Depeche Mode meets Siouxsie meets Alison Moyet meets Nine Inch Nails meets … yeah, yeah, you get the picture. Music bloggers and journalists the world over simply love these sort of comparisons and scatter them like trails of breadcrumbs in an attempt to guide readers through the dense musical forest towards…. enlightenment… or something… When used wisely and in the right context, such juxtapositions can often be amusing and entertaining, but crucially they can also provide reference points which in turn can pique the interest of potential new fans. Of course the journalistic comparison should exercised with a degree of caution and restraint, lest it becomes lazy and counter-productive. For example when publications like the NME hysterically hail bands such as The Horrors and Glasvegas as being in the same league as The Jesus And Mary Chain, they are quite clearly scaling new heights of absurdity and casting themselves in the dubious role of salivating “hype fluffers.” This can be evidenced by the fact that the aforementioned bands patently were not, are not, and will never be, in the same league as the brothers Reid.
But as ever we digress, let us return to the object of our adoration, the wonderful Curxes, an electronic duo from Brighton consisting of Roberta Fidora and Macaulay Hopwood. As for musical reference points that may well depend on which song you happen to be listening to. For example there’s no denying that the duo’s brilliant new single “Haunted Gold” has a powerful vocal style reminiscent of Siouxise Sioux colliding with Depeche Mode in a haunted fairground, but if you listen to earlier songs such as “Creatures” you’ll hear Roberta adopting a less strident but equally alluring vocal style, set against electronic stylings that conjure up David Sylvian’s Japan via Cabaret Voltaire. Or, if you were perhaps to listen to “Once Upon A Time” you may discern a touch of Yazoo and a splash of early Human League. These are all good things.
Curxes are not defined or constrained by one particular style, what they do with no small amount of skill is take their influences and hammer them out on the anvil of their own imagination, thrust them into their fiery furnace of creativity and bend them into beautiful new shapes. In doing so they create something original and something that is their own resulting in songs that are dark, beautiful and really quite wonderful.
We love them, we don’t want them being burdened with the label of the new “Pet Shop Siouxsie and The Kraftwerks,” we want them to be themselves and continue to produce interesting, innovative, intelligent and emotionally engaging electronic music without boundaries.
And lo, we visited the “anvil of their imagination” and peeked inside their “furnace of creativity” and asked them the following questions, as we are wont to do.
VP: Without sounding all biblical tell us about the creation and evolution of Curxes , how you met and how the band came together..please feel free to use the phrase “and Lo, it Came to Pass”
Mac: Once Upon A Time, Roberta was in a post-punk band and blagged a gig supporting the group White Lies. Two weeks before the gig, they decided they needed a guitarist and so started auditioning. They found me and decided “he would work as he wore guyliner”. This band came to a head and we ventured off in search of synthesisers. “And lo it came to pass that Curxes were born.”
VP: How does working as duo differ to say a larger unit, do you feel more in control? Is there more pressure live?
Mac: We’ve both played in other bands in a variety of genres, but we feel this one has been the best as there’s been far more consideration given regarding the songs and presentation. In regards to performing live, at first it was nerve-wracking, but in terms of writing songs it’s been so much better. We’re both extremely opinionated but ultimately get results we’re happy with.
Roberta: As Mac mentioned, we were previously in a post-punk band. A charming sea of funeral outfits and red eye-shadow. What Mac doesn’t know is that I hassled quite a few people to get hold of a contact number for him and it was based purely on the bands he listened to on his Myspace page. We’d been trawling for a guitarist for months and I knew instinctively that’d he’d fit in. As for pre-show nerves, Mac’s always been fairly confident, whereas I’d get nervous playing to a coat-hanger in a cupboard.
VP: ” Haunted Gold” is your latest single and again brings comparisons such as Siouxsie Sioux fronting Depeche Mode, Alison Moyet joining Nine Inch Nails, and an electronic Blood Red Shoes- Do you find such comparisons get in the way of the music or do you think they give potential new fans a reference point?
Mac: It’s good to have a reference point to get people intrigued, otherwise we’d just one of many electronic duos with an ’80s influence’. That could mean we sound like anything between The Knife or La Roux. Giving specific artists gives an indication as to whether we sound like the naff or more musically credible material from that era. I like the Blood Red Shoes comparison though – not thought about it before but can see the logic. They favour high energy songs with a sense of urgency, and this is something we’re very keen on channelling too.
Roberta: There’s something about Alison Moyet’s voice that really resonates with both of us – I was fortunate enough to watch her perform with Vince Clarke at Mute Short Circuit and was just totally enamoured by the whole thing. We discovered Siouxsie and the Banshees a little later than people would expect, but hopefully we’ve caught up there!
VP: Roberta made the video for Haunted Gold, was it created using stop motion and how long did it take ? Was the process something like THIS
Roberta: Hahaha! It was exactly like that! It took eight weeks (staying up until 3am most nights) and I had a variety of paintbrushes to move the glitter around, depending on the level of detail for a specific image. The glitter came from the Poundland predominantly. Is that a fun fact? I don’t know. Due to the fluid nature of the animation, it was particularly upsetting when I ballsed up a huge section of the song and had to go back about 100 frames to where the scanner was bare. There’s an outtake on my computer of a flying pig which turns into a skeleton foot. I hate it.
