"I like listening to music that kind of inspires you to push yourself. It's gotta push you in a direction that makes you a little bit uncomfortable sometimes," Andy Harber tells Exclaim! It's what he hopes listeners will get from Last Night on the Planet, the sophomore album from his Wolverhampton, UK electronic duo Letherette (with Richard Roberts).
In a time when it seems every other pop tune is dripping with '80s production too pristine for the era, Letherette approach it from the grittier end of the spectrum. A lot of their music is played on synths, "and then put through samplers that make it sound old and downgraded in quality," Harber explains. "The process of making it was really to sort of emulate an old sound, and I think we went further with it — we wanted it to be gnarlier than something you'd hear from that period."
Indeed, Letherette's samples often have a beat-up quality that suggests being put through the digital wringer. "It's not just the sampling, it's the way you chop samples, the way you stretch them, the way you play with them afterwards. I think that that, in its way, makes sampling unique for everyone."
Unlike era-specific crate-digging, though, Letherette take advantage of the digital age in their search for sources. "The weirder the better," Harber says. "I love YouTube — it can be a digger's dream, in terms of finding something that you just wouldn't find anywhere in record shops, someone throwing stones down a cave or random sound clips like that."
There are plenty of subterranean grooves to be had on Last Night on the Planet, as well as a surprise or two, in the form of two hip-hop features. "When me and Rich first started writing music, it was all hip-hop, all very inspired by Madlib and MF Doom," Harber reveals. "Everything was just beats and samples."
Both rappers were relatively unknown before their collaborations. Pyramid Vritra was discovered by Harber during a YouTube browsing session, and Rejjie Snow contacted Letherette after Harber uploaded a beat to now-defunct social media app Vine.
"It was weird because [Rejjie] wanted to use it for his own album," Harber says, "and I was like 'If you wanna put it on your record that's fine.' I remember it was late one night and I think I'd been in the pub for a few drinks, and I emailed him on the way home and said, 'Let me have that track.' He got back to me and said 'yeah it's cool, just send me some more beats and you can have that one.' So that worked out."
Last Night on the Planet is out now on Ninja Tune.