At the helm of a new wave of experimental pop acts, London duo AlunaGeorge have released three singles to date (most notably the now ‘advert famous’ You Know You Like It) and collaborated with Disclosure on February’s chart-topping ‘White Noise’.
Set to release their debut album in July, the pair have just returned from their first European tour and are set to return to the road for a summer of festival dates next month, including a huge appearance at Parklife. We caught up with them to chat about progress on their upcoming album and how they’re feeling about coming back to Manchester.
You’ve just finished a string of tour dates. How are you feeling about that?
Aluna Francis: Yeah, we’ve just come back from tour so we’re pretty high, pretty pleased with how well it went.
George Reid: It was amazing and slightly overwhelming, people turning up and singing along in a completely foreign country. A little bit overwhelming but amazing at the same time.
You’ve got a little gap for a few weeks now before you head out on festival season, your first full summer of festival dates.
AF: We’re feeling pretty good about that. We’re going to have a few rehearsals and put a few new songs in the set that haven’t been in there before. That will be quite interesting, with quite a large, varied audience who will only know about three of the songs. That should be an interesting test.
How different is it playing live with a group of musicians, compared to producing just as the two of you?
AF: To be honest, they’ve been involved almost from the start. We only do about three or four shows just as me and George, and very quickly decided it wasn’t for us. One of them is a really old friend of George’s, and Chris on bass has been working with us for quite a while as well. We forget that they’re not in the band, basically.
Is it a pleasant challenge transferring the studio material to a live setup, with a live drummer, bassist and the like?
It’s always throwing up challenges, when you’re using technology that hasn’t really caught up with people’s desire to transfer electronic music into a live setting. You’re constantly trying to botch together something that suits you personally. It’s always worth it though, because you get the nice feeling of it coming together and it gives the audience something worth paying for.
You’re part of a current wave of chart acts making quite experimental, underground music. Alongside people like Disclosure, how does it feel to be in this position of having underground credentials but still being played on Radio 1 and getting in the charts?
AF: I think it’s something that we secretly could of hoped for but didn’t expect. When we first started out, we were quite on the edges of people’s understanding of what pop music is and we were much more considered some random, niche band. Slowly people have maybe heard other stuff, like Disclosure, and decided that maybe because of the song structures and the melodies that they can accept it as more mainstream music. I think our original fans have stayed with and enjoy each new song we put out, and don’t feel that we’ve really changed much. So it’s kind of the best of both worlds, really.
Do you think it was important releasing material early on through a small, independent label like [London electronic imprint] Triangle Records?
GR: You can only hope that that would help, you don’t really know. The release for Triangle was a complete no-brainer for us to do. It’s such a cool label and we totally didn’t expect to be asked to be part of it. Our sound is very different to anything they’d put out before. It’s great because it’s one of those labels that has a lot of hardcore fans of the label itself. I think we were a lot more comfortably received than we were expecting to be from that crowd. It was really great for us.
What sort of thing can we expect from the album when it drops in July?
GR: The singles you’ve heard so far are a pretty good indication of what the albums sounds like, sonically at least. We’ve been working really hard to create a sound you can recognize as us. It’s great because it’s an opportunity for us to try out as many song structures and types that you won’t get to do with a single release. It’s an opportunity for us to show every side of ourselves with an album. I just can’t wait for people to hear it.
It must be quite an exciting but daunting period now, waiting for the release date itself.
GR: We’ve had the album done in our heads since towards the end of last year. The release date got pushed back a bit and we had time on our hands to go and write some music, so we’ve been working on it really up until three weeks ago. We were just like “Let’s write some more music and see what happens” and some of the tunes we wrote happened to be good, so we decided to try and squeeze them on somehow. It’s done now!
The stage you’re playing on at Parklife this year is one of the best and has an amazing selection of electronic acts, from Disclosure and yourselves to people like Four Tet and Daphni.
AF: We’ve seen most of those people live so it should be absolutely awesome. I think we’re doing a similar sort of stage at Glastonbury, with lots of forward-thinking dance music. We were a tiny bit apprehensive but when we did our tour we found that people do actually dance to our songs even though they’re not out-and-out dance songs. They seem to have a certain groove that doesn’t allow people to stand still so it’s really nice for us to know we can go into those shows and lots of people will actually move their feet.
You were up here in Manchester last year for The Warehouse Project as well. How did you find that?
GR: Yeah, The Warehouse Project was crazy. We were on maybe second or third in the main room and we were very much in the role of warming people up for the night. It was a very different crowd for us to play to but like Aluna was saying, recently we’ve played a couple of warehousey all-night gigs and we’ve found that people are actually willing to applaud in between songs when they’re used to hearing a continuous DJ set all night. People are up for something a little bit different like a band playing songs instead of DJs playing a set. It’s great, great to be involved in that sort of thing.
How are you feeling about coming back up to Manchester?
GR: I can’t wait. We played there on our tour at The Deaf Institute and that’s a great venue.
AF: That was one of our favourite gigs for ages.
GR: Really great, really great crowd.
AF: I think with the history of so many amazing bands coming out of there, though probably from a different genre to what we’re playing, it’s really intriguing to see it for ourselves.