Desert Sound Colony are the spacey, super-chilled three piece from London who have been picking up plenty of momentum recently thanks to the release of their EP, ‘Signals’, as well as a US tour with electronic heroes Bob Moses. Originally a solo project, the group has blossomed into a fully fledged band who marry 60s psychadelica with dashes of futurism, and the results are both thoughtful and beautifully low-key. Think fleshy guitar licks and sweetly reverberating bass lines: a drifting, sonic heaven.
Unsurprisingly, they’re also pretty good live – something we discovered last night when we headed to the Queen of Hoxton to catch them play at their release party for ‘Signals’. Washing over us in a wave of good vibes, evocatively named tracks like “Moon Juice” (which we premiered a few weeks back) really do sound as good in a packed room as they do in the headphones: a sure testament to DSC’s versatility and perfectionism. We also got the chance to talk with the boys about their influences, the unpredictably of live performance, and why Rothko can prove both a help and a hindrance to great music. So, read on and make sure you catch DSC somewhere this summer, because with the group appearing everywhere from Lovebox to Dimensions, there’s really no excuse not to, is there?
Can you tell us a little about your band name first?
Liam: The name really came about after the first batch of music was written a few years ago. I felt like it had a desert quality of sorts, kind of psychedelic and sometimes epic. I also wanted a plural word like ‘colony’ because it sounded like a band even when it was just myself. Turns out that was a good idea in the end.
You started out as a solo act… what made you recruit new members to join the team?
Liam: For one thing I believe that I write better music when I am working with other people, and these guys definitely add a lot to the songwriting. I also wanted to perform the music with a band so it was basically a necessity. Luckily it turned out better than I could have hoped.
How does the creative process work as a group, what’s changed?
Liam: For a lot of the new material we have been writing and recording in a church in London. It’s perfect because we can have all the instruments and gear set up and then just get jamming. Before this everything was written in my bedroom and I was definitely limited by the equipment and the single brain… Strength in numbers guys.
Ed: As Liam says the church provides us with a space to engage with our music in a way that is more conducive to spontaneity. It allows us to be more expressive and improvisational which gives us the capacity to be more naturally dynamic.
Do you prefer being in the studio or on stage? Why?
Liam: That is always a very tough question as they each have their own merits. The studio is great because you get to enjoy creating something new and raw, where as performing is a treat because you can show people something polished and considered. Ultimately I started off as a producer and I think I still feel the most comfortable there. I definitely get a big kick when I get into the groove of writing something that is sounding great.
Ed: For me, I’m really into rehearsal. It’s at this point that we get to engage creatively with the music that has been written and work out how best to realise it for a live environment. You can, however, rehearse and rehearse and meticulously plan a live show but still have no control over what happens once the gig begins. At any moment something can happen that totally catches you off guard and you have to adjust and adapt and make sure you still put on a wicked show. Gigs are amazing cause it’s on stage that you can fully immerse yourself in the performance which can be incredibly liberating. Despite this, you know that you still have to be totally on point. It’s a strange dichotomy.
Who has most influenced your sound?
Liam: DSC is influenced by such a wide variety of artists that it would be impossible to answer that one. There’s influence of club music, psyche-rock, indie, post-punk, folk…you name it we are probably influenced by it in some shape or form.
Ed: Between the 3 of us, we’re into anything and everything from Liszt to Lemon Jelly. We all about discovering new, interesting and engaging music. It’s nuts really cause you think you’ve acquired some knowledge but the more you hear and the more you learn the more you realise you haven’t even scratched the surface. It’s purely inspiring and utterly terrifying in equal measure.
What three artists are you listening to the most right now?
Liam: Radiohead. Otzeki. The Beatles
Ed: Anything Steve Gadd plays drums on. Anything Pino Palladino plays bass on. Anything Bjork / Thom Yorke sings on. I know that’s cheating but it’s the best I can do. Also, as Liam says, the Otzeki record on Rough Trade is unbelieveably wicked! Would thoroughly recommend you check it out.
Desert Island disc?
Liam: Steely Dan – Aja
Ed: Again, breaking rules. It changes on a weekly basis. This week it’s: Smashing Pumpkins – Melancholy and The Infinite Sadness. Last week: The Roots – Things Fall Apart.
What — outside of music — inspires you the most?
Liam: Fine art for sure. I like to look at certain pieces and try and think about the emotion that was trying to be put across when the artist was creating it. I definitely think it’s important to have stimuli other than music inform your work as a songwriter. I’ve got a big Rothko print that hangs above my computer that I find myself staring into a lot. Sometimes i’m not sure if its a help or a hindrance…
What’s the best place to listen to a Desert Sound Colony record?
Liam: At an afterparty in a friend’s bedroom at around 8am very loudly.
Ed: What Liam said.
What do you hope people feel when they listen to your music?
Liam: Whatever is true to them. I try not to put my own feelings onto other people if possible when it comes to listening to music. It’s so personal to each individual when they experience a record and I think it works best that way.
Ed: Yeah, I agree with Liam. The moment people listen to our tunes we become obsolete. The listener is empowered to engage with and take what they want from our music. Ultimately, I’m mildly terrified of indifference. I like the idea of affecting people with our tunes. Even if people don’t dig it, it’s nice to make an impression.
Liam: A very busy summer of festivals and London gigs including the launch party for our new EP ‘Signals’ at Queen of Hoxton on Wednesday and a very special gig at Dimensions Festival in Croatia in August.
Ed: ‘Nuff gigs. ‘Nuff excitement.