First Listen & Quick Fire: Aou – In The Shade – Soft Touch
Seth Troxler has gone indie… Echo and the Bunnymen/Joy Division/Cocteau Twins indie to be precise. His new label Soft Touch specialises in the "more celestial strains of Indie, Rock, Electronica". The label have already released material from R$N favourites Rework and with their third instalment they've brought AOU to the table with the 'Gordo Laika’ EP.
AOU combines the vocal aptitude of Guy Stevenson, multi-instrumentalist flair and the production knowledge of William Moreau and Quentin Sarda.
'Gordo Laika' is out digitally 27 Nov, and on vinyl 11 Dec. We've got first listen on single 'In The Shade' below:
Hey AOU! How’s it going? Where are you right now?
Well… we are technically on Skype right now. In the real world, Guy’s over in Camden and Quentin and I are in Paris. On how it's going… everything’s pretty weird right now. Paris just got blown up but we’re safe and sound. Very shocked and sad. Apart from that, things are okay. Thanks!
The EP is called ‘Gordo Laika’? As in the first animals to travel into space?
Yes and no. It’s a bit complicated. Yes – Gordo was an American monkey in space and Laika was a Soviet dog. Most of the time we misconceive the importance of those animals in space exploration – everyone remembers Neil Armstrong but no one really recalls the names of these animals… We wanted to pay some kind of tribute to them.
We also started out wanting to come up with a space travelling fictional character and their names fit the bill perfectly. 'Gordo Laika' is in fact a concept EP in the form of a triptych of songs with a thread running through space travel, memory and nostalgia.
Forget monkeys and dogs for a second. Which animal do you think would make the best astronaut?
You can’t forget monkeys and dogs! They’re part of a proud space travelling tradition. We’ve also recently wondered why cats haven’t been sent into space before, given how popular they are… Best viral video ever.
You guys span the Channel, right? Who’s better at the following, England or France?
That’s a divisive question! We were gonna say England but then again you think of Gainsbourg, Georges Brassens, Daft Punk… Air!
Hard to say. They’re both doing embarrassingly badly right now.
Well, there’s a lot of venues being closed in both cities for the last couple of years. England has always been better for its warehouse scene, but that’s suffering. If you look at Total Refreshment Centre in Stoke Newington, they’ve had loads of trouble with the neighbours and they’ve had to be more selective with the nights they put on. It’s more about gigs now and less about all night parties.
In Paris, all of this is newer so there’s an emerging scene – especially around 6B, the building where our studio is in St Denis. It seems there’s less trouble with neighbours and property developers, etc…
What’s clear is that, in both cities, councils are trying to kill the nightlife and it’s sad because both cities are known for their vibrance.
d) Food… actually, no need to answer that one…
Depends who you ask from the band… As Frenchies, Quentin and I like stew and shepherd's pie, but if you ask Guy, the roastbeef in the band, he'll tell you that the Brits are well ahead of the French now… let's not debate about this.
How did the connection with Seth Troxler’s new label Soft Touch come about?
Our manager Annie introduced us to her friend Christophe, who’s a DJ with Futureboogie, when we first played in Bristol. We had a great time together, he was digging the music and put it into Seth Troxler’s hands at his new label.
How do you see the conversation between dance music and indie, if indeed there is one at all?
They’re obviously very closely linked now.
In the early 90s there was a clear distinction between genres but now it’s part of a bigger mélange, an organic merging of different influences helped by it being so much easier to produce music and bring in any style you want. We’re thinking here, for instance, of Ed Banger in France, Soulwax and their 2ManyDJs project in Belgium. When you listen for the first time to 2ManyDJs' mash up of 10cc with Destiny’s Child, it started to feel like open doors for getting away from tribes.
Looking specifically at indie and dance music, indie is digesting dance music, and vice versa, because the live scene has changed.
There’s a closeness between DJs and bands now and we love that tradition of artists like Caribou, Etienne Jaumet and Battles who are using real instruments to create some sort of electronic music.
Would you be up for remixing any of your tracks?
Yeah we’d love to remix our tracks. It kinda feels like we already have because every time we have an extension of label deadlines, we spend ages working and reworking them and we enter into a kind of mad zone where we keep shifting the pieces around, mixing and remixing over and over…
We hear Tame Impala, Vangelis, The Radio Dept, a little bit of Neu!… Who do you consider your main musical influences?
We like all those artists a lot but we’re probably more into the music behind them. When we listen to Tame Impala’s first and second albums, we assume they're influenced by bands like Cream, The Beatles, Pink Floyd. And then you dig beneath that stuff and you see that someone like Ginger Baker was highly influenced by West African music and jazz, George Harrison was obviously heavily influenced by Indian music. It’s all about the interconnections between the stuff we like from Kraftwerk to Salah Ragab, Womac and Womac to Maurice Ravel. A really huge scope of influences that is sometimes really tricky to combine.
Talk to us about ‘In The Shade’… The guitar sound on that track is lovely.
Glad you like the sound. It was originally made for another of my projects called Chinese Whispers, but we decided to take it and adapt it to AOU’s sound. That’s why it sounds more indie than the rest of the tracks. The lyrics are about people who were once revolutionary – or thought of themselves that way – reacting to younger people coming along with their own grievances. A generation getting old I suppose, not knowing how to handle a new kind of anger.
Who did the cover art?
A designer at the label called Eric.
We hear you love to travel. If you were drawing up a dream tour itinerary, what would be the first city on the list?
Tokyo. Simple. None of us have been there but Gordo Laika was written with an image of a sort of Tokyo Noir street scene in mind.
We’re nearing the end of the year – favourite album of the last 12 months? Best night out?
Kendrick Lamar, 'To Pimp A Butterfly'.
We’re pretty dull… we don’t get out much.
Where next for AOU?
We’re looking forward to gigging very soon with a new live formula that we’ve never tried out before. So really excited and anxious at the same time. We’re also working on new material for the next EP. We hope to bring in lots of new influences and ideas.