Above & Beyond on smartphones, songwriting, and their Australian NYE shows

It’s been a typically massive year for Above & Beyond. Spurred on by the success of their acoustic shows in late 2013, the trio played many a headline set across the globe, and now we’re lucky enough to have them in Australia for the biggest party of the year. In anticipation of the shows, inthemix spoke to Above & Beyond about everything from upcoming collaborations to mid-set marriage proposals.

Above & Beyond have quite a knack of creating moments in the live arena. Without revealing too much, do you have any hints for what’s in store for Sydney when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve?

I can’t reveal anything as we haven’t made up our minds yet! But we will be able to completely change the year in an instant, that’s pretty special.

You will be playing Melbourne on New Year’s Day. What are some New Year’s resolutions you have for 2015, whether that’s personally or as a group?

I’m continually berating myself to do things better, quicker, easier, healthier, happier. I think that’s the allure of New Year’s Resolutions, as humans we’re always in a constant state of self improvement and the new year allows us to start with a clean slate. I’ve just moved into a new house and so my personal goals are mostly to do with spending more quality time at home – when I am home. With the touring schedule we’ve got in 2015 that’ll be tough to do, but that’s my hope.

In the aftermovie for your Madison Square Garden show, you talked about wanting fans to get lost in the moment. To what extent do you think that fans constantly using social media at gigs are missing out on the real experience of it all?

That’s an interesting question.There is this automatic reflex these days to get the phone camera out and record anything vaguely exciting, so we’re really experiencing these precious moments on a tiny TV screen instead of in real life 3D. When we did the acoustic shows we asked people not to photograph or video anything as we were filming it ourselves and as well as saving them the bother we didn’t want people holding phones up in front of the cameras and spoiling the shot. But it changed the dynamic in the room completely. People were forced to be in the moment and the atmosphere was electric.

Kings of Convenience did it, too, when I saw them – you could hear a pin drop. And Kate Bush, famously, did the same. I’m not sure we’d go that far in one of our electric shows, in a dark room with loud music you could argue it’s not so intrusive to be holding your phone up, but the point is the same – the more you are living in the moment, the more you’ll enjoy it. Recording it for another day or for someone who’s not there does diminish the experience.

There was footage of someone proposing to their partner at an Above & Beyond set earlier this year. What is your favourite fan reaction that you’ve seen or experienced at a show?

Week in, week out I look at the front row and see people crying at our shows. It’s beautiful: I envy those people.

Your discography is quite unique in the sense that you were able to successfully translate it into an acoustic setting. Do you feel that this calibre of songwriting is missing in dance music at the moment?

There are some great songs in dance music, but the practice of using hired guns to write your songs results in music that is hard to get your head round over time, songs that reveal nothing at all about the named ‘artist’ presenting them and, in the extreme cases, benefit the singer/songwriter but not the producer; David Byrne toured the world on the back of Lazy, X-Press 2 have disappeared.

We don’t write all of our songs on our own, but having a spine of self-penned songs like Far From In Love, Satellite, Alone Tonight, Sun & Moon, Thing Called Love and so on dictates the voice we want to speak with. So we work with people like Zoe Johnston who can speak our language so all the songs sound like they are coming from the same place. I’m sure there’s a top line writer who could improve on what we do in some cases but then we wouldn’t be a band.

One person who featured at your acoustic shows as well as on the upcoming album is Alex Vargas. How has your creative relationship flourished since meeting him?

I’ve known about Alex for a few years now, he’s managed by an old friend of mine and he’d often talk about him. His job was to stand in for Richard, who’d done an amazing job of singing for us for years but decided to leave A&B to write and sing his own songs. Alex did such an outstanding job and added another dimension to us as a band, so we were really keen to keep working with him. We’ve written lots of songs for him to sing on the new album. But he’s a talented songwriter as well and has co-written the new single, All Over The World.

Some lucky fans across the world have already gotten a sneak peak of the new album. We’ll be playing plenty of tracks from the new album at these gigs and throughout our spring tour, but I’m not going to be drawn on which ones!

If you could pick one location for someone to listen to Above & Beyond’s new album to undergo the ultimate euphoric experience, where would it be?

The Hordern Pavilion, December 31st 2014!

What’s on the cards for Above & Beyond in 2015?

The release of our new album, We Are All We Need, a 5 date UK tour which is sold out, a European tour (nearly sold out), a six week US bus tour (most dates from which are also already sold out), doing club mixes of tracks from the album, residencies in Ibiza and Las Vegas and hopefully a housewarming party at mine – at some time!