Love Triangle

I just love having visuals to support that world that the music takes you to.

Josh Graham of Enerate

Hi Josh and thanks for taking the time out to speak with us at Musicology. Congratulations of the wonderfully original release Good Times Airlines.

No problem - happy to be here! Thank you so much! We’re giddy with excitement!

Initially was the concept for this album always to be an interactive one or an idea that evolved from working on a standard release into something much more unique and broad in its consumer appeal?

It definitely evolved. It actually started as “Hey let’s do an EP”, and then we decided to do an album, which then snowballed into a vision of a video album, which then lead us to come up with the concept of an interactive video album released as an app. Haha safe to say we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. It’s been a long, trying process, but I have to say, we’ve achieved a massive goal by sticking with it and turning it into a reality. We just wanted to do something extremely mixed media. I love music, and love film making, they’re my two passions, and to bring them together dynamically, and have the audience in control… that’s just been my dream for a long time! It took a million hours, and was stressful at points, but Iove it, and it was definitely worth it for me.

I think we just wanted to make art that we as a band love, and if other people love it too, then that’s super lovely! I think a few people here and there have viewed the app as a marketing tool, or a bit of a promotional gimmick, but in our eyes – the app is the album in it’s truest form, where the music and the visuals come together as one thing.

Musically speaking, in crafting the record was there a strong desire to mirror the choice of instruments in line with the style of the LP albeit electronic and creatively as modern as possible?

Great question! It wasn’t a conscious decision. Most of the songs from the album were actually finished before we came up with the interactive visual album. But I think if we do this again, it will be a concept album from start to finish. When we started the project we used to put ourselves in the genre ‘acoustic synth pop’ because there was always an acoustic guitar in the mix, but over time the project has become more and more electronic. And yes, the nature of the album ended up mirroring the modern sound of the record. It’s actually quite funny, we’ve written so much new stuff since that hasn’t seen the light of day, as it took so long to produce the videos and the app! So there’s plenty more music to come.

Considering the tech nature of the record and its interactive features, do you feel that this is an album that could only be produced in this generation?

I suppose so! I mean artists in the past have definitely produced immersive work without the use of pocket size digital tech, like vinyl records with absolutely amazing colour booklets of artwork and prints, or some of those wack 70’s music art films. I just love having visuals to support that world that the music takes you to. But yes, I suppose with the interactive videos and gaming involved, it’s a very now record. It was only by chance that I found a developer named Seb Lecocq online who ended up becoming a great friend, and without his knowledge, and passion for the project, these would just be dreams and wouldn’t have turned into a reality. He was the coding genius who made all this craziness into a working digital ecosystem. Definitely our 5th member of the band at the moment!

Every act incorporates elements of music, art work and video but with the primary focus on the music. For Enerate however the creative triangle is more of an equilateral relationship whereby you can’t have one without the other, would you agree?

I would definitely agree! We try to make it this holistic experience. It did start with the music, but over time it’s developed into this love triangle where every element is just as much a part of the story. It’s tricky, because every element has to also work by itself, but it’s the idea that all three are enhanced when experienced at the same time. I’m a musician, graphic designer, and director, so I think it was an inevitability. I’m just enjoying doing what I love. But I think this is starting to happen in the broader music industry. I see artists like Björk, Beyoncé, Gorillaz, Arcade Fire, and Kanye West putting together amazing experiences, weather they’re video albums, digital experiences, live experiences, or even fashion. It’s this beautiful blurring of the lines, where creative people can really create a whole new immersive world of their art.

The single of the album Transit Lounge is a mesmerising one and skilfully done but there is a whole other unexplored side to this through the app. How did to go about deciding what would feature in the video clip and what would be reserved for the app?

Thank you very much! Well Transit was conceived first and foremost as an interactive video. We brainstormed these 4 fantasy worlds that we could take our kid into. It’s meant to be an introspective look into his imagination. It was a challenge as certain things had to happen at particular cue points in the song, and it had to work in each of the 5 worlds. And then our amaaaaazing 3D animator Darren Arbib created these incredibly detailed worlds, and brought them to life. He was brave to take it on, as essentially he had to create 5 x 4.5 min 3D video clips! (for the budget of probably half a video clip) He was extremely dedicated and put so much work into it. This made editing it down to a linear video for YouTube/Rage/MTV a real challenge! Haha it took me a long time, and also my computer broke in the middle of the edit, so that was scary. I wanted the linear version to build slowly at it’s own pace. Our dancer Joshua McCrossen was great talent, he was very easy to work with, and learned this whole routine on the spot, and he had to do it in front of a green screen – one unedited take for the whole song. What a legend!

In pooling together all the potential ideas, visuals, sounds and stories for the record, what were you drawing inspiration from at the time of writing, producing and recording?

The idea of transformation has been central to our body of work for some time now. From Unstoppable (our first single, which actually came out a few years back) to Transit Lounge, and What Is Happening To Us, it’s a theme that recurs all the time in our musical and visual works. I think it’s our love of exploring the concept of transformation that drew us to make a work where the audience could transform the narrative themselves.

I can’t listen to music, or look at artwork, see a gig, or watch a film without drawing some kind of inspiration. I really try to listen to as many different genres as I can. Because there’s elements of techniques, or even subjects in every single genre that can give you ideas for your own work. It’s very positive inspiration that I take away. Gorillaz have been a massive influence over the years, just the fact that they did something so different to pop music. They definitely have a similar weighting on the music and visuals, and Albarn has always been a huge influence on me. He’s a creative visionary. I take a lot from pop music and use these production techniques and hooks to try and tell a very real story. And that’s the main inspiration, just whatever happened to be going on in our lives at the time of writing. For me I was on the brink of making a change in my life, which involved distance and time from the people I love. So travel, distance and transformation became the central themes.

Taking of all this to the next step, what do you have install for touring and bringing this magical and technological world to life when performing?

We’re currently planning an album tour for the early months of next year. A few years back we did this thing where we’d have videos of me and Therese dancing projected behind the band, and we’d throw an old iPhone into the crowd with an app with 40 buttons on it, sort of like a TV remote, they could then press each button and the projection on stage would change to a different dance! (there was also a secret channel with me dancing naked on it. Of course whenever someone found it, it would usually be on screen for a while. haha how embarrassing). We wanted to build this live remote video control into our app album, but we ran out of time and definitely ran out of money! Perhaps in an update soon.

In the last year I’ve also made a device that is now my primary live instrument. It’s called the ‘Electro Foxxxy Girl Deluxe’ haha and it’s essentially a hollowed out Stratocaster copy with an inbuilt drum machine in the body, and 24 midi notes running up the fretless neck. It’s basically a controller I built for our Ableton Live setup. From there I can change everyone in the band’s sounds and samples, play patterns, and even trigger different videos. There’s even a tiny LCD screen in the back of it that pulls track info from my Mac. It’s super fun, and I’m only just beginning to see the power of it. I built it so I could play samples and midi instruments without being locked behind a keyboard stand, so I could run around the stage, but it’s only now that I’m testing things like live graphic triggering. I believe that’s one of our big goals. To make music and pictures at the same time, live. A fully synesthetic experience. Midi is a wonderful thing.

So our set is full of art tech nerdism, and it’s probably just going to get weirder from here on in. Our first show of the release is on November 16th for the interactive album launch at MTV in Sydney, so we’ll see how it goes!

Listen to Transit Lounge