Datarock: Pretty good, but kind of fucked up too

“OK, I’m pretty good, kind of fucked up too.” These are the first words that, crackle out of the phone speaker from Frederik Saroea, one half of Datarock. This eloquent contradiction says a whole lot about what Datarock are all about. Half-dance, half-rock, with lyrics ranging from very camp to very adolescent and influences stretching from The Happy Mondays to the Grease movie soundtrack. From these initial words it was clear this would be no ordinary interview. Roles were almost reversed with Saroea asking a lot of the questions; in fact it pretty much just turned into what could have been a conversation between two new mates. This perhaps illustrates why Datarock have found so much worldwide success, especially in Australia. Their playful accessibility landed them at number twelve in the ‘05 Triple J Hottest 100 with their hit single Computer Camp Love, “660,000 people voted, that’s pretty insane man” he sharply remembers.

And so the interview continues. “My time schedule says interviews at nine in the morning, we don’t know where you are but lets go for it,” he says in mock enthusiasm. “We just finished a show, I dunno how many hours ago, in Milan and looking out the window right know I’m assuming I’m in Switzerland but I’m not sure. The show was great, it was a Sunday and the venue was absolutely crowded and everyone was dancing and we were pretty happy about it. It’s funny you know we’ve actually done a hell of a lot more shows in Australia than we’ve done in Italy, I think we’ve only done three now in Italy, even though Denmark is very close to Italy.”

Saroea is certainly not shy in professing the great fondness he feels for Australia, and is quick to hammer me with questions as to where I’m situated. When he finds out that it’s Perth, it becomes clear that Saroea is more than your average party-hard rockstar; he’s a party-hard rockstar with an unbelievably good memory. “We played a venue, well it’s not actually a venue, it’s a location called The [Becks] Verandah, it’s sort of the Concert Hall I think.” Saroea correctly recounts, as sharply as a tack. “We played the Perth Arts Festival, I think it’s called, in 2006. It’s insane man, we’ve done one show in Perth, right that’s it, one show in Perth. But for that one show, the show sold out and it wasn’t a 200 capacity venue it must have been an 1100 or 1200 capacity venue and the atmosphere in Perth was fantastic. Also if you look at the video from Bulldozer, we actually have a segment where we filmed on stage on the Verandah in Perth.” The actually capacity for the Verandah was about 1300 people, further illustrating the fact that Datarock are not your traditional rockstars. They’ve got an eye for the finer details. “That night at the Verandah we also had a special guest in Diplo. It was a privilege to be playing with him, it’s become almost unavoidable to miss his boys and girls running around, like Bonde Do Role and Juicebox. He doesn’t make a big fuss he just plays great tunes you want to hear, but you’ve never heard before and to make it even better, he started his show wearing a Datarock tracksuit.”

As well as a good memory, it would seem Datarock have a good business sense as well; marketing the Datarock brand across the world, with their trademark one-piece red tracksuits. “The story behind them (the tracksuits) was a bit of a coincidence. The thing was that the album was recorded to be released on our own label, because no one wanted to sign Datarock so we had to sign ourselves. So we put up this label called Young Aspiring Professionals and we decided we wanted to release Fa Fa Fa as a single, so I had to produce a video. The video I wanted to do was to make a full party at a venue called The Landmark in Bergen with all of our friends. I then called a Norwegian snowboard company called White Out and asked them if I could have forty identical red tracksuits, that I knew they had, and they were kind enough to send them over so we could all look the same for the video, he says.

“Because of that, we also used them for some press shots and because of the press shots and the video, we started using them on stage. And because of that, I’ve had to make up a thousand reasons for us to wear them onstage.” And from wearing them onstage they became so popular it enabled them to start selling custom made red jumpsuits on their website for $200 each. “At one show we went into the crowd with our jumpsuits on and when we got back to the stage there were five of us instead of four, someone who wore their tracksuit managed to get back on stage with us, it was so crazy.”

Their live shows have been a major part of Datarock’s worldwide success, “We just try and make them one big party”, he explains. “We’re in the middle of a European tour at the moment. We are doing eighteen cities, in eight countries, in eighteen days. I think we have done something like 400 days of touring in the past two years, it’s quite a lot.” They were initially limited by their ability or inability to perform as a two-piece, so they recruited a couple of childhood friends to fill-out their sound. “Yeah it was so necessary and the guys that tour with us we’ve known for ages so it’s really good.” They saw touring as a way to make the most of their new found fame, “We sold almost 20,000 copies of the album, that’s the equivalent of selling about 200,000 albums on a big label, when it comes to income for the band, because it was our own label. We were just thinking that if our lyrics work in an English speaking country and if our music sounds good on the opposite side of the world, perhaps we should try to take this as far as we can in other countries too. So we just invested all of our income on touring.”

Saroea explains that although all the relentless touring has relegated fresh material to the back-burner they are on the way, we’re the ones who are to blame. “What happened with Datarock’s career was Australia, Australia came in the way of a new album. Finally though, yes we did start working on the new album but I have absolutely no idea when it will be finished. After we get back from Australia we are going to finish recording it, and do our best to get it out soon.”

If you can’t wait for that then perhaps download their video game from their website that involves playing space invaders with strawberry cream pancakes. It’s indicative of what you get from Datarock, not just music, but an all-round cultural experience. With that in mind, what sort of experience can fans expect from their upcoming Australian appearances? “Just come ready to party, and wear your red tracksuit if you have one. You never know what might happen.” And you never really do.

Catch Datarcok being all weird and shit at the following dates…

Mar 1 – Future Music Festival, Brisbane

Mar 2 – Future Music Festival, Perth

Mar 5 – ANU Bar, Canberra

Mar 6 – Waves, Wollongong

Mar 7 – Panthers, Newcastle

Mar 8 – Future Music Festival, Sydney

Mar 9 – Future Music Festival, Melbourne

Mar 10 – Future Music Festival, Adelaide