening party with my Melon Bomb brothers. It’s the old Space and this was the first time it was revealed to the world since changing hands. It’s really impressive what they’ve done there and it was an honour and a joy to play a small part in the grand opening.
What should we look out from you during 2018?
LAURA: A change! We want to become a lot more creative with our sets whilst also incorporating much more original material. We have some writing sessions planned and all being well we will be releasing some new tracks throughout the year. Our Ibiza gigs will also be a little different from the last few years so big changes ahead!
BEN: We have some big changes planned for our Ibiza summer season, breaking the mould of previous summers and starting to spread our wings a little more. I can’t say too much at this stage, but it is very exciting indeed what we’ve got in store. Hopefully we will also have some killer tracks to release!
Thank you to Lovely Laura and Ben Santiago for their time! If you want to catch them live, check out their events page where you can find information on all forthcoming dates.
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