the 21st century band: Gods Talk
Around 13 years ago you couldn't move for bands of kids singing punky lyrics over jagged live electro bangers. Somewhere along the way the style – let's call it electroclash – morphed into the big room electro house of Justice et al, which then slowly, inexorably, turned into the bro-tastic shitshow of EDM. All the producers with a jot of sense about them scurried off to make obscure house records, and thus a gap – a void – has been created. Enter Gods.
They sound a bit like the New York acts of the early noughties – think Liars, !!!, or LCD Soundsystem- whilst also having enough bite to avoid sounding predictably retro. We knew absolutely nothing about Gods, having discovered them in a particularly unusual way (as you'll read in the interview), so we called the core duo of Benshi and Sion to hear what makes them tick…
Can you tell us how the band got together?
Benshi: We started working on our first record about two years ago now, so the whole operation is pretty fresh. We’ve all known each other since studying together in college though.
So who’s in the band, and who does what?
Benshi: I guess the core of the ensemble is Sion and myself. We share the writing and production credits and everything like that. The last string of dates, we’ve been touring as a four piece, with two more members; my brother Severin and also a friend of ours from Austria called Eliez. So I suppose it’s a bit of a shapeshifting affair, but I guess it also depends on what gig we play, as we like to do special appearances and that then depends on what songs we are going to put forwards.
Okay. So the extra members were bought in to give the live show a bit more of a kick?
Sion: Yeah, I think that’s it. We both write in different kinds of ways, but I know that for my part it requires more people to do it live. We’re not just the kind of people that will turn up with a USB stick and hit play, you know? We do as much of it live as humanly possible. So yeah, we needed another couple of pairs of hands to build all the parts really, at least with the last couple of shows that we’ve played. Who knows what the future will bring.
So although you both met in Cardiff, where are you both originally from?
Sion: Well, I’m from Cardiff originally and Benshi is from Innsbruck.
Benshi: Yeah, I’m from Innsbruck but I’m living in Berlin now and have been for a while.
How does living in different countries work?
Sion: It works with some effort to be honest with you. It just takes a little bit of effort to get it going, there’s a flight involved if we want to practice together etc. In terms of the four of us, we’re all in different cities, but we just make it happen. There’s a lot of back and forth over the internet and we do as much remote work as anything else. When we get together it’s almost like boot camp, with a really concentrated work ethic.
Benshi: We’ve known each other for a while now though and we know what we can do to facilitate the process for one another. Obviously it requires more planning than it would if we all lived in the same city, but it’s just a matter of doing it I suppose.
The first track I heard from you guys was the recent single. It sounded to me like the kinds of bands that DFA were putting out in 2002/2003. Is that a conscious influence on you guys?
Sion: To be honest with you, there weren’t a lot of conscious influences that went into it. I’ve found that my favourite tunes are the ones that come together in the first ten to fifteen minutes, you know? You’ve heard the album, so you’ll be able to tell that there are a lot of diverse influences that have made their way in and I think, for me, it’s a case of letting them take hold and run with it. For me, it’s more about the overriding emotion that you feel when you go into writing a track. That’s all you need. We’ve been doing this for long enough that any old shit is going to pour through your hands when you write it. But yeah, the overriding emotion tends to govern the way that the track goes. The first 20 minutes and the bare skeletons of the track were there. It was just one of those ones that flowed really quickly I guess.
Benshi: When you showed me the first snippet of what you had, I remember it just like that. Pretty much everything was there apart from the vocals.
Sion: Yeah, that’s it. So in terms of the influences… I don’t really know to be honest. They’re too wide to even begin to narrow down in any way. It’s great if people can hear certain sounds in it though. They’re doing a better job than I am if that’s the case. I’ve got a lot of love for James Murphy, as a producer, almost as a musical and creative entity in himself and I often find things like that more engaging and entertaining than the music itself. There are some tracks that are fantastic, like All My Friends is a wonderful track. As a creative entity I definitely appreciate James Murphy, there’s no two ways.
Do you see yourselves fitting into any particular scene at the moment?
Sion: I think it’s a challenge being spread over different continents, but there are different scenes blossoming at different times in different cities and it’s about working with the right ones at the right time. I think at the moment our main goal and aim is to shape the sound of what’s to come and then see if they take hold. So we’re constantly working on new material and hopefully putting some of that out next spring, and I think then we’ll be able to suss out, stylistically, where everything is going. That then will probably dictate how well we’ll fit into a scene.
Benshi: For me, for ages I couldn’t figure out whether that was a strength or a weakness – being part, or not being part of a scene. At the moment I can’t see that we’re part of any scene at all, but then I just stopped caring and it was really quite liberating to get there. Getting to that stage mostly just comes down to being interested in what the music sounds like and that’s really where we are at the moment.
So where is the new material taking you then?
Benshi: We’re just about to find out. We’re working on new material at the moment and the next three months will be primarily studio work, but we’ve also got our first date in France coming up on the 5th December, which I’m really looking forward too. But up until then, it’s hardcore production time, which is great and super exciting.
