How Darkside made one of the year’s best albums

And this record is coming out on Other People which as I understand it has replaced Clown & Sunset. Nicolas, you’ve said before that you shut down Clown & Sunset because you didn’t feel it – or Space is Only Noise – represented your sound anymore. Does that mean you want to distance yourself from that album?

Nico: No, not necessarily. That’s where it started. You can hear, if you listen to Darkside, where the sound has gone and what it has mutated into. It’s become more collaborative, a little more live. It’s just the idea that music must evolve, you’re kind of boring people doing the same thing all the time. I feel like I’m excited about Other People because Other People is a very, very open label, we can have anyone we want on it but with Clown & Sunset, it very quickly grew into having a very specific sound palate.

So what instruments did you use for this album?

Dave: We used everything we could get our hands on. The cool thing about us working as a band is that between the two of us we can kind of do whatever we want. There’s a lot of stuff we both do in terms of instruments and things we do differently but anything I can’t do, I can go to Nico and say “I’ve got an idea, can we do this thing?’ And he can be like “yeah, I think we can do that”. Or Nico can come to me like “Dave, I think this song needs a little bit of free jazz trombone” and I can be like “oh yeah, I can do free jazz trombone.” We have this very open-ended working dynamic where between the two of us we can reach out to sky and go what does this song need now?, if that makes sense.

So is it hard for you guys to know when a track is finished?

Dave: A lot of what we do in the way that write, the way that we play live and the way that we think about music has to do with improvisation. And in improvisation, there’s a saying that in order to really do improvisation well, you have to say yes to every idea. Once you’ve said yes to every idea, something new can happen. That’s kind of the way that we’re working. One of us will have an idea, and we’ll try it, we’ll say yes to that. And that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right idea, but it’s taken us a step further towards something, so we do that. And eventually if you keep saying yes, you find something you like and the yes idea is like “Hey Nico, I think it’s done now.” Then Nico’s like “Yeah, it is done.” And then we’ll sit with it for a minute. And maybe I’m right. Or maybe not. But really it’s the same kind of evolution where we go back and forth and we say yes, yes, yes and eventually the idea is “it’s done.”

So I was listening to the album last night and a lot of the individual track lengths were quite long. Was the intention for each track to be an immersive experience on its own or do you really intend for this album to be listened to only as a whole?

Dave: We both love albums that are full ideas, that are full statements. Not in any retro-fetishistic kind of way, but in my musical life there’s really almost nothing better for me than putting on an album and being like “I want to listen to this record, and I want to listen to the whole fucking thing.” So that’s the thing I think we both strive for.

In the scheme of things, 50 minutes, that’s not the biggest length of time. We like big ideas and we like big chunks of information. It’s not about asking too much or not asking enough, it’s about making the statement. And 50 minutes is one third of how long any good action movie is! So I think that’s a reasonable about of time to invest in a set of ideas and allow a set of ideas to percolate over a longer statement, rather than just a three minute pop song.

Yeah because I guess listening to the album, it’s a really brilliant and immersive experience but it doesn’t really feel like there’s any singles. Was that intentional?

Dave: I mean, if we could write big top 40 radio singles then we’d have a different kind of life. That’s just not what we do. I love – there’s an anecdote about when Syd Barrett kind of lost his mind, and couldn’t be in Pink Floyd anymore they were like “oh man, what are we gonna do, we lost our frontman.” And they spent a year jamming and eventually figured out how to write songs together. And those songs, they were like “this is the best we can do”. And these songs, it’s like, we tried our best. It’s not like we’ve gone out of our way to not make singles, we want people to come in and enjoy it and live with it. We tried our best.

Is there an incorrect way to listen to the album? Would it upset you to think of people listening to it on crappy laptop speakers, for instance?

Nico: No. In this day and age, we make music in order for people to completely annihilate it in every way possible and hope it can still stand up in some way or another. If you’re a musician in this day and age, you have to know that your music is going to be heard in the worst sound quality ever in the history in music. It’s something you have to take into consideration when you’re making it.

And you both remixed the whole of Random Access Memories. Was tackling something of that size, and something that’s so well loved, daunting?

Dave: No, I mean we only did it because it was fun. It wasn’t like they asked us to do it, It wasn’t like anyone told us “guys, you really have to go out and remix the whole Daft Punk record and you gotta do it now, you’re on a deadline.” We did that because we –

Nico: – because we were having a really good time doing it.

Dave: We remixed one of the tracks together, we bought the whole fucking thing on iTunes and then we were like “well, that was fun”. Then Nico did another one and sent it to me and I was “oh shit, this sounds pretty nice”. Then I did a joke one and sent it to him and it kind of snowballed out of control. We made it right when we had finished our record and when you finish a record, it’s very heart-wrenching to go through those final phases and be like “it’s done, it’s done”. So we came out of it and had all this extra energy, creative energy that we hadn’t put into making music, and we kind of threw it against the wall of the Daft Punk album.

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