David Best- When Steve and I first started we wanted to combine electronics with the sound of groups like can. It all stemmed from that really. Yes, I am very bored of talking about the name.
AS- You are a relatively young group, so the process of developing your sound must be fresh in your minds. How do you feel your sound and craft has evolved since forming? Has live performance played any role in directing this process?
DB- Well, we’ve been together for 8 years in one form or another so the sound of our group feels quite natural, although playing live a lot has maybe made us make the music more direct and immediate. It’s hard to do a song like cylinders live for example. You’d just see a rush for the bar, if they’re not there already.
AS- Your music is deeply layered, containing aspects of shoegaze, electronic dance music, funk, rock, but always with a distinct pop sensibility making each and every song extremely catchy. How did you go about developing this sound from your major influences? Have you struggled at all with toeing that line between being influenced by an artist and turning into a tribute band? Was all this a very cerebral or more of an instinct, trial-and-error process?
DB- We have the sound that we all make when we get together first. Obviously we tip our hat to other groups we like and we make no secret of it. But we don’t use other people’s melodies or words like some other groups I could mention. I think we should have pretended to not know who can were then maybe we’d get away with it like a lot of others. It must be something about those German groups that make people hypersensitive to anyone else using the same beat. The Motown beat is used more nowadays, but acts who use it are described as referencing the past and we get called a tribute act because of Ankle Injuries and Cassettesingle and a bit of whispering. It’s bollocks.
AS- The variety of eclectic music being created today is nearly infinite. This can make exploring new genres or even music in general an intimidating task to the casual or uninitiated listener. Most people can name a few pivotal, “gateway” artists that really paved the way for their love of music. What artists proved to be your “gateways”? Do you have any particular strategy to exploring the music that’s out there?
DB- Obviously when I heard Can as a teenager it had a big impact. Discovering Serge Gainsbourg has probably been the biggest influence on me personally. I can’t speak for the others. As a kid I would trace the influences of groups i liked, from the Fall to Can for example. Aphex Twin and Kraftwerk got me into electronic music, KMD then mf Doom got me into hip hop. Everything has it’s origins. That’s why accusations of ripping people off seem redundant with us. It’s not like we stole the melody of Computer Love and added it to a shit song. I was almost sick when I heard what that group did to that song.
AS- Your lyrics on 2006’s Transparent Things seem to pull from all types of situations and experiences, even adapting a childhood rhyme, “Dem Bones,” to hilarious effect. Do you develop lyrics and music individually or together? Do you have any general themes for lyrics and the seeming litany of pop culture references in your songs?
DB- I think lyrics are really important and spend a lot of time on them, even if they turn out really simple, like Collarbone with the Dem Bones thing. The last album seemed to be preoccupied with body parts for some reason but I don’t know why. Because of my limitations as a singer I’ve developed a way of writing that suits my voice and our music. I suppose unless you are a storyteller like Ray Davies you can only talk about what’s around you and what has happened to you.
AS- Have you recently uncovered any artists who you found exceptionally engaging, inspiring or impressive (new or old)?
DB- I’ve just heard Robert Wyatt’s new album, which is beautiful. I like lots of French 60s psych stuff and the odd northern soul tune. Project Jenny Project Jan from Brooklyn have just released a great album. I like the Make Up a lot. There’s a song by Carolyn Sullivan called Dead which I’ve just heard which is worth hearing. I have spent a lot of time listening to theme time radio hour over the last month or too. That’s where I heard the Dead song.
DB- The wheel nearly fell off our van in Sutton Coldfield and we nearly died which wasn’t a barrel of laughs. The roads are better in the States but our service stations are better. We’ve only done one tour in the UK. I’d be happy to leave it at that to be honest.
AS- How was your experience playing with Peter, Bjorn and John? Was that your first tour of the States?
DB- It was our second tour. I like supporting other groups because you are not the main attraction and there’s less pressure. PB&J were good to us and we appreciated being asked along. It was good to play with Au Revoir Simone on that tour too.
AS- As a British group expanding and solidifying your fan-base, have you stumbled onto any struggles on the way to winning over American fans? Hopefully, we haven’t been too rough. I know you have played DC before, a town whose audience is infamous for their crossed arms and stoic resolve not to dance, no matter how funkalicious the beat. You can look forward to playing Baltimore, where things can be a bit more lively and free-spirited.
DB- The audiences have been great on the whole. DC was the first show with PB&J so it took a bit of getting used to playing in bigger places but it went ok. The Minneapolis crowd is really good. Philadelphia, and Boston too. We’ve been really lucky. We’ve never been to Baltimore so looking forward to it.
AS- Music heavily involving electronics is often a challenge to reproduce live. What is your approach for translating tracks from the studio floor into a kinetic live show?
DB- Everything other than the drum machine is live so it hasn’t been a problem because we all keep busy.
DB- Hopefully the fact that we are doing music for the right reasons comes across. We only ever wanted to make good records. We don’t want our pictures everywhere and we carry our own stuff. But it would be nice if someone else carried it in the future.
AS- Do you have a new album in the works to follow Transparent Things? What are your goals for this tour and your next album? Plans for the rest of 2007?
DB- After this tour we are going round Europe for a bit, then in mid December we will finish the next album. It’ll take a couple of months and we’re really looking forward to doing that. It’s going to be called Lightbulbs. Like the lightbulbs cartoon characters get above their heads when they have an idea.
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