Published Sep 27, 2008Just before Hamiltons Junior Boys blew up in 2004 with their debut, Last Exit, co-founding member Johnny Dark left the group to focus on his own project. He found a soul mate in Nat Rabb, better known as one-man electro show San Serac, and the pair became Stereo Image. Its taken a few years but the duo have finally followed-up their well-received single "Red Nights with a full-length, cheekily titled S/T. There are some Junior Boys parallels with Stereo Image but listen closer where Jeremy Greenspan and Matt Didemus shape futuristic R&B with new romantic lament, Dark and Rabb focus more on highly stylized electro that frantically shudders with a creepy state of cool. "Red Nights rethinks the foundation of two-step, luring the erratic beat into a space of lingering synths and the claustrophobia of Rabbs alien croon. "Clamoring, on the other hand, recalls Art of Noises icy retro pop, complete with production as flawless as the work of Trevor Horn, while "Double Mirror is an extension of what Bowie was doing in Berlin with Eno. As Stereo Image say, "Junior Boys fans are welcome, but they neednt sell themselves so short because theyve got their own bag of clicks and tricks to build their fan base.
Johnny, how soon before the release of Junior Boys' Last Exit did you leave Jeremy Greenspan?
Johnny Dark: About a year before the first single. Jeremy finished the second half of the record with Matt [Didemus].
How were you looking to make Stereo Image different from Junior Boys?
I didn't really think about it that way, but I guess I'm more interested in things being concise now than I was then. That and more bass. Is that a sufficient plan? Are you in Nat?
Nat Rabb: Fuck man, I love bass! I was jamming Aux 88 this morning.
JD: Let's do it!
Do you hear much similarity between the two acts?
JD: I think if you compare us to what Jeremy and I were doing together, that demo we sent out and the other tracks we were working on, then yeah I think they are similar. What Matt and Jeremy are doing now, especially live with Dave, is probably as different from that first JBs demo as we are though...but I still wouldn't rule out crossover potential. Junior Boys fans are welcome.
How did the two of you begin Stereo Image together?
JD: My friend Jake introduced us and I gave Nat some instrumentals I'd been working on. He came back with "Red Nights" and we were rolling.
NR: We bounced a lot of ideas off Jake & Dee too, it's hard to overstate how much they helped.
Nat, what does Stereo Image give you that San Serac can't or doesn't?
NR: With San Serac songs I tend to pile stuff on top of more stuff, probably cause of that time I listened to Country Life like 700 times. Meanwhile Johnny can't get rid of stuff fast enough... it's a totally different way of thinking about music, catches me off guard every time.
Do you see much parallel between Stereo Image and San Serac?
NR: Well I only have one brain, but there is kind of a different narrative arc. It's all dance music though. And I always come back to that Hot Mix 5/Paradise Garage anything goes ideal.
Considering "Dark Chapter" was included on Junior Boys' Body Language mix, I'm assuming there were no hard feelings between Johnny and Jeremy?
JD: Nah we're cool, we are friends. It's not worth losing friends over band stuff, you know?
Do the two of you consider your ties to Junior Boys and San Serac as beneficial or more of a distraction for those discovering your music?
NR: I think there's enough common ground that it's a good thing, it's not so off topic. Like if Johnny was in Cradle Of Filth, maybe there wouldn't be that much cross-interest...
JD: I gave it my best shot but I never made it past the first round of auditions.
NR: Ha ha.
You guys are based out of Hamilton (my hometown, actually). Did the city/environment have any sort of impact on the music? From what I know, other than the JBs, there really isn't much of a scene for electronic acts...
JD: I think it's cool, there's weird stuff around. People are up for starting bands, they wanna do things. I enjoy a good Sublimatus/Tropism double bill.
What exactly was the objective going into writing and recording the album? Was there much discussion about how you wanted it to sound or flow?
NR: Our objective is people having a good time. It might sound flip but it's true! Life is short. So there was tons of discussion about how we wanted it to flow, to the chagrin I'm sure of Nik Kozub, who did a fantastic job mastering it and making a million changes. But the sound of it was all Johnny. He had the aesthetic worked out from the start.
JD: Wow, see I actually had no plan whatsoever and thought of each track completely isolated from the rest. It's a good thing that worked out!
NR: Yeah for real. I always write songs with the album as a whole in mind, for whatever reason. Johnny's like "get to the next single."
The album sounds like it was focused on using retro sounds as much as it is contemporary sounds. Would you say the two of you have two feet in one pool and two feet in the other? How would you describe the music?
NR: I wouldn't say we think about it in those terms really. We love so many kinds of music, and we enjoy unique juxtapositions. You just gotta follow the ideas to the end.
JD: All you can really do is bite stuff, so I guess for me I try to bite the sounds I like and force them to adhere to what I imagine the logic of stuff I loved from the past was. That usually gives me a big mess and I try to cull it down to a couple parts and chuck it Serac's way.
NR: I probably shouldn't say which track Dark considered a direct rip from Alan Parsons Project "Don't Answer Me," but I still have no idea how he got from A to B.
JD: Called out! Nat says I missed every note so we are in the clear.
I like the "2 step Robert Palmer vision of tomorrow's light rock" description. Did that come before the music took shape or was it a reflection afterwards? (P.S. Why do you think Robert Palmer hasn't been receiving much love in the '80s revival over the last few years? It's criminal...)
NR: Yeah that was an after-the-fact summary. But we did think about Palmer a lot. He's a hard one to get a handle on, the man was a complete cipher and a master of the self-canceling song. That's probably why he doesn't get love nowadays, some people find him downright baffling. I've seen it happen!
JD: I think he just got so iconic that he's never really left popular culture. People are still humming "Addicted to Love," they're still picturing the videos.
NR: Then "Trickbag" comes on and it's like what?!
How did you fine-tune the album for the live performances? Was it difficult adapting the songs for a stage show?
NR: Well a two-and-a-half-minute song that feels concise on a record might seem a little confrontational at a show. Like yo, we're trying to dance here guys! So we're changing it up to make it work. If it's not fun for people, then what on earth are you doing up there? Still we gotta keep it brief. I saw Universal Order Of Armageddon once in B'more, it was pretty awesome. (NRMLSWLCM)