The Klaxons: New noise warning
The Klaxons are being credited with bringing back the rave scene. Don't believe a word of it, they tell Charlotte Cripps
Friday 20 October 2006
How have the indie pop band the Klaxons - imagine a super-charged Bloc Party - found themselves at the vanguard of the new rave scene that is championed by the NME and includes Trash Fashion, Shitdisco and New Young Pony Club? Well, the music shares some of the trappings of acid house - whirling strobes, wailing sirens and air horns - and they endeavour to turn the gig-going experience into one big party. Then there's band leader Jamie Reynolds' "vision".
Reynolds, 26, a former philosophy student and now the Klaxons' singer-songwriter and bass player, is the brains behind the "new rave" concept, a term he coined as "an amusing joke" he says, though it has served the band well up to now. "There were lots of guitar bands making what was being bandied about at the time as the new wave of new wave. I decided to replace the 'w' with an 'r'," he says.
The highly ambitious Reynolds is the only band member with any passion for dance music. It was his idea to bring the glowstick back from the grave as a gig accessory, replacing mobile phones held aloft - so last year. Reynolds was in the Cubs when he first caught sight of a laser beam illuminating a countryside rave so was a little too young for the original scene.
"Later," he says, "it became startlingly apparent to me that my initial idea of revisiting dance music and recreating it on guitars - something that had been bubbling under for a few years, with bands like Soulwax, Rapture, and LCD Soundsystem - could appeal to a lot of people," he says. "I wanted to make a popular British version of a scene that hadn't hit the mainstream."
Since the band's inception 12 months ago in New Cross, south London, the Klaxons' large underground following has blossomed via MySpace, rather than record sales. The band have released a mere 500 copies of each of their two seven-inch singles - "Gravity's Rainbow", named after the Thomas Pynchon novel, and "Atlantis to Interzone", which references William Burroughs - on small independent labels (Angular and Merok). In August, they signed to Polydor, and their first single for the label, "Magick" - a song that after the thrashing bass and pounding beats of the chorus sweetly withdraws into beautiful falsetto vocals - is released at the end of the month, along with an acid house remix by Klaxons' producer James Ford, and his band, Simian Mobile Disco.
I meet up with the band backstage at the Camden Koko, London, where they are set to perform later. The Klaxons used to make their own neon clothes and strut around looking fluorescent. But these days there is little trace of that as they arrive in black, just like any other indie band.
While they have entertained their audiences with glowsticks and been NME cover stars adorned with that badge of the rave era, the smiley face, the band claim to regard these details as little more than enjoyable props and now want to step back from the rave label - nobody wants to be regarded as a novelty band. They may have given two rave hits an indie makeover - "The Bouncer" and Grace's "Not Over" - and employ the sirens characteristic of rave at the start of "Atlantis to Interzone", but they have little in common with acid house.
Reynolds's band mates are guitarist Simon Taylor (aka Captain Strobe), a former fine art student; James Righton, 23, the co-vocalist and keyboardist, and the drummer, Steffan Halperin, 21, who is absent from our meeting. They are in the midst of a tour that will cover Europe, Australia and Japan before Christmas. If that wasn't enough, they want to write a second album before the debut album, Myths of the Near Future (the title of a collection of short stories by JG Ballard), is out in January.
The Klaxons signed to Polydor after a label tug-of-war. The deal extends to the UK and the rest of the world, minus France, Australia and the US. Negotiations are under way with four major and two independent US labels.
Things have happened quickly for the band. When they formed in October 2005, they completed two songs in the first week of being together. "We rehearsed for five days in a row and then we did a gig," recalls Reynolds. When people wanted to book them after the first gig they needed a longer set list. The band were sharing favourite books, which betray a taste for the supernatural and magic realism. Reynolds, whose favourite book is Lewis Carroll's Silvie and Bruno, says: "We disappear in bizarre dreamlands that we immerse ourselves in, including cosmology, the Apocalypse and Egypt - it's not just about meeting someone on the dancefloor - but it is escapist pop.
"We locked ourselves away for a couple of days and wrote 'Gravity's Rainbow', 'Atlantis to Interzone', and '4 Horsemen of 2012'. The next day we recorded them. Then I set us up on MySpace. Within days we were contacted by a lawyer and a management company."
From the outset, the Klaxons decided they wanted to be an extremely successful pop band, making big pop songs, and selling records. Reynolds wants to make make anthems for his generation. "We haven't made 'the one' yet," he says, "though 'Gravity's Rainbow' is our biggest song." "We haven't even released an album," says Taylor. "I can't wait until people have the album and know the songs."
After this year's Reading Festival the new rave scene really exploded when the crowd burst out of the Carling tent in a sea of glowsticks after the Klaxons' set. Other highlights in their short existence have included Lily Allen joining to sing "Atlantis to Interzone" when the band headlined the Isle of Wight Bestival's Big Top Stage, while Peaches Geldof DJd with them in Ibiza. "I wasn't there when rave was around," says Taylor. "But I've heard there is a similar atmosphere and vibe to our gigs."
Reynolds left school after his GCSEs, with no intention of going on to further education. He'd joined a band at 14, Thermal, making "left-field, quirky music". But he went on to do his A-levels and to study philosophy at university. He met Taylor a few years ago. Reynolds had already formed a band, with people who he says couldn't play too well. He invited Taylor to jam with them. And in no time at all, Taylor's old school friend, Righton, was on board. The following week they played their first gig.
The band have barely had a day off since new rave hit the headlines. To switch off from work, Righton steals his dad's gym membership card and retreats to a steam room in east London, while Taylor occupies himself with what his friends outside the music business are up to. Reynolds likes to read, but not as much as he used to before glowstick sales took off again. Despite needing a holiday, the band are enthused by what they are doing and very talkative.
Later that night, they play to an excited crowd as lime-green lights shoot across the venue. (Reynolds recently had to ask a venue to tone the strobes down a bit. "I don't suffer from epilepsy, but I felt I was about to," he says.) Down front, the teenage crowd is packed in like sardines and are all waving glowsticks, while upstairs the balconies are thronged with less demonstrative twentysomethings.
The Klaxons play some new, slower pop songs, including "As Above, So Below", while leaping around in the midst of a strobe-light show, as if it were their last ever gig. There is something refreshingly unpretentious about what is happening, because nobody is taking it too seriously. After the crowd find euphoric collective release in "Not Over", it is over, and the venue continues as a rave.
Outside, teenagers wanting to party, many far too young to get in, queue around the block. "When we turned up at Stoke, hundreds of kids wore white clothes with neon slogans," says Reynolds. "This is something we did to get noticed. As soon as we got noticed, we stopped doing it. We are still in the process of changing our minds as to what we are doing with our image."
What may be good news for young fans unable to gain entry is that the Klaxons are playing a matinée warehouse party in the East End in December, before the later adult show. "It is important we identify with this younger crowd and give them the chance to enjoy themselves," says Reynolds. What is more amazing for the band is that on New Year's Eve, in Nottingham, they are playing the first Fantasia party, a regular, massive event in the 1990s. This one is the first for 13 years. "I was obsessed with Fantasia raves when I was a kid," says Reynolds, "and now giving back a pleasure I had always got as a teenager from bands is what it's all about," he says. "I hope that people will like the slower pop songs on our album and still come out and go nuts at our gigs."
'Magick' is released on 30 October on Polydor
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