Introducing: Y U QT

The mighty and high-spirited UK duo Y U QT detail their journey from being inseparable childhood pals and losing contact before reuniting to become one of the UK club scene’s most beloved and energetic pairings.

14 min
Y u qt 2023 press 007
Sept 26, 2023
Ben Jolley

“We basically can’t get away from each other,” laugh Leicestershire-born best mates Darryl Reid and Cooper who, as DJ/producer duo Y U QT, have gone from childhood pals to storming the UK club scene with their high-energy DJ sets and genre-spanning productions.

First meeting at Lutterworth High School in Year 7, they bonded over their love of music and skateboarding and have been largely inseparable since. When hanging out as kids, Cooper would DJ while Darryl perfected his skills on PlayStation game Skate. They shared a love of hip-hop, notably US rappers Nas and Biz Markie, but their music interests elsewhere differed: Cooper liked house, but Darryl preferred guitar music; incidentally, he played in a band with Cooper’s brother.

When the pair finished GCSEs, Darryl went to music college while Cooper stayed behind to study media for a year at A-Level. However, they weren’t separated long, as Cooper soon decided to join Darryl for “the biggest doss on Earth.” With 90% of the course being practical, they skipped their few theory lessons. “We were given a lot of freedom to do what we wanted… most of the time,” Cooper remembers. “It was great because we weren’t the type of kids who liked sitting down in a classroom with a pen.” In contrast to their school teachers, the college tutors “allowed us to be ourselves.” For the majority of their two-year course, they were in the studio; “everyone knew we would probably be better off there and not disrupt lessons,” Cooper laughs. Despite this, no songs were created together; instead, they would make “silly stuff, like Darryl rapping… “It was never anything serious or with a specific goal,” Cooper recalls.

Living in villages on the outskirts of Leicester, they felt removed from the city’s music scene and didn’t start going to clubs until they were 18. When they started DJing properly together, Cooper recalls that it was amid the UK dubstep explosion; the first dubstep night outside of London, Kontact was held in Leicester and hosted sets from Skream and Benga. “That was so exciting because it was a completely new sound,” he reflects. Darryl also remembers fidget house being “absolutely nuts” locally, with artists like Lee Mortimer, A1 Bassline and The Bloody Beetroots.

While Cooper would work on the door at Sophbeck, his steady income came from day shifts in retail. Darryl, meanwhile, had progressed to media college and, after making music on his headphones, ended up touring Australia and Europe. This long-distance separation resulted in a “strange period of time where we weirdly didn’t hang out,” Cooper remembers.

Check out Y U QT’s latest Beatport chart.
Y U QT Beatport 1

Inexplicably, 11 years passed until the pair reconnected, but they quickly made up for lost time. “I was chilling with mates at mine and Darryl came round, we had some beers and were just messing about making tunes,” Cooper recalls. After this “silly session,” they decided to meet up in the week. A shared epiphany followed: ‘Why have we never made music together?’ “It was always a super separate part of the friendship,” Darryl remembers, “which is mental thinking about it.”

Their first time making music was a case of putting their heads together. Next time round they shared each other’s playlists, including ‘98/99 garage tracks by Sunship and MJ Cole. This gave them a reference point to work from. Darryl says the first track they made was “like if you put both of our influences into a song… but maybe it was too many influences.” Their second – far darker and grime-orientated – “was a case of throwing different things in and going with it,” Cooper recalls. “We’re probably always looking for each other’s approval,” Cooper says of their creative process; “and that works well, because you’re constantly pushing one another.”

Thanks to their rapid work rate, they quickly had five tracks finished. Cooper knew exactly who might be into them, and he was right: garage scene-leader Riz La Teef wanted to release them on his then-new label. While this presented, as Darryl jokes, “the biggest cheat code ever,” they needed to come up with an artist name. One problem: they only had the time it would take for the record to be pressed. As Cooper puts it, six weeks of “sending each other random shit via texts” followed. Incidentally, Darryl had started researching stars in the solar system and discovered that one is called UY Scuti. When he saw the message, Cooper replied ‘what about Y U QT?’ Job done.

With the release of their 2021 EP, Dancehall Damager, they had landed on a distinct but hard to categorise sound. “If you pick out someone like Bicep, what do they make?” asks Darry. “They make Bicep and as long as there’s a Bicep sprinkle over the top, it works.” It’s an ethos they share: “everything has the Y U QT sound, but we want that to be wider because more people can come into the gap,” Darryl considers. One thread that ties the Y U QT world together is the UK-centric sound at its core. “Whether it’s rave-y, jungle-y, garage-y, house-y or bassline-y, it has a British-ness.”

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This wide-scope approach to dance music applies to Y U QT’s DJ sets, which feature 85% their own music. “It bounces around that whole world,” Darryl summarises, citing one track that “broke the boundary massively”: Skin On Skin’s “Burn Dem Bridges.” “That did something where it’s alright to play in a techno set, a house set, a grime set, a garage set… that dome of music is what I’m interested in.” Regardless of the type of tune they play, there’s one constant: Darryl and Cooper’s tireless energy. “For the whole night, we literally don’t stop dancing and acting like children,” Darryl jokes. “Because me and Coop are so happy behind the decks, people often say they feel ten years younger at our shows. Everyone is super happy and knows the vibe, too; there’s no worrying about not being able to dance in a certain way because… just look at what’s going on in the DJ booth.”

While such sheer joy could be interpreted as the antithesis to competitively stationary and expressionless DJ culture, Darryl says they’re just enjoying the moment. “If you’re given a free bar and a pair of decks with your best mate, you’re gonna have a good time!” Cooper feels the same: “I still find it weird that people watch a DJ, so if people are looking at you, they want to see something fun, and that then translates to the audience. If we’re jumping around like mad, they might feel it’s okay to do the same and be themselves.”

The vibe rubs off, particularly during the ‘ALL NYTE LONG’ shows, which they describe as their favourites to play. “It’s five hours of showing off the music that we like, so when we get to the heavier stuff everyone’s so ready for it,” Darryl says. They’re equally connected to their fans online, too; far from keeping track IDs hidden, the pair happily send out their dubs on request. Arguably their biggest dub to date has been energetic jungle roller “Y’all Ready For Dis,” which, thanks to a spin during Yung Singh’s Boiler Room set, gave them an “accidental” viral moment. “That track has opened up our audience massively,” Cooper says – and not just in terms of their fanbase, which now spans drum ‘n’ bass and jungle. Bookers who previously pigeonholed them into garage-only line-ups “now saw what else we do”, he adds. When the pair played it hours after making it, at the opening show of their tour, in Nottingham, “the room went absolutely ballistic”, Darryl remembers.

Ever since, their edits have been getting into exactly the right hands. Bicep play their take on “Apricots” in their sets, and Joy Orbison has been rinsing the Y U QT version of “Hyph Mngo” for ages. “It gives you such a big certificate of authentication,” Cooper enthuses, “especially because some people might be like ‘what are you doing? You can’t do that to this song!’” Darryl continues: “Because we’re not that massive… if Four Tet remixed Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles,” they’d say ‘it’s Four Tet, we all love it,’ but the more you do it, and the more those people play it, you realise ‘okay cool, maybe we can do this.’” Darryl thinks their keenness to take snippets from other tracks stems from their love of hip-hop: “It’s almost like paying homage to the original songs, while putting our spin on them and bringing them into the Y U QT world.”

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They’re certainly doing something right. Earlier this year they made their own Boiler Room debut and went on a US tour. Now, with a hefty gigging schedule lined up for the next few months, they’re also gearing up to drop their new EP, BABE?. “These tunes are a step in a slightly different direction,” Cooper teases, adding that they are harder to pin into just garage. “They’re garage-influenced monster songs,” Darryl enthuses. Although they struggle to pinpoint exactly where they fit into the scene (“I don’t have a clue, musically,” Darryl admits), Cooper says that “while we came up with the big garage resurgence, it feels like we’re slightly leftfield of that.”

One thing’s for sure, though: the pair remain grounded to their roots – quite literally, having stayed in Leicester. “A lot of people in London have got a vision of where they want to go musically, but being outside of the scene, I think it’s really beneficial to not be wrapped up in any of that,” Cooper considers. Having achieved success on their own terms, the duo would love for their DIY story to inspire other people.” When people were getting to that age of moving to uni, everyone I knew felt they had to go to London,” Cooper recalls. “So if a younger kid can think outside that idea and realise they can make something of themselves in their hometown, that’s a great thing.”

Y U QT’s BABE? EP drops on October 27th. Buy it on Beatport.