VP: What’s the plan for the rest of the year band wise ?
Mac: We’ll continue to release standalone songs with accompanying videos and animations followed by a a vinyl release for the physical format connoisseurs as well. We’ll do an album but only when we have the right mixture of songs to put together as a collective body of work. We’re not there just yet…
Roberta: After the Haunted Gold release on the 10th, we’re bringing out the single on vinyl to coincide with Record Store Day, then no doubt there will be a bit of planning for the next single towards the second half of the year. There’s another animation idea in the pipeline, but it’s slightly more complex than Haunted Gold, so goodness knows if it’ll work! We’re looking to play in unusual spaces too on the gig front, perhaps a church, warehouse or gallery space where we can have a bit of fun and project our visuals across the whole room.
VP: Your promo photos seem to indicate that despite your music having a futuristic, cutting edge vibe your image appears to embrace the stylish Raymond Chandler/Bladerunner retrofitting sensibility?
Roberta: We’re both from the outskirts, between busy city locations and fields in the middle of nowhere. That’s prolly quite a direct influence. We hold onto that presence of yesteryear, because there is something delightfully sophisticated about the 40s and 50s, but we understand how industrialization shaped the sound of many of our favourite artists, plus the socio-historical context surrounding electronic music.
VP: Is their one band/artist/album who you would say has had a huge influence on you ?
Mac: In the last year or two, I would have to say Sleigh Bells. Their songs are so direct and innovative considering how simple they are. It take guts to create something brash and unique like they have. It’s probably one of the most commonly cited influences, but Radiohead are inspiring in the way they constantly embrace new styles. Thom Yorke once said in an interview that he always tried to write music which scared him. If you’re an artist, you have to push yourself – otherwise you’ll just be rehashing the past.
Roberta: Depeche Mode. The way in which they evolved as a band was, and still is, incredible. They’ve covered the genre spectrum really, going from ridiculed pop band and industrial anthem-makers through to blues/gospel influenced later in their career. I like the fact they have a sense of humour too, something which is evident in Erasure as well, one of my other favourite acts.
VP: Best gig/ worst gig ? (as band and also as fans)
Mac: Best gig I’ve ever been to is probably Sigur Ros at Somerset House, in the midst of a summer sunset, drinking wine, right after ‘Takk’ had been released. It was very emotional and there was certainly more than one grown man in that audience weeping. Best gig I’ve ever played was probably at Heaven, LDN. Big crowd and a good night all round.
Roberta: I suppose that means I should reveal the worst gigs then? There are two horrendous shows I remember distinctly (from our previous band), which have provided me with an irrational hatred of outdoors gigs; one where we were playing a marquee in the rain that had ‘main stage’ painted on it. The headline band wore latex alien masks and shouted anecdotes about space over bongo drumming. After our set, the main alien told me that we sounded “a lot like B-52s”. Given that the sound-man accidentally unplugged the PA halfway through, I never did find out if he meant the band famous for their novelty hit “Rock Lobster” or aeroplanes hurtling towards the Earth in a ball of flames. Then there was the occasion where the compere was asking lots of questions about my relationship status, which was a little uncomfortable. I went underneath the stage with the spare guitar case to escape the questioning, only for our then-guitarist to break a string on the first song. It was then I learned, that while holding a note on the synth for ages sounds great if you’re Rick Wakeman, if you’re playing in front of some lifeboats and waiting for your guitarist to come back with said guitar, it doesn’t really work. Awful. Truly awful. The worst thing I’ve ever watched? I’d rather remain polite...
VP: Technology ? Empowering? Enslaving? Discuss.
Mac: Technology is certainly empowering for us as it’s allowed us to do so many things that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible. Especially as there’s only two of us. I like to write on guitar or piano and then transfer those ideas to a laptop to push it further and make it into something else. Many of our textures are impossible to achieve without the capabilities of programs such as logic which we use to sample industrial sounds. It can be easy to fall into the trap of writing in the same way so it’s important to chop and change between various methods. Keeps you on your toes.
Roberta: That’s true, I always write with a pipe organ sound then work on the full arrangement in Reason before turning up at practice. We’ll often do a bit of a ‘show & tell’ with ideas and, as well as the audio, I love the visual possibilities that can be achieved now using technology. Did you see the video of the robots that were programmed to play the James Bond theme? It was wonderful, even though they didn’t self-destruct at the end…
VP: Can we expect an album soon?
Mac: We’ll probably keep releasing singles for the foreseeable and create animations and videos to accompany. At some point, we’ll collate all of the songs to see which tracks make sense together.
Roberta: That’s something that will naturally happen once we’ve gigged a lot more and, like Mac says, found out which songs sit well together. We experimented previously with a continuous set and that may be an idea we revisit in the studio…
VP: Describe Curxes in five words
Mac: To paraphrase Breaking More Waves blog, “the sound of robots f**king.”
Roberta: This will prolly resemble a rubbish haiku or something, but “lady and gent, sampling biros.”