New rave has been the sound of 2006, or so certain sections of the music press would have us believe. The figureheads of this glowstick-waving, guitar-toting movement are dance-influenced indie four-piece Klaxons.
With their debut album imminent and contribution to the Tate Tracks exhibition currently being aired, musicOMH caught up with guitarist Simon Taylor-Davis to discover if there is more to the band than rave covers and the headrush of their live shows…
Alongside singer Jamie Reynolds and keyboardist James Righton, success has happened almost overnight for 23-year-old Simon with the band playing the summer festival circuit, signing a major record deal and appearing on the front cover of the new rave championing NME within a year of them forming. “We started playing in November 2005 and played a few gigs before Christmas. We came back from Christmas and said to each other, ‘Hopefully by March we’ll have some gigs’, and by the second week of January we had a manager and we had label interest and it was just ridiculous,” says Simon. “It’s just been completely surreal the entire year.”
The phenomenal speed of their ascent could be down to their unique rave-meets-indie genre-mashing, their passionate, madcap live performances or a highly supportive, bandwagon-pushing music press. Simon, however, puts it down to a mixture of luck and a lack of competition from other bands. “I think we’ve just been lucky, we’ve had the right timing,” he says. “There hasn’t been a lot of great things happening musically at the moment I don’t think. It’s incredibly dull times and people don’t really know what to do with themselves. There’s just this weird trend of trying to do what The Libertines were doing really well. It’s kind of gone off into something that’s really disastrous and really, really poor. I think imitation is just a horrible thing,” adds Simon. “We were just something a little bit different to what was going on.”
That something different that makes Klaxons stand out could be pinpointed as their rave influence. Simon explains that is more than a mere gimmick. “When we were younger, as well as being into loads of other music, we were all into dance music, especially early nineties dance music. They had these massive pop songs and there are some we cover, like one by Grace called It’s Not Over Yet. It’s just this massive, heart-breaking pop song. It’s tragic when you hear mainstream dance music now, it’s pathetic. Early nineties dance compilations were incredible and it was those really big dance songs that we were really into and that element that we wanted to bring to the band as well as fusing it with guitar music.”
“We just thought it would be quite funny to invent our own genre and become kings of this genre.”
- Klaxons’ Simon Taylor-Davis on the birth of new rave.
The whole new rave tag they coined and has become such a media monster in recent months was never meant to be taken seriously, however. “We basically invented it as a joke. When we started the band we were like, ‘Let’s invent a genre and let’s become a big pop band’. We thought it was hilarious reading all these things like electroclash, all these genres that have been kind of picked out of the sky and invented and we just thought it would be quite funny to invent our own genre and become kings of this genre, which weirdly happened! It’s just really funny to us something which we’ve invented as this joke has become this kind of culture thing. We were in Grazia which is just bizarre!”
Simon expects the media fascination with Klaxons as the kings of new rave, reigning over acts such as Datarock, Shitdisco and New Young Pony Club, will come to an end soon, however. “I don’t think it’s necessarily something that’s going to stick when people hear the record. To us it’s not a bad thing. If people are into your band because of that, that’s great. I don’t think it’s a bad thing as long as it doesn’t have a negative effect.” The new rave bandwagon has led some to label the band as a mere novelty act but Simon believes they can turn this to their advantage. “We’re taken as a novelty band by a lot of people which we find quite funny but it’s kind of nicer for us because it means it’s easy for us to blow people’s perceptions a bit.”
Being asked to contribute to the Tate Modern’s Tate Tracks exhibition proves Klaxons must be being taken seriously in some quarters, however. Billed as ‘an experiment between art and music’ various musicians have been asked to select a work of art then use it as inspiration to produce an original composition. Artists involved include the Chemical Brothers, Graham Coxon and The Long Blondes with Klaxons’ track, inspired by a piece from sculptor Donald Judd, currently being played next to the original artwork until the end of December before the exhibition moves on to another contributor’s offering.
“It’s something quite far removed from where we are or where people might assume we are.”
- Klaxons’ Simon Taylor-Davis on their Tate Track.
Simon, who studied fine art, explains the creative process behind such a project. “We began the session by setting up all of our equipment in one room and making a load of noise literally, like these massive walls of sound and we edited down some of the noise we’d made into the Tate track. It’s purely instrumental which is great as it’s something we wanted to do for ages but hadn’t specifically had the time or the purpose to do it. It’s a really great starting point for us doing something like that and it’s led us off on to trails we hadn’t before discovered which we’re probably going to use again so it was a really good exercise.”
The physical appearance of Donald Judd’s untitled sculpture formed the basis of Klaxons musical interpretation of it. “The sculpture we used, it’s kind of like these big square slats that fit into a wall,” explains Simon. “We took the number of blocks that there were and used them as a mathematical starting point for the rhythm so every however many blocks there were, eight or ten, every eight we would kind of refresh and start the pattern again. We used it more as a rhythmical starting point than a subjective interpretation on something. It’s something quite far removed from where we are or where people might assume we are. It’s been a kind of weird out of band experience.”
Simon believes that any assumptions about Klaxons will be further blown apart by their forthcoming album, Myths Of The Near Future. “It’s got some elements to it that are really quite shambolic but it’s got some other elements to it that are really kind of pristine pop. We’re all massive Bowie and Eno fans and that was kind of like the sound we’re going for, that kind of glistening sound to it without making it sound dull. It’s really dark as well which is good. Actually a lot darker than we originally thought.”
Produced by James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco, the album is due for release at the end of January 2007 with a UK tour to follow, setting up another 12 months that may prove even more explosive for Klaxons than the last. “We basically started this band with the aim to be a massive pop band and to get a record deal and be on Top of the Pops,” says Simon. “We didn’t want to be an underground band, we wanted to write some massive pop songs and be a huge band.”
If current form is anything to go by, they may soon be just that.