Simultaneously maintaining an ear for the killer hook, and threading their albums through with the kind of tribal drum beats that seem to trigger peoples primal rhythmic urges, Brooklyn’s Gang Gang Dance have been making forward-thinking dance music for more than a decade now.
Across five albums and three EPs they’ve consistently ripped up the rule book whenever it’s suited them. Emerging from New York’s much vaunted avant-garde scene of the early 2000s, they were one of the first acts to embraced ‘pop’ in a big way and have built a firm reputation for being champions of new music, even giving grime an early airing back in 2008. (Tynchy Strider somewhat mind bogglingly leapt from this to computer game adverts).
If Gang Gang Dance were a decade ahead of their time ten years ago, their pioneering electronic workouts have now been thoroughly co-opted by the mainstream: after all, who could forget the recent tussle with Florence and the Machine’s ‘Rabbit Heart’? You’d even think there was a danger that ‘the scene’ might be finally creeping up on them, if they weren’t already gone over the horizon.
At their only UK date of the year at ULU this week, I caught up with lead singer Lizzie Bougatos for a quick chat.
Hello Lizzi, have you guys settled in to the new line-up?
Yes and no. It’s certainly been confusing, I have many new names: Lazer, Blazer, Fat Lizzi, Lizz-o, Libby… I forgot the rest, but I wrote them down the other day.
Who are the other guys these days?
We have our new drummer Jesse, BDG [Brian DeGraw] plays keys and percussion, Josh Diamond is on guitar and our rotating bass players is currently Doug Shaw, otherwise known as Imperial D [High Life, White Magic, Ariel Pink] and this time we’re joined by Baby Love, aka Baby or TI.
OK. Have you been seeking out more music from far flung places? You’ve spoken about Indian and Chinese pop?
We’ve been listening to a lot of chill-out and new-age. Stuff like that KLF album – ‘Chill Out’, and some dancehall like Black Rhino. Oh, and lots of Mexican techno.
Hanging out in any Cumbia clubs?
Yeah we love it, but we don’t get to spend as long as we’d like in the clubs.
There is a lot of talk about Gang Gang Dance going ‘pop’ – do you feel that is accurate?
It’s never been a conscious effort on our part, we let the sound identify itself and make itself into its own thing.
Yeah, but sometimes people like labels…
You can’t do that with music!
You say you aim to recreate your live sound on record. Do you feel you’ve ever come close to that?
We’ve tried to, a few times. Got close…
Are you aiming for Plato’s cave?
We are definitely aiming for Plato’s cave [laughs].
So does that mean that, live, your sound is tighter or more freeform?
Tonight? It is definitely going to be looser tonight, partially because I left my FX pedals on the plane, so I have new kit.
With so much going on, and such a free style of play how do you avoid it sounding like a big morass when you’re recording?
We bring it all to the table, and just go with it.
That sounds like a messy process…
It can be very chaotic; we all go for it all at once, and sometimes there’s too many ideas. The finished album is a filtered, more pure version of the chaos.
Your vocals are certainly a lot clearer on this new record – are you worried about the press putting a ‘lead singer + band’ narrative on it?
We don’t care what people think, we try to run our band democratically and I think it comes across in our music. I like things to be on the same level literally, visually and aesthetically, and it sort of messes me up when it isn’t. I mean we played in Brazil and our bassist didn’t have a riser and that unbalanced the whole show. The whole set up is a visual and an energy thing. We think on a more astral level, we don’t care about criticism.
So it is just another step towards recreating the live thing on record?
So there’s some truth in the accusations that you’re going more ‘pop’?
We’ve always been playing with pop sounds.
It would be perverse to make an unlistenable album?
Of course, why else would we be making music. You want someone to listen to it, right?
True. Anything exciting lined up, where next for GGD?
Collaborations? I’d like to do some duets, especially with Alexis [Taylor, Hot Chip and supporting tonight with About Group], they’ve asked us…
Is that an exclusive?
[laughs] I think he’s like the new Marvin Gaye, he is just so smooth!
‘Eye Contact’ is out now on 4AD.
This article first appeared on Spoonfed on Friday 25 November