Aluna Francis and George Reid went from being reclusive bedroom-producers to becoming two of the freshest faces of British R&B and garage in just a couple of years. The duo started recording in George’s DIY studio, aka bedroom with a MacBook, in 2009 after they hooked up on MySpace.
With intricate beats, smart repetitions and catchy hooks, AlunaGeorge make tongue-in-cheek but ambitious electronic R&B. They’re heavily influenced by early noughties American R&B’s sense of simplicity, but they combine it with something their US counterparts don’t have: UK dance culture. Their debut album, ‘Body Music’ was released yesterday and looks set to cement their reputation. Get used to Aluna George, thy’re here to stay.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR SHIFT FROM BEDROOM PRODUCTION TO STUDIO PRODUCTION.
George Reid: It’s pretty much the same set-up. It’s the same software; it’s the same person singing – it’s just a piano and a computer mainly. The only difference is we’ve got a space to do it in where I’m not annoying my neighbours.
Aluna Francis: We’ve gone down in size. Our room now is smaller than George’s bedroom [where they previously recorded], and it’s got padded walls.
George: We’ve got a vocal booth for Aluna whereas before – it’s quite tragic – we only had one set of headphones that we could work from, so when we were recording Aluna would sing, and I’d just be sitting there hearing her singing and nothing else.
Aluna: I used to sing up against your duvet tucked in to the door, didn’t I?
IS THERE ANY INSTRUMENT THAT HAS THE POTENTIAL TO CHANGE YOUR SOUND IN UPCOMING PROJECTS?
George: A lot of the drum programming I do is manual on the arrange page; you draw it in – it’s sort of like Lego but with audio files. It’s how I like to work; I can see it. There’s a drum machine I want to try out, it’s called Machine, and it’s like an MPC from back in the day but you can just plug it straight in to your computer; that would be interesting to work with, because it might be a slightly more natural rhythm that comes through. But I’m always trying to make stupid noises; half the time they’re just awful, and she’s got to be able to sing with them as well.
THERE’S BEEN A LOT OF HYPE SURROUNDING YOU, AND YOU’RE BECOMING MORE MAINSTREAM. IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO KEEP A LITTLE EDGE THOUGH?
Aluna: I don’t think it’s a conscious thing. We just want to keep doing the music that we enjoy.
George: We’ve just been lucky that what we’re doing has been picked up by so many people. I’ve never known anyone to make that sort of conscious decision. And I guess the reason it might have crossed over is that we’ve always wanted to be able to hum the song back to ourselves. At the end of the day that’s what’s really important – because we both had a time in our past when we were doing really super-niche things, like super self-indulgent music.
BUT ULTIMATELY YOU NEED CATCHY HOOKS?
George: Yeah, for ourselves more than anything! It was nice to be able to remember the song.
Aluna: We do love a good pop song.
YOU’RE INFLUENCED BY TIMBALAND AND THE NEPTUNES; WOULD YOU CONSIDER SAMPLING ANY OF THEIR SONGS, LIKE THE WAY JAMES BLAKE OR THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS DID?
George: I find sampling is at its best when it’s something taken really out of context, and used as a completely different thing musically. Also there’s something about sampling something that’s so recent that feels a little bit like… if I was to do it I’d feel like I could have tried harder to find something else. I hardly ever sample just because I work from a piano or a guitar rather than taking inspiration from a drum loop.
FROM OVER PRODUCED POST-DUBSTEP TO COMMERCIAL R&B, YOUR INFLUENCES ARE PRETTY ECLECTIC.
George: Being your average laptop producer guy, you just listen to this hyper-edited, glitchy music. I always think it’s the equivalent to how kids learn to play the guitar really fast. They learn all the solos really quickly. It’s kind of like that, you learn all these silly techniques that are not necessarily very usable or applicable to making a good song. But it still impresses me when people make noises that you’ve never heard before. That’s an art in itself. There’s so much interesting music to hear. On the flip side, commercial hip-hop and R&B have a beautiful simplicity. It’s so few notes.
WHICH ONE IS MORE SATISFYING: RECORDING OR PERFORMING?
George: Personally, I prefer recording.
George: It’s not so much the “recording”, but the writing and the creating of the song.
Aluna: George and I are similar; we’re not natural extroverts. I’m more extrovert than George, but I’m still quite shy. And you’re always overcoming that in a live show.
ARE THERE ANY CURRENT ARTISTS THAT MAKE YOU ANXIOUS, AND MAKE YOU FEEL THE NEED TO UP YOUR GAME?
Aluna: Potentially… James Blake.
George: I was so impressed with him at Pitchfork Festival. His bass was ridiculously good. I don’t know how he did it. I don’t think it was a special sound system they had.
Aluna: It was like a soft fog horn, wasn’t it?
George: You know how sometimes at a big gig you can feel it in your chest? It was making our nostrils wobble.
Aluna: And at the same time, it was the most gentle music.
George: That’s the thing, at the same time everything was so clear.
Aluna: And you could still hear his voice over the top of all that, and it’s like, “how the fuck does he do that?” Aluna, you’re the only female member of the live show band. Do you find it easier to work with men?
Aluna: Well, you have to have rules. My fundamental rule is to never work with a guy who there’s a romantic possibility with. I do know that some bands, like Alpines, go out. I don’t know how you’d ever do that. It’s got to be all about music.
George: It’s the same thing for anyone who works with their partner. You go to work together; you go home together; you wake up together…
Aluna: Imagine having a lover’s tiff and trying to make a new single. Oh my God! It’s awful. Apart from that I’m a bit of a tomboy anyway, I get along with guys quite easily, but I love women! I’d love to have some girls in the band.
SO YOU DON;T WANT TO BE THE ALPHA FEMALE?
Aluna: No way, fuck it! I want a hot girl. I watched Peaches a few years ago, and she had this other hot, tall, slim blonde rock chick playing the guitar with her on stage, and it was so good. She didn’t go for somebody ugly to stand out more; she just went for someone amazing, and had fun with them. I’d love to have that.