Sion: I think it’s safe to say that the track We, feels like a really good segway into the new material that we’ll be moving into and it’s not an accident that that’s the last single from the album that we’ll be putting forward.
Benshi: It’s definitely a pointer towards the future.
Sion: Yeah, so that’s an indication towards the kind of roots that we’ll be taking. The overriding sentiment is something that we’ll definitely be observing more in the new material.
I’m trying to understand how your writing process works. Do you actually get together to write or do you just send each other files over the internet?
Sion: It’s a mixture of stuff and it’s really multifaceted in that respect. We write as individuals and then we come together and exchange ideas. There’s a lot of stuff that happened in the studio in Berlin and we started an finished in that certain space of time. Really if anything, our operation has to be flexible for it to operate and in terms of the song writing and production process, that’s no different either. I’ll put together some ideas over here, fire them over to Benshi and get some feedback from him, or he’ll lay some stuff down on top.
Benshi: And also, we’re just producers you know. In a way, we’re just trying to impress each other with ideas and there’s something really exciting about Sion being my first port of call to show stuff too and see how he feels about it.
Sion: Yeah, I think that’s really hitting the nail on the head. I certainly get more of a kick out of a positive response from Benshi or the other two guys than I ever have from a review.
Have you ever given any of your stuff to any producers for them to turn it into something that is out and out dancefloor material?
Sion: I think we’re definitely open to it, but the album is still quite young and getting the right people to listen to your stuff, but then also getting the right people to treat it is not always something that happens over night.
Benshi: It also ties in with the experiences that we’ve had from the last two shows, the most fun we had playing live was when people danced. That’s something we get more and more of each time we do a show. So having stuff remixed is basically something that I feel needs to happen. It could also happen the other way around as well.
So I've got to say, I find it bizarre that I discovered you through a tweet from Charlotte Church
Sion: Charlotte tweeted us?
Yeah. Are you friends?
Sion: Yeah, I am. She’s not affiliated with the band in any way, but I think she keeps an eye out for what we do. Charlotte has really started to become a champion of following interesting music, especially over the last couple of years. That’s fantastic, I didn’t even realise she’d tweeted it. I’m going to ask her to do it a couple more times and see what comes of it! Haha!
Collaboration in the future?
Sion: Probably not, I think it’s fair to say.
Benshi: We’ve got enough stuff on our plates at the moment as it is.
Sion: Collaboration isn’t something that we want to write off, but I’m more interested in collaborations between different artistic platforms. Film artists, video artists with visuals and sound design. All that sort of stuff. We fill the music and someone else fills the visual side of things, interdisciplinary collaboration like that. That’s what really does it for me.
I think the video for We was quite strong. It was just simple and you had it working away, was that a friend that made that or something?
Benshi: No, it was a collaboration between a video artist from Canada and we just knew we wanted a really good video for this particular tune. There was no way that we weren’t going to get one, that’s how I saw it. So I just wrote to her after seeing some her stuff and she got back to me a week later and that was that pretty much.
Sion: She’s actually quite a prominent video artist over in Montreal.
Benshi: Her stuff is just outstanding.
Sion: We really just wanted her to do what she did, and for us to do what we did and coexist like that in the video. I think that’s the kind of collaboration that we’re interested in.
So presumably she had to fly somewhere for this? Where in Europe did this happen?
Sion: She was actually in Montreal at the time and we just did a video transfer.
Benshi: Well, she was in the process of moving from Montreal to Paris! We shot it in Berlin and did a rough edit here and then sent that to her which she then did her thing with. In the end, we pieced together the final piece here in Berlin.
You're such a 21st Century prospect…
Sion: You wouldn’t think it to look at us!
Benshi: I guess we have the next album title there. A 21st Century Record.
The other thing that I’m interested in, is that it’s very difficult for artists to support themselves now with music. How do you fit this in, as I’m assuming you have to work as well?
Sion: Yes and no. We both work within the arts anyway, so I’m a composer and I get paid for it, so I work solely within music. Then this is just an asset to that. We’ll also be generating from radio play as well so, actually at the moment, we’re making it happen.
Benshi: I work in various fields in the arts as well, I’m working with a Mexican painter at the moment and that’s the other big component in my life. My main focus is on the music though.
Do you think the fluid nature of your jobs allows you to do this? Compared to if you had say, a regimented 9 till 5 job.
Benshi: Well, it’s always precarious at this stage. We set our priorities first and then try to come up with a way that we can make it work.
Sion: Priorities shift as well. I think it’s fair to say that we work longer hours than 9 to 5 as well. It’s still quite rigid and strict as well. I mean, when I go abroad I have to take some time and I also have to compromise with a smaller studio set up as well because of the travelling side of things. So there are compromises.
So you’re signed with an Austrian record label, right?
Benshi: Yeah, when the first record came out on Wohnzimmer Records, those guys just approached us and we had a load of demos. Austria is like Wales in that respect, it’s quite a small scene. If you do something, people are bound to take notice in one way or another. So yeah, they approached us and we did a deal and we’re just going to see where the next bunch of demos take us. At the moment I’m actually really confident and positive that we’re going to get a nice signing for it.
Find Gods on Facebook over here