The band Vile Electrodes formed because of Martin and Anais mutual affection for synth-pop and other genres. With influences from both boring jobs and interesting fetishes, they’ve surely made themselves noticable. Their signature sound is a blessing to hear and they’ve up until now released their debut EP. Up until now they’ve also managed to get their foot into one or two compilations, namely Electropop 6 and Music To Play Games Too. I got my thumb out and conducted an interesting interview with these two, hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
Why did you get plunged into synth-pop in the first place? If that wouldn’t have been the case, what genre do you think you would’ve chosen?
Martin: – At primary school I started a punk band, even though none of us could play any instruments, and we wrote a song called Ill Treatment. I can still remember it now! I wanted to learn to play guitar, but the guitar teacher at school said he couldn’t teach me because I was left handed. I always wanted, and had a need to, make music though, and ended up drawn towards the stands of Casio keyboards in my local electrical shop. My parents eventually bought me a Casio PT20, and it took off from there. I got my first proper synth when I was 17. Over the years I’ve been in loads of bands, making loads of different styles of music, but there’s always been an electronic flavour. To be honest synth-pop doesn’t really cover everything we do anyway – there’s stuff that is more like trip hop, disco, indie, techno, John Carpenter/Angelo Badelamenti soundtracks and others too!
Anais: – I got plunged into synth-pop because I met Martin! If it weren’t electronic music, I guess it would have been the Blues. Though, in reality, I very likely wouldn’t have done music at all. I was seriously lacking in confidence when I met Martin, and it took years for me to take the plunge and start recording with him. I don’t think many other people would have be so patient.
In what way have you progressed since your first EP?
Anais: – The way we write and perform is constantly evolving. We started off as a two-piece, but over the lifespan of the band we’ve had other members come and go, which helped our journey in many ways, but hindered it in others. Now we’re happily settled back to just being the two of us, we’re really getting to knuckle down and decide where, and how far, we want to take the band. And the more we perform and write together, and the more we bounce off each other, the better we get!
Martin: – I think we’re only now really beginning to find out who we are musically – although I’ve probably been saying that for ages. The songs we’re writing at the moment, which are likely to be headed for our second album, are already quite different to the tracks we’re finishing for the first album.
When you’re not playing live or making music, what do you prefer to do?
Anais: – That doesn’t happen very much… We live together, and doing music is genuinely one of our favourite things! When we’re not making music, then we’re mostly just hanging out at the seaside. We live in St. Leonards on Sea, and it’s quite possibly the best place in the world, with some of the nicest people on the planet. We obviously do the regular stuff, like reading and watching films, and going out drinking and dancing. And CAMPING! We love going somewhere as remote as possible from humanity and just listening to silence. Silence is really important.
The background synth-sound from your song Proximity sounds like the one in Berlins song Take my breath away featured in the movie Top Gun. Have you had any inspiration from classic movie soundtracks?
Martin: – Haha yes, we’re aware of the similarity of that bassline to Take My Breath Away – it wasn’t a conscious thing, but once we’d recorded it, it fitted so well we just thought “Why not?” – it’s a great song, so I’m happy for people to reference it!
Anais: – Proximity WAS inspired by movies. ‘THX1138’, which is George Lucas’s first film, and Michael Bay’s ‘The Island’. They’re are both films that explore what relationships might be like in a bleak, ultra-controlled, future, where humans are monitored and reprimanded for spending too much time in close proximity to each other.
Which one of your own songs affect you most emotionally? And what one of them would you consider to be the best one you’ve ever done?
Anais: – Martin always thinks our newest song is our best one. It doesn’t matter how unfinished it is! It’s a cop out, but I don’t think I could choose just one. At the moment, my favourite songs are Drowned Cities and Re-Emerge, though Deep Red and Proximity will always be lurking close to the top. Deep Red affects me the most emotionally. I wrote it during one of the most difficult times of my life, so it will inevitably always remind me of that time.
In what language would you prefer your songs to be in? Do you think it’s cool when artists and bands blend languages together in songs?
Anais: – Much as I wish I were able to, I can’t speak any other languages, so at the moment I’m sticking with singing in English! I’d feel a little fraudulent singing in a language I couldn’t speak or understand. I suppose I do prefer songs in English. As a lyricist, I’m instinctively drawn to song lyrics and the story therein. That said, foreign languages and accents do sound beautiful. We have a photographer friend, Doralba, who used to do voiceovers for Italian film and TV. When she visited our studio we’d get her to say the most mundane and ridiculous things in her sexiest Italian accent, and it would be instantly sample-able!
Martin: – Some accents really suit electronic music though – German, because of Kraftwerk and Neu, French and Italian are both sexy languages anyway. I love Miss Kittin’s accent! And I think Karin Dreijer Andersson’s and Lykke Li’s accents both sound great too.
What’s your best memory from playing live and which one would be your worst?
