LIVE: Art vs Science. parlez vous dance?

Art vs Science play at The Cambridge on August 1. Tickets at Bigtix. Picture: Erik BerganAFTER six years together and a string of infectious hits including Parlez Vous Francais?, Magic Fountain, Flippers, Create Destroy and their latest, Creature of the Night, Sydney trio Art vs Science have cemented themselves in the Australian electronic music scene.
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But the boys – Jim Finn, Dan McNamee and Dan Williams – were playing rock music together when a pivotal gig changed their path, McNamee (aka Dan Mac) told LIVE.

‘‘I saw Midnight Juggernauts in 2006 at Homebake Sydney and that was like, ‘Wow, holy shit!’ That was an influence because I was playing in a rock band with Dan, Jim and Jim’s brother at the time. I thought, ‘I want to do this’.

‘‘I’d been thinking about doing dance music live since forever and they were actually doing it,’’ Dan Mac said, before adding a few more gigs from big names in dance music cemented the genre shift.

‘‘The Presets were doing it. Then I saw Daft Punk and while they don’t do it live…there was this mixture between really classic electronic music and pop as well. It felt really good and I thought, ‘This is so hectic, it’s awesome’, so that’s the vibe I went for with Art vs Science.’’

And that he did. Together the trio followed in the footsteps of Melbourne three-piece Midnight Juggernauts in playing electronic and dance music live as a band. But there’s also no doubting Art vs Science have forged their own path: part of the huge appeal of songs like Parlez Vous Francais? and Magic Fountain is that they are so different from everything else out there, so distinctly Art vs Science.

In the six years since forming, the trio have released a handful of EPs and their debut album, 2011’s The Experiment which reached No.2 on the ARIA charts.

Despite it being years since the record’s release, the trio released the Create Destroy EP in April, rather than unleashing their second album.

Dan Mac, who takes vocals, guitars and keyboard duties in the band, said the decision was a collaborative one. While at first it was driven by their ‘‘management/distribution company’’, in the end it worked creatively for the band too.

‘‘In hindsight I agree because there were some songs which I thought were finished but I wasn’t completely happy with,’’ Dan Mac said.

‘‘Just in the last couple of weeks I opened up a Pro Tools session and I actually listened to it with fresh ears and went, ‘Aha! I know what needs to be done now’, and I did some nips and tucks and now it sounds really awesome.’’

Having space from the songs was just what the band needed. It’s a creative process they’ve used successfully on previous recordings: ‘‘It’s my preferred way to do things, actually. Either like that or go from start to finish in half an hour and do it that way. If you start working on something minutely, you need to give it a few weeks’ off.’’

Dan Mac said the trio had a ‘‘bunch of songs’’ already recorded which are likely to make their way on to the next album, which will be released in the next 12 months.

‘‘If we were making a cabinet it’s all been put together and sanded, it’s just waiting for varnish,’’ he said cryptically.

But for now, Art vs Science are keeping fans happy with their latest single Creature Of The Night which Dan Mac said Finn wrote at the end of 2012.

‘‘The lyrics were just a little sort of a ditty – he kind of writes kids’ songs in his spare time and he’s really good at that – and he wrote this one when he’d come home [from a night out] when the sun had come up,’’ he said before adding with a laugh, ‘‘but then those lyrics which started off kind of simple became mutated into this strange like of allegory of a song about the night. It’s a partying song but oh, jeez, it’s got a menacing tone.’’

The boys gauged Creature Of The Night by giving it a run live at Sydney’s On The Harbour New Year’s Eve. The response was resoundingly positive and so it was released: ‘‘The very first hour of this year we played that song and it went off so we thought, ‘We better make this a single’.’’

Litmus testing new songs live is something they’ve always done and will do on the upcoming Creature of the Night tour, though Dan Mac is careful to remind fans the favourites will always be part of an Art vs Science set.

‘‘All the ‘hits’ – for want of a better word – we’ll play, but we are going to play a lot of new stuff too. ‘‘We want to be excited about it. It’s not playing new stuff for the sake of playing new stuff, but the songs actually stand up against the old stuff. [Seeing the crowd response to new songs live] was a huge thing when we first started because no one had heard anything and that was our only gauge of whether or not a song was good.

‘‘It’s harder to do that now because people are naturally going to respond better to something they’ve heard before.’’

It’s all about striking a balance between the band keeping themselves happy, keeping fans happy and pushing their sound forward.

‘‘It is kind of tricky. The thing is, for a while we had the attitude towards the end of our last run [of shows] of ‘Let’s just play the old ones’ because people did naturally like them. That did work for a while because we weren’t really writing much,’’ he said.

‘‘But there needs to be that element of freshness because it starts to feel like you’re in a covers band playing songs: they’re our songs but it’s been a while since we actually wrote them.’’

The last thing either the band or punters want is for a gig to feel like Groundhog Day.

‘‘Personally I want to see a band which is kicking arse with their latest creative stuff.’’

Art vs Science play at The Cambridge on August 1. Tickets at Bigtix.

For your chance to win a double pass to the show, see page 19 of today’s Herald.

Picture: Erik Bergan

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