Data Romance Talks "OTHER"
Tue, 19 Mar 2013 13:36:19
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"I'm watching Explorers right now," says Ajay Bhattacharyya, one-half of dreamy electro duo Data Romance. "It's Ethan Hawke's first movie. These kids find a junk heap, and there's a stereotypical nerdy kid. They build a spaceship together."
Ajay and his cohort Amy Kirkpatrick didn't build a spaceship, but they did build one of the year's best albums in the form of their full-length debut OTHER. The twosome merges a warm electronic rapture with gorgeously hazy, hypnotic, and haunting vocals. It's a sonic amalgam that's simply as dark as it is divine. Ethan Hawke would probably dig it. Regardless, you will.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Data Romance talks OTHER and so much more.
Did you approach Other with a particular vision or vibe in mind?
Ajay Bhattacharyya: We had to build it from somewhere. We didn't really know exactly what it was going to be when it was done. We approached it with some live experience behind us. We had been on a few tours and knew what we felt comfortable doing and didn't feel comfortable doing. We wanted a particular aesthetic instrumentally.
Amy Kirkpatrick: We went into it knowing we wanted to write an album, but we didn't have all of the pieces together. Then, we just started writing. Eventually, the whole concept started to revolve around caves. Obviously, there's the idea of Other. There are a lot of themes that connect to each other. Lyrically, they started to connect as well. We sat down and pieced everything together to make the album feel like an album.
Is there a lyrical thread?
Amy Kirkpatrick: It's half-intentional and half-happy coincidence. I'd love for people to listen to it and take their own meaning from it. It was based around the idea of caves and what that idea metaphorically meant to me and what was going on at the time.
When did you get the caves idea?
Amy Kirkpatrick: I was watching the "Caves" episode of Planet Earth [Laughs]. We were writing every day. I do that in my own time with lyrics, but I'm not used to writing vocal ideas on the spot. I think we both got writer's block once in a while. The soundtracks to those Planet Earth shows are amazing. The visuals and the music really connected to me. Something clicked in my head. I sent the video over to Ajay and said, "Write something to this clip".
Ajay Bhattacharyya: I did. I don't think we used it though [Laughs].
Amy Kirkpatrick: It was something to use as a jumping off point. We were both stuck and not really sure we were wanted to go. All of the songs had that basic idea in mind after that.
Caves tend to be desolate and filled with echo, whereas your sound is very warm.
Amy Kirkpatrick: It's more of a lyrical idea and storyline than sound itself. Caves also have a lot of things in them. There are many beautiful things and creatures living in caves.
Ajay Bhattacharyya: We recorded "Others" effectively in what used to be a church. It's got an old organ. It's the Conservatory of Music in Victoria—our hometown. It's a giant space so we got the natural echo. We wanted other tracks, like "Cargo", to feel incredibly close and intimate. I don't want to make the record just to have a whole ton of reverb.
What's the story behind "Finish Round"?
Amy Kirkpatrick: It's one of the first songs we had, and we brought it back from the dead.
Ajay Bhattacharyya: We souped it up with real strings and piano. Instrumentally, I was trying to mimic that THX sound at the beginning of all the George Lucas films [Laughs]. It's the starting noise to prove THX is awesome. It's that grand sweep up that sounds like an orchestra but a little more synthetic. I wanted to get that middle ground. I like the idea of falling in and out of what feels right. It goes back to those old VHS tapes. The older they got the score would start bending in pitch if the tape was a little slowed down. I love that aesthetic, and I tried to do that in the album. This was the logical choice for the ending.
Amy Kirkpatrick: It goes from calm to big, and then it just fits where it is.
What songs resonate with you the most?
Amy Kirkpatrick: It changes day to day. We've heard these hundreds of time. Playing them live we get a different take on it. Lately, "Only a Few" is the one that's my favorite lately.
Ajay Bhattacharyya: I'm stuck pretty solidly to "Cargo" as far as it fits in the record. I feel like we went somewhere extreme that we hadn't officially gone before. Amy and I have dabbled in a lot quieter stuff, but not as Data Romance. We hadn't gotten that intimate. The track sits on its own, and it doesn't need any help.
The music video for "Can't Keep Your Mind Off" is demented…
Amy Kirkpatrick: [Laughs] Thanks!
Ajay Bhattacharyya: We've had a lot of interesting feedback. Some people are like, "This is awesome". Others are like, "This is extreme!" We watch horror movies casually, and it's campy in its gore.
What would this album be if it were a movie?
Ajay Bhattacharyya: That's such a good question!
Amy Kirkpatrick: The first thing that came to my mind was Fight Club only because he escapes into the cave [Laughs].
Ajay Bhattacharyya: In terms of colors, we wanted to keep it very muted and dark. It's reflected on the album art. We work in a lot of black and whites. We're pretty much exclusively black and white.
Amy Kirkpatrick: Oh, I know! Magnolia is the perfect example. Six or however-many different storylines connect and have their own meanings.
Ajay Bhattacharyya: For an aesthetic point of view, I'd stick Pi in there so Magnolia and Pi. Pi was intense. You get a little bit of the gore, the serious tones, and the aesthetic. I guess Pi would represent the "Data".
Ajay Bhattacharyya: [Laughs] Yes!
See them on tour!
4/2 Pianos in New York, NY
4/5 Maxwell's Hoboken, NY
4/6 Glasslands Brooklyn, NY
Have you heard Data Romance?