Darkstar released their debut album, ‘North’ in 2010 and, following a change of label and a change of direction in their sound, release their second album, ‘News From Nowhere’ today. We sat down with James Young, James Buttery and Aidan Whalley to find out about their new sound, why CDs are not yet over and why they’re all difficult, obnoxious and moody. Their words, not ours.
THE NEW ALBUM’S OUT TODAY, WHAT CHANGES CAN PEOPLE EXPECT FROM YOUR SOUND?
James: The approach we wanted to take with the record was one of experimentation, we were just experimenting with new sounds, and trying to make it move a little more rhythmically. Not just percussion but all kinds of other parts throughout each track. Richard Formby also is on board, so that gave us much more scope to experiment with some of his studio gear. He’s got all sorts of interesting things to play with in his studio.
Aiden: It sounds a lot deeper and wider. Lots of poly-rhythms. We wanted to add a bit more energy into the music, get a new direction going from the older stuff, a personal interest to push ourselves and write with a slightly brighter mood involved.
James Buttery: It’s more analogue and more organic than the previous record.
HOW DO YOU FEEL THE BAND HAS PROGRESSED SINCE THE LAST ALBUM?
James: We left London to write this new record so that was a huge change of surroundings which had a massive influence on the record. We had so much space in West Yorkshire and time to develop our ideas. It’s evident in the final piece. I think for me, leaving London was the key factor in what we came out with. That was the biggest progression from my point of view.
Aiden: There was a progression in songwriting and music as well. We pushed ourselves. We wanted to create a different vibe on this album and explore some other kinds of sounds. We were open to a lot more ideas really. We didn’t limit ourselves sonically our approach was fresher. We could start a song with like a guitar or just a drum loop. It was inspiring in a way. We raised the level as well. We moved out of London. We went to a place specifically to make a record. And we did it on Warp and that allowed us to leave everything else behind and focus entirely on this. We were set up to do that.
TALK US THROUGH THE VIDEO FOR ‘AMPLIFIED EASE’, HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THAT?
James: A guy called Drew Cox came up with the concept. We were sent a fair few treatments and we quite liked the idea of that one. It was a little gross and I was interested in that.
Aiden Whalley: It stood out as the weirdest of the bunch. I didn’t choose that one initially. But after reconsidering it, I realised that the other ideas may not have been as unique. His references where distorted faces and all sorts of weird little photographs he included in the pitch.
YOUR PREVIOUS RELEASES HAVE RECEIVED MUCH PRAISE, DOES THAT ADD PRESSURE FOR ‘NEWS FROM NOWHERE’?
James: No, I don’t think it does. We’re at a stage where, obviously it would be nice for it to be received well but there’s not much you can do. You can’t have a say in what people think of something. I suppose there’s a little bit of pressure but it’s self-imposed pressure.
Aiden: There is a little bit of pressure because the last stuff was received really well. But with this new material I think we’re all really confident with it. We believe that we’ve improved in what we’ve already done in the past. I know it’s completely different from the early dance 12”s but personally we’re really happy with what we’ve made.
James Buttery: The only pressure I felt was being signed to Warp and being able to make something worthy of their record label.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE CURRENT MUSIC SCENE?
James: Obviously the music scene is changing quite rapidly, in terms of formats it’s released on and ways of releasing music. I personally don’t think the CD has long left and vinyl the same unfortunately.
Aiden: I completely disagree with that, as I know a lot of people that still only buy CDs. And vinyl is doing quite well at the moment. But you can tell it’s changed because when we released ‘North’ I remember us having a bit of problem when magazine where asking for free downloads and give-aways as that was the done thing to do. And we were a bit against that like ‘buy the album if you want to listen to the music’ But now, we weren’t reluctant to stream the album in full two weeks before it was released. It’s always changing, so you’ve got to adapt to that. It’s an interesting time where there is an uncertainty about where things are going. But I don’t think CDs will die. Not yet anyway.
James Buttery: I think that technology is the biggest influence on what’s going on in music at the moment. And it’s really interesting because if you can make a record in your bedroom with a laptop, that’s gonna mean there’s so much more different music that’s been made that might not have been made if you need a record label to make that happen and all the other mechanism that are required. So, I think it’s a real positive time in music. A revolution or something.
WHO’S IMPRESSING YOU?
James: I am into King Krule. Darren, Actress is always good.
Aiden: Oneohtrix (Point Never) is interesting. I like his productions. He seems to really channel a concept or something in particular. It’s interesting to listen to his stuff. Dance music-wise, I haven’t been listening to that much stuff lately.
James Buttery: Grimes. I like that record.
WHY DID YOU WANT TO WORK WITH HARLEY WEIR AND ED QUARMBY – WHAT DOES THE ART DIRECTION ADD TO THE ALBUM?
James: We worked with Ed because we went down a route with another designer that didn’t quite work out. Paddy our manager had introduced us to Ed and we were only aware of a few things that he’d done – like the sleeve for These New Puritans. When we met him, we really wanted to work with him because he was so enthused by wanting to do it. With Harley, our manager had sent us her pictures and we liked what she had done to manipulate the pictures afterwards. She’s very good. Since working with them, we’ve looked into both of them in more detail and they are both really talented actually. We are privileged to have worked with them.
FOR THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW THE BAND, EACH DESCRIBE EACH OTHER IN THREE WORDS.
James Buttery: Difficult, obnoxious, moody.
James: Ha, yeah. Difficult, obnoxious and moody for all three.
WHATA RE YOU HUNGRY FOR?
Aiden: I’m hungry for getting back to London and going back to eating in nice restaurants and walking about town.
James: You sound like a West London gentleman!
James Buttery: Revolution.