Martin: – Well, our live setup is very complicated and there are loads of very old bits of technology that could go wrong at any moment, so some of the best gigs are just when nothing goes wrong! It’s also great to play to an appreciative new audience – we’ve just come back from a great trip to Edinburgh for our first Scottish gig where we made loads of new friends and had a wonderful time. It’s also great to play to a ‘home’ crowd – our last gig at Bedsitland in London was really great fun. Worst gigs do usually revolve around some sort of technical disaster.
Anais: – We played a festival last summer where they kept having power cuts during our set-up, and we only worked out near the end of our set that the power cuts had caused one of our synths to reset all It’s memories, and it affected other things too, so that was pretty bad. Although some friends of ours in the audience said they didn’t notice any difference – which is both a good and bad thing!
In a sense – what kind of themes would you like to capture in your career? Do you have any certain chronologic order or is it just what comes to mind? And what emotions would you like the listener to experience? Whilst listening, I experience a multitude: sorrow, nostalgia, happiness and anger. How important is this for you?
Martin: – It’s important that the emotions come through – music is a cathartic process for us and when you can express yourself effectively it really helps your frame of mind. It’s probably why things are often quite dark too. We’re not big fans of happy music! Our lyrical themes are usually quite adult – both in terms of the complexity of emotions being explored, and sometimes the explicit nature of what’s being said – but it’s important that the listener takes what they want from that – we’re not preaching, just commenting on our own experiences.
What kind of aesthetics are mixed in with your image and how have it progressed since you once started out? Do you believe that aesthetics have an important part to play as a compliment in releases, musically and live?
Anais: – Totally – whilst sometimes it’s nice to let the music be the important thing, we’re both people with a strong sense of aesthetics, and i think that should come through in what we do. It’s not at all about being glamourous or pretty – it’s about giving a sense of who you are visually as well as aurally.
Martin: – We like getting dressed up anyway, and we like playing with, subverting or exploring the visual cues and cliches in rock and roll and in popular culture in our “normal” lives, so when we do that as part of the band, it’s just an extension of who we are.
Do you believe that there is work to be done to set a new, original and fresh turn to the newer wave of synth-pop rather than recanting copies from and with the past?
Martin: – Yes, definitely – we both love the music from the late 70’s and early 80’s that still defines electronic music for a lot of people, but there was great electronic music well before that, and there has been plenty since, and it all forms part of our sound. Some of our main influences are contemporaries of us! I’ve no problem with bands referencing one particular era if that’s their thing, but new music is so often made by people finding some unique combination of sounds from the past rather than just copying what someone else did before. I think it helps if you listen to a lot of different music too. Personally I can’t understand people who only listen to one style of music from a narrow 3-4 year range. We listen to everything! Jazz, old blues, disco, punk, weird experimental music, heavy metal, film soundtracks, modern pop. If your musical influences are broad, you’re more likely to find what you’re doing doesn’t sound like anyone else.
Your tracks have also been featured on two compilations, the first being Various – Electropop 6 and the second Various – Music To Play Games By Too. Could you tell me more about them both? And do you plan on releasing more tracks for compilations?
Anais: – We were approached by the gentleman who runs Conzoom Records, who’d heard our music on the web, and he asked if we would contribute a track to Electropop 6. It was a few months before our EP was due out and it seemed a perfect opportunity to release something in advance of that. The idea of the Electropop albums is that they feature extended or alternative mixes to tracks that people may have already heard. To be honest, we now consider the extended version of Proximity that featured on Electropop 6 to be the definitive one anyway! The Music To Play Games By Too thing came along because a musician friend of ours, Derek, the singer of the Jan Doyle Band, is also involved with One Life Left. In their words, they’re “Definitely the UK’s favourite radio show (sort of) about videogames”. Basically, it’s a compilation of songs that have a gaming/computery theme. Our track on that album is an exclusive track called ‘Fatal Error’ that isn’t available anywhere else. We’re hopefully going to have a track featured on Electropop 8 too. Watch this space!
What’s happening in the near future and how is your album-release progressing?
Martin: – We’ve been gigging quite a bit over the last few months plus now I’m moving house and I’ve quit my job, so there are lots of changes going on at the moment, which means that finessing the album is taking longer than we’d like. We’re not playing any more gigs till it’s finished now though. We’re looking at a summer release. Hopefully early summer!
Anais: – No. More. Gigs. Except we always get offered a really exciting gig that we really want to do. Curse you, lovely promoters…
Do you have any last words of wisdom?
Martin: – Do it like you mean it. I want to grow up to be a debaser, down in the park with a friend called five. Look both ways before crossing. It’s better to burn out that to fade away.
Anais: – Life really is too fucking short, so seize the day! Don’t shake my hand til you know where it’s been. Oh, and never tell people a release date for your album until you really know the actual date for when your album is going to be released…
Here’s Vile Electrodes with their newest song Proximity:
You can also find them over here: