Introducing: LF SYSTEM
Introducing: LF SYSTEMNovember 28, 2022
What’s the formula for a great number one single? If LF SYSTEM’s summer smash hit ‘Afraid To Feel’ is anything to go by, a memorable vocal hook, catchy breakdown, and the capacity for a right good singalong have helped to push this track to the top spot. Taken on by a new legion of fans, both dance music enthusiasts and otherwise, ‘Afraid To Feel’ has given hope to budding producers all over the UK showing that this peak position isn’t only reserved for your Ed Sheerans and Taylor Swifts: their contemporary impact can’t be underestimated.
“It’s changed our lives in more ways than one,” says LF SYSTEM’s Conor Larkman, one-half of the West Lothian-hailing duo, when we sit down to unpack their breakthrough track. “It’s a massive achievement, and just doesn’t really happen to a lot of people. It’s almost a bit overwhelming trying to put it into words,” he explains. Conor is joined by Sean Finnigan, LF SYSTEM’s second Scottish half, perched together in a bedroom-turned-studio in the pair’s hometown. “We made that track in the room we’re sitting in right now some three years ago,” Sean adds. “But we made it just to play in clubs with no intention or idea of what was going to happen!”
When the duo unveiled ‘Afraid To Feel’ back in May, they joined a small percentage of dance music producers who, in the history of the UK top charts, have managed to bag that top spot, even with such a concise discography under their belts. In fact, at the time, Sean and Conor were still comfortably putting in the 9 to 5 at their day jobs – working as a petrol station clerk and roofer respectively. But with the roaring success of their feel-good breakout hit reaching billboard heights alongside giants including Elton John and Kate Bush – who even sent a personal message of praise to the pair – there were still some uninvited apprehensions. “People keep saying, ‘oh you must feel the pressure’, or that everyone’s expecting more number ones,” says Sean. “But we don’t think about that. We never made this track to be number one.”
Photo by: Michael C. Hunter
“We try not to think about it too much or we’ll just get stressed and end up with imposter syndrome kicking in, so we’re just going to do our thing and keep having fun with it,” Conor adds. Though this humble twosome have reached such a milestone so early on in their careers, they certainly don’t seem too smug about it. “It’s mind-blowing stuff. Even getting the number one award sent to our house, or hearing gangs of people singing the song back to you at Amnesia, it’s all brand new,” Conor affirms. “We even got invited to a Celtic game!”
Football was always the hot topic before the duo ever lent their hand to music – and the reason Sean and Conor first met. When they buddied up through local football leagues as teens, they realised that they each had a mutual affinity for house music, “bumping into each other at FLY club in Edinburgh and going back to afterparties,” Conor recalls. “That’s when we started a DJ collective,” Sean adds. “There was a group of us, we would send the songs we were making to each other to finish off”.
For Sean and Conor, growing up in West Lothian didn’t suffice their musical cravings given that the scene was so minute, and so the pair branched out to the nearby cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh to feed on their proliferating tastes. With a resurged love for house music across the country, Scotland was starting to look like a world-renowned hotspot with clubs like La Cheetah, Sub Club, and The Arches glowing in the limelight through the noughties and early ‘10s. “We’re right in the middle of Glasgow and Edinburgh, so you could travel easily to both cities and get exposed to all this good music,” says Sean. “There’s just so much more happening on either side of the country that you could pick from.”
Photo by: Michael C. Hunter
They solidified their feverish addiction to dance music, and in a flurry, the duo were making records together back in their hometown when weekends spent at afterparties had passed. When it came to producing, Sean and Conor got a knack for sampling and tried their hands at picking apart “obscure” tracks. “Realistically, we’ll sit on YouTube for hours and go down a rabbit hole finding samples to use,” Sean explains. “We have the secret sauce for finding music,” Conor chimes, but when we question that “sauce”, the pair laugh. “It’s not that impressive,” Sean jokes. “It’s just a website where you can get specific YouTube finds. But it really works.”
And works it does – given that the pair built their number one hit on the 1979 disco track ‘I Can’t Stop (Turning You On)’ by Silk. Follow-up track ‘Hungry (For Love)’, which came a little later in the year, took from Sandy’s Gang’s 1976-released soul number ‘Hungry’, flipped into a high-energy dancefloor heater. Though the pair remain respectful when it comes to keeping the legacy from these classics intact, it’s a hard line to toe. “There’s a fine line, especially when it’s already been done before. You’ve just got to do it in a clever way,” says Conor astutely.
Agreeing with his musical counterpart, Sean interjects that it’s also difficult to “pay homage to something” without feeling like you’ve ripped off the sample entirely. “We use quite a lot of the sample [in ‘Afraid To Feel’], but we fully respect the people who make these records, because, without them, we wouldn’t be here,” he says. “It’s all legal, they get paid!” he assures us with a smile.
Photo by: Will Jaques
For the time being, LF SYSTEM have spent less time trawling through samples, and much more time focusing on the big league names knocking down their door for collaborations. David Guetta, Armand Van Helden, Diplo, to name a few – “we got to the point where we wanted to take all of them because they were all so good,” Sean laughs. “But we’re gonna take a backseat on remixes because we got offered a lot, and we had no time to actually make our own music, play shows, and do our own thing. Obviously we took the George Micheal one though, when something like that comes along you can’t say no,” he quips. “We just need to make our own music now, original stuff,” says Conor.
From here, the world really is LF SYSTEM’s oyster. As the pair continue to come to grips with the success of their breakout hit, they’ve still barely scratched the surface. When we ask if an album could be on its way, Conor and Sean look at each other with devilish grins. “Maybe not next year, but it’s something we’ve got our eyes on,” says Conor. “We’d love to go through all aspects of the music that we like, obviously so far we’ve only shown one side. It’d be nice to have an album that showcases all sides of LF SYSTEM.”
As the duo continue to gain momentum, there are plenty of new avenues opening up, including a potential US and Australia tour and a big UK festival season slated for next year. But above everything, the pair are most excited to get back in the studio. “I can’t wait to get this next year rolling,” Conor says modestly. After a whirlwind half year, the pair have barely had time to breathe since their lives were flipped upside down. “We finally now have time to sit down and crack on with producing. We just want to get all of those ideas in our heads finalised.”