Fresh off the release of their third studio album Unpatterns, English electro duo Simian Mobile Disco stopped over in LA this past weekend to headline FYF fest for the second year in a row. LA CANVAS sat down with member Jas Shaw to talk about the band’s evolution, the new album, and how to perform electronic music live.
MAX: Your new album Unpatterns is very different from Attack Decay Sustain Release. How would describe your transition from DJ/Club music to the roots of ambient, electronic house music?
JAS: I think that’s a pretty good description. I think it reflects our journey into electronic music. You can hear in Attack Decay that we were just coming out of being a band, and that whole scene of bands playing in clubs, and all of that kind of stuff which we take completely for granted now. But at the time even djing in venues afterwards there were no decks”
When we were touring as Simian, we would be like “oh lets have an after party somewhere” and they actually wouldn’t have 12/10s (turntables) there. Now every club in the world knows to have them. I guess you can hear that, in that record and we kind of felt we went too far with vocalists on “Temporary Pleasure.” With this record, we were super selfish with it, and think it reflects a lot of the stuff we listen to at the moment, and also a lot of stuff that got us into electronic music. A real gateway into “proper electronic music.”
MAX: So this is the second time you’re playing FYF, right?
JAS: Yes, hah we love it! We played it for the first time last year, and we were really excited that they asked us. Sometimes, because of the band that we are, we kind of don’t obviously fit here, as a lot of the bands are actually punk bands. We are really into that kind of stuff, so we were really pleased to be booked for it. We had a really nice time, and when they asked us to come back it was a no brainer, we said we would definitely do it.”
MAX: Also you guys have a very interesting light show, somewhat reminiscent of your music videos. Will there be one for tonight’s show? Any surprises you have in store?
JAS: Actually we have a new light show for tonight’s performance that we haven’t even seen. I mean we have seen it in production, because we are only coming out for one show. We said, okay, maybe we can find someone local to do it, because we couldn’t bring our lights over because they are so heavy, flying out would’ve been insane. So we have been talking to the local company, going back and forth with ideas. We were hoping to see it last night, but we came in late to check all of our gear, and it wasn’t ready, so everybody has been asking.
There’s something I kind of like about that, it’s going to be interesting. It won’t be smooth, and there will be some screw ups, but I honestly think that a lot of electronic shows I’ve seen that are flawless become decreasingly interesting. Honestly if there are some fuck ups, we will just be like “sorry, we will get back on it now.”
MAX : So the screw ups make it more unique then?
JAS: They make it HUMAN, which is one of the things I think is essential and often missing in electronic music. It doesn’t necessarily need to be human in terms of there needing to be a voice, but there needs to be room for error, room for good things to happen. The worst possible situation is you press GO, and it runs smoothly, and it’s the same EVERY night. No one wants that.
MAX : So you guys will be at the forefront of doing that?
JAS: I don’t know if anyone else will do it if we make a mess of it, but if you see the system that we have, it’s all happening live. There’s a lot of room to play well or badly, and there’s a lot of room for us to jam and take things based on how we feel the crowd is reacting, and how we feel actually.
With all of those things, I feel like a good live show should be a collision of how we are feeling, how the gear works, who else is playing during the night, and how the crowd reacts. Even to a certain extent, paying attention to the kind of PA you are playing on. If you are playing on a PA that is very “subby,” like particularly if you are playing a warehouse party, you can get away with playing really minimally. But at a venue like this, we will probably play more vocals, because it’s kind of a rock show. It doesn’t have the same pressure here that it would in a room, like the physicality of it.
All of those things, without really considering them, inform how the set goes, which I think is the nature of a live show. There are things that we have not worked out yet, but at the end of it, you are kind of nervous. You should feel a bit nervous before you go on.
MAX: How many times have you been to LA?
JAS: Quite a lot actually.
MAX: So what’s a typical day in LA for you when you’re not working?
JAS: You know, I feel like I haven’t spent very much time in LA. Every time I’ve come to LA it’s always been to play. And usually you arrive feeling pretty ropey, for one reason or another, in the afternoon, and then you leave at night. For example, I leave tomorrow at noon, I’m sure I will be going back to the hotel. But, one of the things I really want to do more is go out to the places where people actually live.
We always end up staying Downtown, or in Hollywood. We went over to visit a friend who lives in Silver Lake, and all of a sudden I was like, okay, this seems like the kind of place where people actually live.