Pay peanuts; get monkeys – an interview with Simian Mobile Disco

Simian Mobile Disco are two English lads well aware that its not their look people are after when they buy a SMD record. We met in their hotel as they were touring Temporary Pleasure. The two of them had no problem chatting but were dreading the time the photographer would come knocking at the door. Here’s the gist of it.  This is one of the press photos circulating at the moment, and having met the two of them, I can say with a fair degree of confidence, that they enjoyed this shoot about as much as water torture.


Warning: If you meet Simian Mobile Disco at a festival, a party or in a late night diner and you fall into candid conversation with them about music, recording and your untapped vocal ability, and then, buoyed on by a hitherto alien confidence, you offer to sing on their next record, and they smile encouragingly and say ‘Get us up on the MySpace mate’, you have about as much a chance of singing for them as you do of finding a bikini in Tehran.

“Now, that just makes us sound like we’re cruel,” says Jason. True, it kind of does.

Jason and Jas have a new album out in August called Temporary Pleasure. It’s heavy on collaborations. Gruff Rhys, Beth Ditto and Jamie Liddell have all contributed vocals. The Gruff Rhys track is called Cream Dream. “He came in the studio,” Jas explains, “And said, ‘I called it Cream Dream because,’ – long, dramatic, slightly awkward pause –  ‘You know, it rhymes’.” The amount of vocal tracks for consideration they got sent to them was immense but their wish list was also quite long. Nick Cave and Andre 3000 didn’t pick up the phone – maybe they should have tried their MySpace?

When you were stuck for inspiration during recording who’d you turn to?

Jas: When we reached a section of a track that we weren’t sure what to do with it, we’d ask ourselves, ‘What would Todd Rungren do?’

Is it scary sending a record into a market where everyone’s skint?

Jason: For us we’re quite lucky with our label in that they let us do what we want and don’t put that much pressure on us to make a certain album. But working with other bands I’ve definitely noticed the pressure they’re under in the last 12 months.

Jas: They’re shitting it.

In light of that pressure does your label ever tell you not to cut your hair or dress like Empire of the Sun?

Jason: No, they know that would never work. We’re not really stars like that.

Jas: We were definitely not told to wear these clothes.

LCD Soundsystem got 45 minutes for their Run record; you guys got half an hour. Are Nike trying to say that English people are lazier than the Yanks?

Jas: It actually came it at even less than thirty minutes and had to ask us to lengthen it. I suppose, it’s just that we’re not very good at running.

This issue takes the theme of performance. How choreographed is your stage act?

Jason: Were not ever going to be flamboyant performers so we wanted to make something that was real and tied to a time. With an electronic music show that’s sometimes really difficult. We didn’t want it to be based around a computer and playback, so the live show based itself around those rules as we wanted it be real and organic. Because we use lots of old keyboards and equipment it can be very predictable. It’s quite a challenge just to keep it running and that kind of is the performance.

Jas: We’re trying to make a spectacle. The worst thing of an electronic show is not knowing what they’re doing, like they could be checking their emails.

Or not checking their myspace in your case?

Jason: We should never have said that. We’ll just have to use a Facebook excuse from now on.

Where do you find the best looking crowds in Europe?

Jason:  The Exit Festival is pretty incredible.

And the most hardcore?

Jason: Whenever we play anywhere on the west coast of Ireland it’s always fucking mental.

And if they weren’t being beautiful in Serbia or strung-out in Ireland, where would you like people to listen to Temporary Pleasure.

Jason: Maybe floating in that blue lagoon in Iceland.

Jas: With the music pumped in underwater.

And finally, how demanding are Simian Mobile Disco?

Jason: Because of our show we have to travel with a round table. Venues tell us, ‘sure no problem we can just put two square tables together,’ but we always need to stipulate it’s a round table… otherwise we’d catch our testicles on the corners.

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