Lemonade's Ben Steidel on moving to New York and not limiting the new album -- at all
Some people who mostly know punk and don't know a lot about the history of that music may not realize that it has a rebellious side to it going back to at least the '0s. After all, part of the appeal of raves were that they were often illegal parties that you needed to know someone connected to.
Oh, absolutely. Raves were an extension of a dance music history that goes back to music that was coming out of kind of oppressed minority communities all over the country. House came out of disco, which was such a gay, black thing that was about finding safe spaces where all sorts of different kinds of people could come and feel free and just go crazy, which was a beautiful thing and it continues to be a beautiful thing. It can get corrupted by all sorts of commercial aspects but, at the heart of it, that's what dance music is to us: music that's freeing and liberating and beautiful and rebellious and exciting. In any way we can, we try to bring that energy into what we're doing. We also obviously love lots of other different kinds of music, but understanding that was huge for us.
What artists did you get into early on when you were getting into making dance music?
When we were first starting the band and getting really into it. Prior to that we'd been listening to the post-punk dance stuff like A Certain Ratio and Talking Heads and that kind of stuff, then discovering early Chicago acid house like Adonis and Frankie Knuckles and those kinds of people. At the same time the early grime was starting in the UK before it had really splintered, and there was a difference between grime and dubstep. It was all this bizarre, British, super underground urban music from the UK. People like Wiley and Digital Mystics and all those people were just making this music that was so exciting at the time. Even when I go back and listen that stuff, it's some of the most exciting music around. Even stuff a little more pop like the first Dizzee Rascal record still sounds so crazy and great to me.
That stuff was kind of our gateway into a whole world of contemporary house and techno. We've followed the UK continuum both forward into the present and how grime came to be out (of) UK garage and rave stuff from the UK. We've done our homework, for what it's worth.
Do you try to recreate that environment in some fashion when you're playing smaller places?
You know, we love when a show feels like a party. When we started playing, it was weird because we would play a show that was at a rock venue or whatever, and it often turned into a party, but it didn't necessary feel like it. But the best shows we played were always ones where we were one band with a bunch of DJs and stuff like that. Those shows were great. We've played at straight-up illegal warehouse spaces and raves and stuff like that, and that was something we could do and was a big part of our early time as a band -- that, and bringing a lot of our friends into that environment for the first time also.
Now, it's like,"Yeah, we want our shows to feel like a dance party and feel like fun." Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. We just wrapped up a tour where we were supporting Neon Indian, and it was not like that at all. It was a show every night and they were early on a big stage and crowd of kids who were very excited. It was a great tour, and it was a lot of fun. It didn't feel like a dance party every night, but it felt great anyway. I certainly hope that some of the spirit of that shows up in our set either way, but we still love playing a sweaty dance party.
You mentioned your last album sounds significantly different from Diver. What kinds of changes did you want to make? Was it even something you consciously tried to change?
The only thing we were consciously doing was to make an album that sounded cohesive as an album and wasn't just a collection of whatever we had written up to that point. We actually threw out songs that didn't feel right for the album.
As for a change in direction, it was just not letting ourselves get hung up about it and not worrying that we were writing music that was a lot more pop and a lot more refined and less crazy and psychedelic. Our older music had an element of really kind of rough, wild psychedelia to it. We wanted to write some stuff that sounded really clean and, for lack of a better word, really pop. We knew that that was a change, and we didn't want that to limit us at all. We chose to do that.
As far as the actual process of making a record, in the past we would write our songs and figure out how to play them live and essentially make a recording of what our live performance was like. On this record we didn't really hammer out the live stuff prior to making it. We just made the record in the studio. We played live stuff on it but we weren't practicing the songs as a band. We were writing the record in the studio, and once it was finished, we figured out how we were going to incorporate that into a performance. It was a pretty big difference there.
In terms of following our instincts and following our hearts as far as what sounded good and what kind of recorded we wanted to make, we didn't limit ourselves at all, and we're pretty proud about how it came out.