Everyone loves a good time, and few people understand this better than the invariably fun, odd couple that is Illyus & Barrientos, two of Toolroom’s most hotly-tipped talents.

It takes but a quick listen to their extensive library of work, to see that these two are anything but your typical UK production duo. Their sound is as playful as it is infectious, funky as it is chugging. Audacious and bold, Illyus & Barrientos are a much-needed refresh in a genre that may have gone slightly stale in recent years.

In a world where it can seem like everyone is trying (really quite hard) to be something they’re not, one thing is for sure: Illyus Brown and Ivan Hall Barrientos are unabashedly themselves, and subsequently truthful to a sound that’s launched them into the centre of the scene.

Anybody who’s seen the duo perform knows that it’s hardly just their music that’s made them stand out enough to be chosen by Mark Knight himself to represent Toolroom on the 2019 roster. While some producers reservedly stand behind the decks, Illyus and Barrientos are fully immersed in the experience.

For them, it’s clear that working the dance floor is more than just a profession: it’s a way of life.

“Whenever you hear a record of ours, you know it’s ours” says Illyus with his typical, devil may care attitude. The two exchange glances and nod in agreement, as if his partner in crime Ivan (or Barrientos, as you know him) knew he was going to say that.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say they were communicating telepathically, or they’re just a match made in producer heaven.

In this case, you really can’t be sure which is true.

It’s clear it is this same energy that’s pushed them through what I would presume to be thousands of hours in the studio, bearing releases on Toolroom, Mother, and Defected. Together, they’ve birthed a unique take on the House music we all know and love, charming audiences the world over in the same way the duo charms everyone who crosses their path in real life.

Who would have thought? It’s not like, say 15 years ago Illyus was pushing Hip Hop mixtapes and Barrientos was emulating Beethoven in America’s classical music academies.

Oh, wait, yes they were. Actually, that’s exactly what happened.

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the story of where it all came from is just as interesting as the very tunes the two relentlessly churn out each week. After all, behind every artist who’s seen a breakout year like these two, there’s a long, winding set of influences that help to birth a sound that is uniquely their own.

And to say that the Glaswegian duo’s sound is eclectic would be an understatement.

A big one.

“The crowd is everything to us. Without the audience, what’s the point?! They feed off of us just as much as we feed off of them.”

I nod, carefully jotting down these last few words, and there’s an odd moment of silence. If you couldn’t already tell, this is something that doesn’t often happen when in the presence of both Illyus and Barrientos.

It’s a rainy day at Toolroom HQ in Maidstone, and we’ve turned what’s sometimes Mark’s office (he tends to move around a lot) into a makeshift interview space. I can’t help but think that at any other label office in the world, this would get you booted out faster than you can say ‘Toolroom’, but here, it’s second nature.

Perhaps it’s this very easygoing sense of ‘live and let live’ that’s made the partnership between the Illyus & Barrientos and Mark Knight’s legacy imprint so successful in such a short time. Overnight stardom isn’t common in the music business, but after hanging out with Ivan and Illyus, you start to wonder how it could have gone any other way for them.

“Ya know man, it’s just gotta make the crowd smile,” says Illyus. “That stuff matters to us.”

And smile, the crowd has. 2019 has seen the duo making appearances at Toolroom’s Sunday night party at Eden in Ibiza, supporting Calvin Harris at his Friday weekly at Ushuaia, and even at Radio 1’s Big Weekend alongside Mark Ronson, Annie Mac, and MK. While I don’t think Illyus or Barrientos are much for clichés, you could say that for these two, the only way to go is up.

With an encyclopedic knowledge of Disco, Hip-Hop, and of course, House, it would be a crime not try to get inside the heads of these two to find out just where tracks like So Serious (one of their key Toolroom releases that’s now sitting at nearly four million Spotify plays) are coming from. While it’s clear that the duo found inspiration in the odd Chic record, who would think that it was names like DJ Premier and Roman Flugel’s early Electro inspired work that helped birth a sound that’s taken the UK by storm?

Most artists would blush at such an admission, but not these two. For many artists, some things are better left unsaid, but this isn’t one of them, and Illyus and Barrientos aren’t ‘many artists’.

If not to satisfy our curiosity alone, their story serves as a testament to the relevance of House music in 2019 and the enduring power of hard work, dedication, and a positive attitude in today’s scene.

Without further ado, we’re getting an inside look at five records that helped to inspire the Illyus & Barrientos sound.

Growing up in Frankfurt my influence was mainly hip hop. It spoke to me in a way where it felt quite rebellious to listen to hip hop. It was the only way forward for me, and I looked up to guys like DJ Premier, Pete Rock, and Rakim, to name a few.

I think all those influences are reflective in how I make music along with Barrientos today.

We aim to make our music incorporate the I&B stamp on it, so whenever you hear a record of ours…you know it’s ours!

We always let everyone do their own thing, as long as they’re enjoying themselves.

And that’s what we did with this one.

My mother made sure I had plenty of soul and disco in my life, as music has always been a massive part of her life.

I think all those influences are reflective in how I make music along with Barrientos today.

And what better track to influence you than this?

Does this one even need an explanation? A true classic.

I was born in Glasgow but grew up in Frankfurt – I lived there for around 15 years. Of course, Flugel is a Frankfurt OG and a big time hero there.

On various occasions, we like to take a risk with some old classic tunes that people may have forgotten about or maybe a track that is a bit different to the vibe of the night.

The trick, for us, has always been to do a little of digging, make it’s not a Ministry of Sound compilation track, and make sure it’s something that’s gonna make the crowd smile!

And with a synth line like that how could you not?!