Datarock - Interview
In the second of our interviews from the Camden Crawl, Contact Music spoke to Norwegian duo Datarock about their forthcoming new album, constant touring, and why allowing television advertisers to use your music isn't necessarily such a bad idea after all.
Fredrik Saroea and Ketil Mosnes first came to our attention three years ago via the NME's "New Rave" tour alongside Klaxons and Shitdisco, even though they had actually been making music for several years prior to that. Their first album, 'Datarock Datarock' came out a year earlier, while the likes of 'Nightflight To Uranus' and 'Fa-Fa-Fa' have been staples of the club dance scene ever since.
The follow-up, 'Red' is due out later this month, and if anything signals a more diverse departure for the duo from their previous work. Contact is sat in a van outside the Spreadeagle pub. Its early afternoon and very, very hot..
Are you looking forward to your show this evening at the Camden Crawl?
Fredrik Saroea: Very much so. We already did one show yesterday evening at Koko. I was a little bit worried because the show started at quarter-past six, and that's so early. Fortunately, it was very busy in there. I mean, we haven't played in the UK for a long while, as we've been busy promoting the 'Datarock Datarock' album all around the world. The new songs seemed to go down really well, which bearing in mind we hadn't played them here before, was pretty overwhelming.
Your new album, 'Red', comes out in the UK in May. Will there be a tour over here to promote it?
Fredrik Saroea: Yeah, absolutely. In the past, we've tend to release our records in different territories at different times, because we're still basically putting our music out on our own label but now we have a licensing deal with Nettwerk, they want to release it simultaneously in Europe, Asia and Oceania, so we're going to have to try and tour as many places as possible. Our tour schedules for 'Red' are going to be more continent based rather than concentrating on individual countries, so I would say it will be more a case of fitting some UK dates into the European leg of the tour rather than organising a specific UK tour.
Ketil Mosnes: We won't get time this side of the year.
Fredrik Saroea: The album comes out in America on 8th September so from then onwards for the rest of 2008 we'll be concentrating solely on touring over there. Aside from that we've got quite a few festival appearances pencilled in all over the place as well.
Are you scheduled to play any more UK festivals this year?
Fredrik Saroea: Yeah, we're playing The Great Escape in Brighton in a few weeks time.
Ketil Mosnes: We've got a show in Liverpool on 19th May as well.
Fredrik Saroea: We've got a lot more planned in other countries as well, with the possibility of more additions depending on the success of the new record in between times. Just to give you some statistics, we've actually played over 500 shows in 28 different countries over the past two years. Out of those 28 countries we did thirteen tours solely in the USA.
How did you manage to find the time to write and record the new album?
Fredrik Saroea: It wasn't easy! The new single 'Give It Up' was actually recorded here in London. One of our drummers, Adrian Meehan, has a studio here called Wendyhouse, and within a couple of days of being there we had recorded sketches for seven songs, and two of them we decided were going to be singles; 'Give It Up' and another song called 'Pretender'. When you're touring you don't really tend to write, as you're busy with other stuff, so when we finally got back to Norway and started writing the record, it was very relaxed, almost like a different kind of feel to anything we'd done before.
Ketil Mosnes: I think we also wanted to try and make 'Red' as near to our live show as possible, as on 'Datarock Datarock' there are five songs we've never been able to perform live.
Fredrik Saroea: They just don't fit into our live show, even more so where we are as a band now, so we really made a conscious effort to try and tailor this record into our live show.
The song 'Nightflight To Uranus' has been a big part of your live set and is probably the one which you're best known for. Is there anything on 'Red' in a similar vein?
Fredrik Saroea: In America when they first heard that they went "What The Fuck?!?" 'Nightflight To Uranus' wasn't actually included on the international version of the first album.
Ketil Mosnes: They asked us if we could replace it with another song as it wasn't deemed appropriate for American audiences, so we did but we still play it live over there and it goes down really well so..?
Fredrik Saroea: It is a perfect song for our live show because of the energy.
Your live show first came to the attention of UK audiences by way of your inclusion on the NME's "New Rave" tour. Does it worry you that Datarock have found themselves pigeonholed within that scene to some extent ever since?
Fredrik Saroea: I think most credible journalists who are aware of us would also know 'Datarock Datarock' was released a good year or so before any of that whole "New Rave" thing was ever mentioned. I mean, I don't want to be seen as knocking the NME; they were kind enough to include us in that scene and it was positive for us because it gave us a foothold in many new circles but at the same time, there is a risk with becoming tagged because scenes come and go.
