Pinned as Depeche Mode meets Jon Hopkins, we uncover AKASE and their digitalised sound.
We can get behind anyone who’s been inspired by a good night out. Our musical enthusiasm stems from (and usually ends on) the dance floor. Whether that leads to something you can pull out all your best shapes to or not, we can relate to that starting point where that one song in that one place created the Best Moment Ever. That’s what drew us into AKASE, a partnership between Harry Aguis and Robbie Redway fuelled by Leeds’ nightlife that’s produced darkly shimmering club beat tracks, just without all of that ‘hands in the air like you just don’t care’ fuss.
It sounds unsatisfying, not to have that breakout into total pandemonium but Robbie’s vocals are that human touch to draw you in, to separate their style from just another production duo making the distorted soundtrack for clubs too cool for you to dance in. AKASE is better suited to your bedroom, where you can throw your hands up in the air whenever you feel like it, drum and bass drops regardless.
“Murmur”, the pair’s latest offering has been buzzing around our brains for a while so we decided to sit them down to get to know a little more about their forthcoming album ‘Graspers’ and how much they’ve grown up since the uni days that brought them together.
Hey guys – so, what about each other made you realise you wanted to work together when you met?
I guess you never know if a collaboration will work unless you try it out. Even then, it takes a while to get a process in place where you really make the most of the potential that’s there. We knew each other through mutual friends and had always chatted about making music together. Luckily the first session was pretty productive and this made us want to do more. Before we actually got together at Harry’s house in Peckham, Harry had tried to remix one of my (Robbie’s) songs but stopped because it had a 3/4 time signature. That could have been it.
Did you bond over similar influences or do you both bring different things to the music?
We definitely ‘specialise’ in different areas of music, Harry knows more about house, techno and electronica and in the same respect Robbie’s knowledge of jazz, folk and indie is much greater, but we also share a lot of common ground. What was nice in the beginning when we had long gaps between recording sessions was that we would always listen to and share our favourite new bits. Of course this is how you expand your tastes but it also meant our sound developed quite naturally.
And you met at Leeds Uni, how do you guys think you’ve changed since then?
In the same way most people change I guess. More worried about the environment, over-fishing, health and politics but more comfortable in our own skin, happier in relationships, a more eclectic taste in music and slightly more sensible at parties.
What’s the name AKASE all about?
It’s very hard to settle on a name, maybe not in a three piece because then you can vote, but it took us a while. AKASE is an acronym, hence the capitals. Also Known As Something Else is what it originally meant. But that’s irrelevant now really isn’t it. Hopefully it will just become a word and enter the Oxford English Dictionary in the near future.
You’ve been influenced by nights out in Leeds like Subdub, what was it about the club culture that inspired you most? Are there any specific memories that stand out?
In Leeds, as well as loads of other student cities, there’s almost this ritualistic feeling that comes with going out to a club. Especially Subdub. It’s like shutting your routine life off and walking into a different world for a few hours, it’s a tribal thing. It’s as much about the ritual as it is about the music. I guess because they were the first places we hung out together, clubs have been a major backdrop for whole journey, but it’s still more about music that has inspired us rather than a particular culture. Club music has obviously influenced our sound a lot, and even though we didn’t make this album to be listened to in clubs, it might appear to be geared more towards for the ‘club going’ demographic.
Harry you’ve dubbed the forthcoming record as “melancholy”, how and where are you expecting people to listen to it?
Train journeys, after parties, those sorts of situations. It’s not all melancholic but for some reason that was the overriding feeling when we made the music, even though we’re both pretty optimistic people. Maybe it’s because it’s harder to write happy music that doesn’t sound trite, maybe it’s a cathartic thing. We didn’t consciously aim to write a record full of yearning, but we both find sad music uplifting, as do a lot of people I think.
What can we expect from ‘Graspers’? How audible do you think Ewan Pearson’s input is?
It’s very hard to have a meaningful perspective on something that’s taken so much work to create, but hopefully the listener will be moved in some way. The record jumps around a lot in regards to tempo, rhythms and sound and as such hopefully makes for a more engaging listen. When we wrote the album we were focussed on writing songs not tracks and as the project developed they became shorter and more concise. We both grew up with those certain albums that you’d listen to from start to finish and so that’s our hope with this. The album clocks in at 45 minutes, we both liked the idea of it fitting on one side of a cassette tape.
Ewan was amazing to work with. His role as engineer was to re-record all the vocals and then mix the tracks. He has an incredible attention to detail and really understood and engaged with the source material. As well as this he became a great friend and is one of the kindest and most intelligent people you could meet. To have someone of his stature and experience having an input into the album was a real honour. I think if you listened to our demos compared to the finished tracks, every part just fits into its place a little better, and sonically it sounds wider and deeper.
“Murmur” is the latest release from you guys. How did you write it together? Do you have specific roles or is there a lot of crossover?
Murmur was one of the last tracks we wrote for the album. By then we had a much clearer blueprint in place as to how we went about our writing. We’d find a synth and/or bass sound we liked and piece together a few hooks with them. Harry would experiment with drum samples and create some rhythms while Robbie wrote some vocal lines, then we’d refine it, build on the ideas, settle on a structure and mix it. We definitely had different roles in creating tracks, with Harry focussing more on the production and Robbie on the song writing and melodies, but we’d discuss everything that was going into each song. Sometimes we’d just improvise together on one keyboard and that would be how we created the basis of a track. Other times one of us would have a very basic idea and bring it to the studio to expand on it.
And when can we see you live? What’s coming up for AKASE?
We have one more show this year, in Manchester in December, and are doing a few live sessions, such as Sofar Sounds, where the audience sit in silence and it’s all filmed, so that will be a very different experience. Other than that we have a cover of a song by The War On Drugs coming out soon and then it’s just going to be gearing up to putting out the album and doing a load of shows next year.
‘Graspers’ is due for release in 2016 on !K7 Records.