Published Jan 22, 2009With MGMT's psychedelic weirdness paving the way for the leftfield to be accepted into the mainstream, England's Late of the Pier arrive on these shores with perfect timing. Originally released in the UK back in August, Fantasy Black Channel is absolute bonkers, imagined by a group of four 20-year olds still discovering their instruments. Sloppy, however, it is not. Overwhelming may be a better word. Late of the Pier don't hesitate to throw every idea they have into their songs, which results in a triumphant effort that at times, may lack focus but is never short on inspiration and bluster. Taking cues from prog's grandiosity, hair metal's electric riffage and new wave's neon-bright synths, LOTP come up with a bag full of chaos that never fails to target melody. They give you a sense of what it would sound like if Justice produced Muse on "Focker," rob the grave of a demonic Freddie Mercury and revive Queen on "White Snake" and give us hip-hop's next great pillaged beat with "The Bears Are Coming," perhaps the most original pop song I heard last year. Some may write them off for their overblown audacity and inexperience. However, this is the kind of hedonism and futuristic vision I expect from a young band, and it fulfils my fantasies nicely.
What took the album so long to get a North American release?
It was always a bit bizarre when we heard it was going to come out in North America. But I think we were always just crossing our fingers and thinking, "Well hopefully it will last that six months and not age too much by then." Thankfully the reaction in England has only gotten steadily better.
How did you develop such an ambitious sound?
Vocalist Sam Eastgate: Interestingly enough, the beginnings were as humble, if not more so, than most bands because we all learned our instruments in this band. And a lot of the rhythms and melodies that go into the songs, those original ideas really just came from figuring out our instruments.
One of the things that we always found was that they weren't bad, the ideas that we came up with were a lot better than the skills with the instruments. It was really why we carried on. A lot of the bands at our college were forming and then just disbanding, but I think we were persuaded by the success of the things that we were creating. We were just drawn to writing hooks than just writing music for the people we went to college with. We were writing as if we were in Tin Pan Alley; when we wrote a lot of the songs we were thinking a bit ahead of our game.
Can you tell me a bit about how you came up with "The Bears Are Coming"?
When it came to making that song the melody came first, and I had this specific club in London in mind and thought, "I want to make people dance this way." It was kinda weird because I've never really been so specific with the way I wanted a song to be heard before. But I thought, "if I want people to dance a certain way, which kind of beat would I make?" I think it's kind of a weird backwards rhythm.
You should try selling it to a hip-hop producer...
Well, there has been so much stuff we've thrown away, and there was a lot of stuff we did before Late of the Pier that was us finding our feet. I found some of it the other day and it sounded like it would be good backing beats for Kanye West; very fresh, kinda hip-hop stuff. That's how we write music though, we come with this blank canvas because we don't really know what kind of a band we are. We haven't decided on a specific sound fo Late of the Pier really. It's always like picking up an instrument and doing something new with it. We do write a lot of songs starting with a new sound [laughs], we sound a bit like we're in The Mighty Boosh. There is this funny episode where they're looking for the "new sound" in the desert and it's this amazing cliched moment where they're searching around, and there's Razorlight and Chris DeBurgh, all of these has-been artists all looking for the "new sound" in a desert. I dunno, I guess we're just doing what a lot of people are doing, which is trying to make something sound really new. I guess the difference with us is that we don't stop at second best - sometimes it does take a long time for us to come up with an idea because we're quite stubborn that it does have to sound quite interesting.
So I take it there isn't a lot of new material on the horizon?
We've done a few new songs since we finished the album, but it would have been a lot faster, and I think we'd have written the second album by now had we more time off the road. The process of it is being excited by experimenting with sounds, and we haven't had a chance to do that on the road. We're not well-suited to laptop writing, and I'm always jealous of those guys who can do that while they're touring on the bus [laughs]. We need to get into the room with a lot of real, physical instruments and work on music. But the time is coming up for us where we can do that.
What kind of role did Erol Alkan play in the studio?
He's definitely not a normal kind of producer but like people say, a fifth member. And though he doesn't play an instrument, while recording in the live room, his presence just had an effect on the record, definitely. He has all the same tastes as us; it was a really weird coincidence. Everything clicked into place.
I hear you aren't happy with anything you've done so far. Why is that?
I think the way I feel about a lot of the records we've made is that there is still somewhere to go, which is important. Usually what I think is that we overdid bits of it, sometimes there's too much in there - you get excited by all the gadgets in the studio. I always admire people who can start out and be simple with their vision.
Late Of The Pier "Heartbeat"
Late Of The Pier "Bears Are Coming
Late Of The Pier "Bathroom Gurgle"