Ahead of the release of their long-awaited, forthcoming second full-length album BOLTS, Keith from Not Squares talks to us about the trials, tribulations and ambitiously complex components of the new record. Excited? We are.
Your output has been somewhat muted for the last few years, what’s been going on? What have you been up to?
Well I moved to London at the start of 2012 so we’ve been passing across music and stems to make this new record over the last four years. We’ve written probably about three times as many tracks that are on the album but for whatever reason a lot weren’t developed far enough or didn’t make the cut. Working with our producer Tom Fox in Leytonstone at his studio was a fun and more closed door part of the process.
Did you have to regroup and focus your energies on moving forward from your debut?
Our debut was a good collation of what we were about in 2010 and a fair selection of the tracks we were making then. Tracks like ‘Bi Ki Na’ and ‘Asylum’ are very fast tempo-wise and the whole debut record felt like a punch to the face in terms of being very thrashy in its sound; the noise of three boys playing live dance music from indie-post-punk backgrounds. Vinny from Adebisi Shank produced that debut record and it’s great to be able to go back and be proud of it and proud of the process of working with him on it.
How did you go about writing and arranging BOLTS, did you have a different strategy this time around than you did with Yeah OK?
BOLTS was a different strategy, yes. If Yeah OK was a lucky dip of high energy live-ness then BOLTS is its more refined, slightly posh-coffee, cousin. We all listen to a lot of podcasts/mixes/sets/mixtapes, etc. and a lot of dance music. I’ve been listening to a lot of old early house sets from peeps like Rod Hardy, Danny Chicago as well as newer producers such as Galcher Lustwerk. The way a dance-music producer designs a long-player experience was of interest to me in terms of stitching BOLTS together as a whole. We had about five or six tracks that were stand-alone but to compliment this we then used a pre-determined palette of drums, bass synths, percussion and toplines from tracks that we wanted to ‘bolt’ together. In the studio with Tom, these segway tracks were written and designed to create cohesion between the other tracks – a little bit like what we do live using echoes and premonitions of the neighbouring tracks to carry momentum through. The tracks on the record M2, M4, M6 and M8 are junctions between the more established tracks. They’re the kind of anti-heroes of the album and perhaps maybe more interesting to us now.
What can you tell me about BOLTS in comparison to your debut? Did you have a specific sound in mind?
BOLTS is a collection of songs whose musical content is shared between the three of us. Most of the times we’re interested in pushing the wax between the fingers.
Electronica seems to be a more-centralised motif on BOLTS; the raw punk energy displayed on your debut doesn’t seem to be as foregrounded, so are you evolving in a way that’s natural? Or was it a conscious decision to explore your sound from a different angle?
It’s been an evolution. It depends a lot on what we’re listening to. I’d say Not Squares has an unavoidable sound though. This joining of three people and the chemistry that is still in that is also reflected in the creepy Photoshop PR shot of our lovechild-man (pictured above).
Would you agree that BOLTS could be called more of a conceptual record than your debut?
Yes definitely, it’s designed and curated as an experience purely for the listener, candy for the ears. Our debut was more of an ‘up yours’ kind of gesture. BOLTS is more of a soft touch to the inner thigh.
How has the reaction been so far for the new record?
Good I think, people seem to be into it. How good are your headphones? How sub are your speakers?
In terms of live performances would you say that the energy you display on stage effectively reflects the music you create? Or do you find that playing live enables you to explore different tangents of your productions (improvising, jamming, etc)?
We use a live context to improvise and jam a little, leaving little windows between songs, outros and interstitial spaces to allow for accidental grooves and concoctions of the synths, vocals, bass, live and digital percussion. The live shows still contain some of the earlier madness in ‘Asylum’ and ‘Release the Bees’ as more people know these tracks and they are easy to sing along to, but we also like to remix old songs. Not all of the production values that Tom has been able to squeeze into BOLTS can be translated live but the fun part is how we interpret these and apply them.
The album launch shows are coming up soon, how are you feeling about them?
Pretty excited to play, particularly some new stuff and it’s a chance for us to hone the set over the course of multiple nights. We always aim to have fun and get loose with whoever is around.
Any festival plans for the summer? Or are you focusing on touring the new record?
We have Castlepalooza and Independence booked I think and there’ll probably be a few more added.
BOLTS is released this coming April 23rd, and keep an eye out on State for the upcoming album launch show dates.