Corbu's space-age pop is a sweet source of escape in 2016​

Neu Corbu’s space-age pop is a sweet source of escape in 2016

Meet the NY duo whose Dave Fridmann-mixed debut album treads new ground.

Every weekday, DIY’s new music know-it-all Neu brings you one essential new release to get obsessed with. Today’s Neu Pick comes from Corbu.

Given rolling news broadcasts mimic nightmares every single day at the moment, you’d be hard pushed to find someone not seeking escape in 2016. An even tougher task is finding musicians who choose this as their motive while shunning the rulebook.

New York group Corbu’s ‘Crayon Soul’ album does just this. Mixed by Dave Fridmann (behind the desk for fellow escapists Tame Impala, MGMT & more), this record builds and boards its own starliner. Space-age pop is their game, but across these songs stop-off at every planet imaginable, like a hyperactive kid trying to reach all the Pokémon Go stops.

We’re very excited to be streaming Corbu’s new track ‘Better Better Off’ as today’s Neu Pick. The album itself is due out 5th August, via 3Beat (EU) and Big Picnic (US).

Get to know Corbu below in our Neu interview with Jonathan Graves.

Interview by Mustafa Mirreh.

We’d describe ‘Better Better Off’ as ethereal rhythmic fiesta, naturally. What’s the story behind the song?

That works! For me, it's about resisting change and allowing change to happen. There's a Simpsons episode where Homer eats "Guatemalen Insanity Peppers" at a chili cook-off, and goes into a deep hallucination where a coyote tells him he needs to find his soulmate. He gets mad and says something like, "Oh wow, great advice, my soulmate is Marge!" The coyote just says, "Is she?" and then he wakes up.

We all get “stuck" with things that make us unhappy - jobs, relationships, ways of thinking - because we're too scared to find out what would happen if we let them go. The end of the song is a little nudge to walk away and try something new: "All the things that could be happening / Maybe you could be happy."

Inspired by the weird and wonderful, how would you describe debut album ‘Crayon Soul’?

We wanted to make an album that was one continuous piece, like 'Dark Side of the Moon' or 'In Rainbows'. Listening to my favourite albums feels like sitting down to watch a movie, and I think 'Crayon Soul' asks to be listened to in that way - front-to-back, lights off. It’s my attempt to make a proper “space” record before I’m dead.

There's a tension with the narrator that evolves as the record goes on. It starts off more guarded and colder, and you hit these moments where something breaks open. After those, the music warms up. The person inside it comes into focus, and gets closer and closer until you finally reach him.Overall, Crayon Soul is a "trip," in all meanings of the word. It's always strange and usually pretty. You might go through some dark, nasty stuff along the way, but that leads you somewhere nice that you haven’t been before. You feel like you've earned your way there.

The magic touch of Dave Fridmann has certainly rubbed off on this album. What was it like working with him?

Working with Dave was incredible, with him as an engineer and as a person. Tarbox is a big house in the middle of the woods. I think the kitchen is representative of the whole place; it's a normal American kitchen, decorated like the houses we grew up in... and then along the stairs is a crazy, neon orange art wall Wayne Coyne made with Dave's kids. It's those juxtapositions of "This is cozy and normal, no big deal," and "All of your favourite things were made in this room," that give the house its vibe.

It's like Christmas every time he finishes a mix, walking into the room and knowing you're going to hear his version of your song for the first time. Around midnight one night, we all agreed that a song needed one more layer. So Dave and I went to different corners of the studio and performed new parts, which ended up as a perfect call-and-response, even though we couldn't hear what each other was doing.

We also got to hang out with his family a lot, and his son Mike helped me figure out the album artwork. The whole thing was hyper-real and like a dream at the same time.

"We wanted to make an album that was one continuous piece, like 'Dark Side of the Moon' or 'In Rainbows'."

— Jonathan Graves, Corbu

There’s so much otherworldly creativity flowing through Corbu. What inspirations impact your songwriting and visuals?

My biggest inspiration has always been the full sensory experience of dreaming. We all have these insane, abstract, mythological experiences every night and no one thinks much of it. I hear a lot of my best stuff in dreams, and have to wake up at 5 am to record all the parts before they go away.

Aside from that, I've been attracted to surrealism and anything to do with space/the future since I was little. There's a set of space colony paintings NASA commissioned in the 70s that we were obsessed with - those and some illustrations by Syd Meade were the first reference points for the album. Whatever music we made, we wanted it to "look" like those images.

What’s next for Corbu’s mind-boggling artistic vision?

Everything right now is about our live show. We're going on bigger tours for the first time and playing Austin City Limits in September, so it's really about how to translate what we are into all these different environments. We would love to come to the UK in the fall.

As far as the music, the next album already has the beginnings of its own identity. I feel like I'm not allowed to focus on it yet with everything else going on, so it's my secret project. I sneak away and work on it when everyone else is asleep.

Tags: Corbu, Listen, Neu Pick, Premiere, Features, Interviews, Neu, Get to Know

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