Ketil Mosnes: At the same time though, we felt confident in our own ability because we'd already played live in many different countries and actually been releasing records in one guise or another since 2001..
Fredrik Saroea: I think if we can release an album in 2005 that two years down the line is being talked about as "the future of modern music", then we must have been doing something right. If people really want to dig below the surface of that album then they'd realise three of the songs on 'Datarock Datarock' actually go back as far as 2002. One thing about that whole scene though was that none of the bands associated with it - Klaxons, New Young Pony Club, Shitdisco, us - really had that much in common musically. It was quite a universal scene as well because you had bands from all over the world - Presets and Cut Copy from Australia, CSS and Bonde Do Role from Brazil, Justice from France and so on. I think it was something that was happening internationally and the UK press happened to be the first to pick up on it.
Ketil Mosnes: Even the festivals around that time - 2006, 2007 - the dance tents were the busiest areas on site, people of all ages and musical backgrounds getting into the whole vibe.
Fredrik Saroea: Exactly, and that would never have happened without this massive flood of attention from the music press in the first place.
Would you say the new album is a marked progression from 'Datarock Datarock'?
Fredrik Saroea: Definitely, yes. I mean, we still take inspiration from similar sources - the late seventies and early eighties being the most obvious - but with 'Red' we've definitely concentrated more on the songs themselves rather than making them sound dancefloor friendly. We've left that kind of thing to people who want to remix our stuff. We've also been heavily influenced by what's gone on since the whole "New Rave" thing, and even though we're using studios that are kitted out with the very latest in modern technology, we wanted to avoid things like the microchord for example. I don't think we wanted to make a deliberate statement that 'Red' isn't "New Rave" but.it isn't!
Do you see it as a reinvention of the band, almost?
Fredrik Saroea: Slightly, I'd say. If I was to describe the record I'd say it's the best of our first record crossed with the best bits of the live show, but ultimately both could be perceived as being two different bands.
Would you say Datarock are, in some ways, more comfortable as a live band than in the studio?
Fredrik Saroea: Absolutely. We have quite a lot of experience in the studio, not just with our own records but also producing others - I've just finished the new Karin Park record 'Ashes To Gold' and then we're producing ten local artists from our hometown of Bergen and releasing them on our own label, Young Aspiring Professionals.
Do you see this as being an avenue you're likely to explore more frequently in the future?
Fredrik Saroea: It's hard to say at this moment in time to be honest. Our main focus now will be to promote 'Red' and hopefully perfect our live show first and foremost.
And overall, commercial success.?
Fredrik Saroea: I wouldn't mind a little commercial success just so we can do a bigger production on the next record.
Ketil Mosnes: .or even generate enough revenue to make the next record!
Fredrik Saroea: Even in terms of the live show.we've never been able to afford a sound or lightning engineer, projectors or visuals of any kind, so again if we could afford to make that more grandiose I'd see that as some kind of achievement.
Ketil Mosnes: The first album didn't really sell that well at all. It got a lot of critical acclaim but never achieved the sales we were hoping for.
Fredrik Saroea: We have two-and-a-half million plays on our MySpace and we were playing to 6000 people in places like Buenos Aires where they all sang along, so people are obviously aware of our records but I guess that's a consequence of being part of a generation motivated by file sharing.
Finally, you've let several advertisers use your songs for television commercials. A lot of artists strictly oppose this kind of thing, whereas Datarock seem to embrace it.
Fredrik Saroea: I guess that is the other side of the coin to having no real commercial success. Because of the endorsements we get through advertising it generates enough revenue for us to be able to make records, tour and produce other people's music, so from that perspective I see it as being very positive.
Ketil Mosnes: We don't really like to discuss it too much because it is almost like an alternative source of income compared to other bands, but if it gives us the opportunity to survive and continue making music I don't honestly see how anyone can say it's a bad thing.
Fredrik Saroea: When you look at the bigger picture around record sales and how they've decreased over the past five years - you're looking at figures close to the 90% mark - many artists just cannot survive in that climate without other means of generating income. The general perception is that this is a problem for the recording industry and not the bands, but of course it affects the bands. If the records don't sell, they get dropped, simple as.
The single 'Give It Up' is out on 18th May, followed by the album 'Red' on 1st June, both on YAP/Nettwerk.