What’ve you been up to so far?
Matt: Just mooching about really. Whenever I come to Beacons there are so many people that I know, sometimes people that I haven’t seen for ages, and I end up not watching any bands. But I went and danced to the Optimo set. We were catching up with our friends Golden Teacher and drinking, pretty much.
Is the Yorkshire music scene a good community of friends, then?
Matt: Yeah, definitely. One of the things I like about Beacons is that it feels like home in a way. It’s great because every year I feel like we make new friends as well, just from doing interviews and meeting new people.
What do you think of the Leeds music scene at the moment?
Matt: I think it’s great. Leeds has always been, and still is, the only place that I want to make music. I’ve lived in Leeds for 15 years now and the music scene in Leeds has always been great. It’s really prolific, and it tends to regenerate itself every few years with new bands coming through and new styles of music. There was a time when Leeds was known for amazing post-rock bands, and then it totally switched to the opposite, and people wanted to play party music like Devo. Bands like Deerhoof were a big influence who came along and made something more joyful and less pensive.
Would you consider yourselves part of a disco revival?
Matt: Well, I don’t know. We are not really aware of a disco revival.
Jed: There’s certainly been something over the past few years. Someone said that the 80s revival has been going on longer than the 80s. It’s lasted which is quite interesting. For us, we were just interested in the particular moment where dance music wasn’t really a thing, it was just people making music. Disco had happened, but there were still lots of people who were influenced by disco but weren’t sure where they were going next so they’d hire a studio, get some drummers in, get some bass players in, guitars, synths. And then these drum machines would start coming in, and it was just experimenting with that, just putting records out. It would be underground really, limited appeal to dance clubs. And not really England but New York. I wasn’t alive, but it seems to me that that period of time was extremely experimental technologically and musically because it wasn’t like they had to stick within a genre. In terms of what’s happening now with dance music and the disco revival, we’re not that aware of stuff that’s going on partly because in our city there aren’t any other bands doing what we do. If we are going to listen to disco, we will listen to stuff that is a lot older. We don’t listen to a lot of contemporary music.
Nile Rodgers was all over everything on 2013, though.
Jed: Good! He does have a knack for writing hits.
Matt:He’s a genius. He’s a producing genius.
Jed: When you go and see Chic, he starts playing loads of Sister Sledge to say ‘I wrote this as well!’ He’s one of those producers that the world knows has a midas touch. He’s got his unique guitar style and stuff but people want to work with him because everything he touched was a number one album.
What does it take to make a hit record?
Jed: When you listen to Chic and Sister Sledge and stuff, that is some of the most beautiful pop music ever written. And there’s no musical expense spared. They have got the finest musicians that they could find. The way it’s recorded and the amount of time that it took, the quality control that it is put through. If you look at Happy by Pharell Williams, it sounds like you could just make that, but you can’t. There’s a few memes goung round on the internet at the moment about Miley Cyrus saying ‘FIVE PEOPLE WROTE THIS’. But look how much of a hit it was, and it’s because these five people know what they are doing.
A lot of people feel guilty about listening to these songs. Do you?
Jed: No, just do whatever you want. I would say that pop music is very readily dismissed, and I think that what people miss when they do that is just how hard it is to write a huge record or write a song. A lot of pop music is vacuous, but pop music has always been the same, always, like any other genre, a lot of it is rubbish, but some is incredible. Try writing a hit record yourself. David Frank was classically trained and he released a lot of boogy stuff under the name The System in the eighties, one of the first sort of synth funk bands ever, and he also wrote Genie in a Bottle for Christina Aguilera in the 90s. The guy’s like a thoroughly competent musician and he works at Berkeley teaching music. People like that are just phenomenal.
What is your writing process like?
Jed: Basically we just kind of get an idea and jam it round really, like most bands I imagine. Perhaps try and copy something else you have heard and get it wrong, making it something else. I don’t think anyone is original, at all. I think if you try too hard to do something, it tends not to work. I used to be in a band and we used to try and mix lots of styles together, and I used to think that I was being quite original by doing that. If you pointed it out to people, they’d get it, but otherwise they don’t. I don’t know, really. If you like doing something, just do it. It’s like all art. I’m no good at drawing, but I went to art class recently just because I wanted to do some art and I really like it and I want to keep doing it. But there’s nothing original in art, you just copy someone else, and I think it’s the same in music as well.
What do you think is special about music as an art form?
Jed: You can’t really ignore it if it’s there. You can choose to go in a gallery. But if you’re on the street and someone comes past you in a car, you hear it and it affects you. You don’t have a choice. You might hate it, or you might like it, or you might be indifferent to it. But you’ll notice it, and it will affect you.
Did you always consider doing music professionally?
Jed: I did a music degree at Leeds Uni, but it never occurred to me that you could ever make money out of it. They tell you that you can get a job in the music business or whatever, but I just like doing it which is the most important thing.
At university, are you taught about what is objectively good music?
Jed: You could pick what you were taught. I liked doing all the modules to do with pop and world music, and it was always to do with society and to do with people, and it wasn’t really to do with the technical parts of music. It was more to do with how it came about and stuff. I guess you can’t really understand music unless you understand where it’s come from, and I think it’s like that with other things in the arts. I do wish they’d pack it in saying you can get a job with X company, because that’s not what studying is about. Most people don’t work in the area that they’ve studied in.
What are your future plans now?
Matt: We’ve got some more gigs coming up. We’ve got three showcase gigs with a French label that we know called Alpage. We met them last year when we played in France and they’re really lovely. It’s run by a guy called Vincent who is in a project called Marklion now. They are a great electro label. French people do dance music so well. It’s a really classy label with some great acts on it so we’re helping them to forge a bit of a presence in the UK. We’re playing the Brudenell with them, as well as London and Liverpool. In October we’re doing a mini tour of the UK, and then we’ll probably work on a few more songs for recording.