Interview: Afghan Raiders
Fri, 07 Aug 2009 12:28:42
Afghan Raiders are about to change electronic music.
The Las Vegas duo injects classic pop melodies into cyber soundscapes. Songs such as "Admiral's Doorbell" come to life vividly, vibrantly and visually. There's something strangely psychedelic about Afghan Raider's aural concoction, and it's utterly intoxicating.
ARTISTdirect.com spoke to the duo of Mike and Beans about conjuring visuals through music, remixing The Faint and Phoenix, foreign films and much more in this exclusive interview.
Are you going for a cinematic style of electro?
Beans: Actually, no. That was never an intention at all. We definitely have incorporated visuals for live shows and we think that the music can inspire some kind of visual element. It can make you see things, but that wasn't intentional. I guess that's more of a by product.
There's kind of a psychedelic vibe to your music though.
Beans: That's awesome! We had never discussed that, but it's really cool you got that feeling from it. I like that.
How do your songs typically come together?
Mikey: We have a little recording studio-slash-rehearsal space in our living room. We usually start by jamming—like old school rock bands. We put together a beat, and Beans will get on the synth. Then we'll start recording, improvising and jamming out. Sometimes it takes two days before we find a really awesome riff that we want to go with. Sometimes it happens in two minutes. It's a pretty organic process.
In addition to this electronic style, you have massive rock hooks. Where else are you drawing from?
Mikey: We definitely have our roots in punk rock and rock music. I've been into pop structures for my whole life pretty much. I wanted to incorporate that element into our music. Pop is definitely where I take the lyrics from.
Beans: Growing up, Nirvana was one of my favorite bands ever. We're honing that pop structure. The idea of "Verse, Chorus, Verse" really got instilled in us. Then we got into dance music as we got older. We like to hone the energy of a big dance party into these pop structures that we grew up with. We combine the two and make tracks that are almost like rock songs.
How did "Admiral's Doorbell" come together?
Beans: That started with that main rhythm. That was the first song that we recorded in our new house. It was really strange how that all came together. Mikey and I weren't living together at that point. I remember taking a couple days off and coming back to the song, and Mikey showed me what he had done. It had completely evolved into something else. A lot of songs start as one thing and then they completely evolve and transform into a whole new identity. It just happens on its own. There's really no intentional thought behind it. It flows together.
Mikey: There's no way for us to tell what a song is going to be like at the end after we start [Laughs]. This particular track naturally evolved into what it was. "Admiral's Doorbell" had the structure and the skeleton down. I put some vocals down about some stuff that was going on in my life. I wrote words to the feeling that the music was generating.
Where did the title come from?
Beans: We were flying halfway across the Atlantic. I was picturing flying in a plane, and I started Googling aviation terms. I came across one, "Admiral's Doorbell." That's when a pilot has to eject and ditch all of his cargo to save the flight just so the plane can land in an emergency situation. This pertains to the military. They say if you ever do that, you have to ring the admiral's doorbell the next day and let him know why you ditched all your cargo and sacrificed all of your equipment. That song was about getting over a bad situation and coming out positive in the end, so it took the metaphor of ditching your excess baggage and focusing on your priorities and what really matters.
What's the story behind "Morphine Dreams?"
Mikey: Lyrically speaking, that song is battling the internal demons, ego and all that stuff—the voice inside of your head that's telling you to give up, do bad things or whatever it may be. That's where the song lyrically came from. Musically, it started with that main bass riff, and we built the song around it.
How did The Faint and Phoenix remixes come about?
Mikey: Afghan Raiders opened up for a band called Broken Spindle. Joel from The Faint is in the band. When we opened for them, we got to know Joel. We asked him if we could do a remix for Broken Spindle and he really liked it. Then we asked if we could do The Faint remix for their new record. He got us in touch with their management and they chose the song for us, which was really cool because it was the one song we really wanted to do. With Phoenix, we were looking for something to remix. I liked the Phoenix album a lot, and I found the stem online somewhere. We just did it that way. When we're doing our remixes, it's important for us to have some sort of vocal hooks in there because that's sort of our style. Moving forward we're trying to focus on a great hook and vocal part we can use for remixes.
Where did you come up with your band name?
Beans: A year or two before we actually even got together writing music, I saw that French movie, Amelie. There's a part towards the end where the main character is waiting for this guy she likes to show up to her work and he doesn't show up. So she creates this story in her head about why he's not there, and it gets really crazy. It's really comical. There's one part where he gets kidnapped by a pair of Afghan Raiders, and that phrase really stuck out to me. I remember I jotted that one down and a couple others that I really liked in case I had a future project that came about. When it came time to name ours, I threw it to Mikey and he really liked it. So we went with it.
Do you watch a lot of foreign films?
Beans: I try to. I haven't watched a lot but I'm really into foreign films. The stories seem a little more complex and I enjoy watching them.
Where does Vegas fit into you sound?
Mikey: That's a good question. There aren't many bands that sound like us or anyone that we wanted to emulate. We fell into the sound.
Beans: The scene here is really small. Mikey was living in LA at the time when we first started discussing this. I was going out a lot in the music scene here, and I realized no one was doing what we wee envisioning. Everyone was just DJing at parties. I told Mikey it would be a good idea for him to come out here and if we based ourselves out here there was no competition whatsoever and we could get a lot of attention by doing it here. We wanted to bring something that Vegas didn't have. LA's flooded with it and pretty much every major city has something similar to what we're doing. As far as Vegas being a direct influence, I couldn't really say. We definitely wanted to do it here so we could bring something Vegas didn't have.